Friday, June 25, 2004

Fahrenheit 9/11

I saw Fahrenheit 9/11 this afternoon. It was well attended, even though it was a matinee in the suburbs, and I noted before going into the movie that the 7:00 showing was already sold out. The crowd erupted in applause at the end of the movie. A cop was stationed in the back of the theatre (as they have been at many theatres, I am told).

I'm not going to review the movie. I urge everyone to see it and judge for themselves. I will restrict myself to relating the most powerful moment of the film: a series of scenes involving a Mrs. Lila Lipscomb of Flint, Michigan, whose son died in a helicopter crash in Iraq in early April 2003. Her daughter served in the military in the first Gulf war, and many family members (father, brothers, cousins) have served in the military. She was patriotic, hung a flag outside her home everyday, and encouraged her children to take advantage of the opportunities offered by the military, opportunities she and her husband were unable to provide in Flint.

Mrs. Lipscomb recounts for Michael Moore the morning she learned of her son's death. She is fairly composed, beginning to gently weep only as she approaches the end of her description of the worst phone call a parent can receive. This is a strong, proud woman, a fact that makes her description of her reaction to her son's death all the more compelling. This scene is perhaps the most disquieting and difficult scene to watch that I have ever seen in a movie. Her grief is palpable as she describes the phone ringing, a voice identifying the caller as a military representative, the inquiries intended to confirm that she is Lila Lipscomb, that she is the mother of...at this point Mrs. Lipscomb recalls that she dropped the phone, her legs gave way, and she was reduced to crawling across the floor to grab a leg of the kitchen table in an attempt to hoist herself back to a sitting position.

There is another scene involving Mrs. Lipscomb later in the movie that is in some ways even more difficult to watch. I'm not up to writing about it now, so I'll cut straight to the point. These scenes have been widely criticized, and Michael Moore criticized for exploiting the grief of this poor woman. I hate it when television dwells on the grief stricken. It strikes me as supremely exploitative when the Today Show virtually sucks the grief out of a guest for the voyeuristic pleasure of its viewers. I'm revolted when I think of all of the caffiene-buzzed housewives sitting at home clucking their tongues and saying "isn't that terrible." It's exploitative because there is no point to it, no redeeming value, no purpose other than voyeurism. But I think Michael Moore had a very important purpose in these scenes, and that is to remind us that there is only one casus belli that could possibly justify visiting this kind of emotional devastation on a mother, only one cause sufficient to permit a society to ask a parent to make a sacrifice so great that it leaves them lost in an endless desert of grief, a blasted husk of a human being. And that cause ain't evangelical democracy.

My wingnut friends play a variation of the old "bop the mole" game when the subject of Iraq war justifications comes up. No WMDs? "No problem, it was the Al Qaeda connection." No AQ connection? "Well, we were bringing freedom and democracy to the great unwashed." They don't want our force-fed freedom? "Well, we're there goddammit and we can't cut and run, and how do you know there are no WMD anyway?" And then you start over again, bopping a war rationale mole only to have another pop out of an adjacent mole hole. I dare my wingnut friends to see this movie and ever play this game again, because, you see, there is no substitute for the WMD threat; having proffered a WMD threat, you can't bait and switch. You just can't do it. Either there was a threat or there wasn't. No more bop the mole. The next time someone starts that shit with me I'm giving them a Dick Cheney salutation, if you know what I mean.

I'm sorry, but I just don't believe that any of my wingnut friends who are parents would risk their child's life to experiment with democracy in Iraq. I don't believe they'd do it because some Iraqi bureaucrat met with one of bin Laden's deputies ten years ago and shared a cup of chai in the Khyber Pass. I just don't believe it, and it pains me to believe that they are so cynical and hypocritical that they would back this travesty in Iraq as long as it is someone else's kid being burned to death in a tank or atomized by an RPG.

I watched that horrible Nick Berg video. I don't know why, but I did, and I thought it would haunt me for weeks. It didn't, and maybe this is a terrible thing to admit, but I was pretty much over it in a few days. But right now I can't shake this image of this Flint housewife on the linoleum floor of her kitchen, clinging to the leg of her kitchen table, the receiver hanging from a phone mounted on her kitchen wall. I don't think I'm getting over this one for a while.

NOTE: Mrs. Goldstein tells me that Mrs. Lipscomb received the phone call in her bedroom, and pulled herself up by her bedroom desk. She's probably right; as I said, I found the scene very difficult to watch.

5 Comments:

Blogger Rob said...

thanks for this review, I'm definitely gonna see that movie now. good writing, this site is great. kudos to you being so smart and liberal. :)

12:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Out of 535 Reps and Senators, the Prez and his administration, one has a kid in a war theater. What happens to those who endure war, as the hunted or hunter, uniform-wearer or bystander, is horrific. The only reason to consider going to war is in defense, protecting home and family and neighbors. Not to defend an empire's waste of a precious resource.

Especially when a more precious resource is wasted.

Thanks for describing it so well.

-Kevin of Te American Street

7:04 AM  
Blogger Cirquedaddy said...

"My wingnut friends play a variation of the old "bop the mole" game when the subject of Iraq war justifications comes up. No WMDs? "No problem, it was the Al Qaeda connection." No AQ connection? "Well, we were bringing freedom and democracy to the great unwashed." They don't want our force-fed freedom? "Well, we're there goddammit and we can't cut and run, and how do you know there are no WMD anyway?" And then you start over again,"


To date there have been at least 12 warheads found mixed in with the regular ammo dumps that have contained Sarin.
The fall is going to be hard when that limb gets sawed off beneath you.

About the terrorist connection to Saddam.
Point blank there was one. It has been well documented.
Before GWB many Democrats including but not limited to the Clintons, Gore, kennedy, and Dashle all bloviated about iraqs ties many times. After you research this yourself ask yourself where has the honesty of you party gone.

12:24 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

mortgage articles for refinance mortgage home loans

4:22 PM  
Anonymous home equity line of credit said...

A

3:30 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home