Michael Moore's Bowling for Columbine Strikes Big
J. Gordon
9/10/2003 10:27:47 AM

What’s wrong with our country? That’s a question a lot of people spout rhetorically, but few people have taken the time and energy to really get to the bottom of it. In the Academy Award-winning Bowling for Columbine Michael Moore takes on this ambitious task, while also getting to the heart of the gun control issue, the media and racial profiling, rock music, violent video games and just about every other parental nightmare one can think of.

Watch for some great interviews with Marilyn Manson (who now has my vote for next President of the USA), Matt Stone and Trey Parker (creators of “South Park,” which is loosely based on their hometown of Littleton, Colorado), Charlton Heston at his Coldwater Canyon mansion (who makes a racial faux paus) and attempted interviews with Dick Clark and K-Mart. There is actual security camera footage of the Columbine shooting, as well as the September 11th footage which still feels raw to me and can be a little hard to watch--but it’s nonetheless important.

Perhaps the most poignant moment in the film is set against the old Louie Armstrong song, “What A Wonderful World.” Running over this soundtrack are simply stated facts and video footage of US international meddling and bullying resulting in devastating consequences. For instance: In the 1980's the CIA trained Bin Laden and fellow terrorists to kill the soviets and funded them $US 3 Billion. In 2001, armed with the training and financial backing the CIA provided, Bin Laden launched the World Trade Center attack on September 11, 2001. In 1982, the US provided billions in aid to Saddam for weapons to kill Iranians, including the now-cliché weapons of mass destruction. In 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait with weapons provided by the US. In 1983, the White House secretly gave Iran weapons to kill Iraqis. It goes on and on. Maybe you’ve heard it all before, but to see each statement, piled up one after the other, is jolting to say the least.

The most important message of this movie may be the simple comparisons of our country to so many others. Charlton Heston blamed America’s violence on a "mixed ethnicity," but Moore claims Canada had an even bigger mix, complete with a lower crime rate.

Can we blame violent video games? Moore proves that Japan has much more violent games than we do, and their homicide rate is much lower as well.

How about a violent history? Well, Germany was once home to the Nazi party, and they have a far lower rate than us.

It kinda makes you wonder…until he examines the differences between our media and that of our northern neighbor, Canada (which coincidentally has more guns per person, few gun control restrictions, and a tiny fraction of the number of annual homicides that take place in America).

To be fair, Bowling for Columbine takes a few pot shots at some celebrities (Heston, Dick Clark) and corporations (K-Mart, Lockheed-Martin), expecting them to shoulder the blame for several generations of industry greed and indifference. But you have to give Moore credit for the clever parallel of his own life with Charlton Heston’s—both grew up in the same small Michigan town, both began as hunters and are members of the NRA. From there, however, their paths diverge sharply, taking them in radically different directions until they meet for an interview at the film’s end.

Since his infamous Academy Awards speech this year, Moore has been called an Anti-American and this film has been criticized the same way, but that’s not accurate. Osama Bin Laden is an Anti-American. Moore doesn’t want to see American destroyed, he wants it to be less violent and consumed by fear. Moore loves America, and his Constitutional right to free speech gives him the opportunity to write his books and make his movies. He is certainly anti-Bush, but why should that make someone anti-American? Plenty of conservatives out there were anti-Clinton or anti-Carter or anti-Kennedy, but never called ‘anti-American’.

Since the release of Bowling for Columbine in theaters, Moore’s been accused of taking sound bites from Heston out of context, and some critics have dismissed the movie because of this. I say, watch it and realize that your local news is doing the same thing every day. Watch it with an open mind and consider that it is subjective. Watch it for what it is: a brilliantly constructed polemic, engrossing to watch and certainly relevant. No matter what your politics, you'll think on the issues raised here after seeing the movie, and that's admirable in itself.

Whether or not you are disillusioned with the state of the country, disillusioned by the constant violence going on here and in the Middle East, disillusioned by lies and the manipulation of media, you may find some brief solace in a movie like this. Bowling for Columbine concerns all of us and is essential viewing.


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