Usually I do not follow film reviews, but the uproar surrounding Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11, already long before its public release, has been hard to miss. Despite winning both the Palme d'Or and a standing ovation at Cannes, Disney moved to block its distribution by Miramax. And while its opponents claim the film will appeal to Arab terrorists, critics of the present administration and of the war in Afghanistan and Iraq are wildly enthused about its potential to affect the outcome of November's presidential elections. With the election only five months away, this film will no doubt go down in history as a watershed that can be compared to the assassinations of the Kennedy brothers and Martin Luther King. Something of America's soul died with the killing of these three men, and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are threatening to do the same. Regardless of our political bent, we all need to pay attention to the spiritual and political forces that are at work here, which will in the end affect every human being on this planet. Despite widespread speculation about Mr. Moore's motives for making the film, I was struck by his obvious compassion for humanity. In less than three hours, he offers us a remarkable insight into the human soul. From nighttime searches of Iraqi homes to the screams of mothers - and of those at the World Trade Center on September 11 - Moore captures plenty of heartrending moments. But he doesn't focus only on the civilians trapped in the nightmare and insanity of war; he recognizes the humanity of its unwitting purveyors, whether through the blank stares of twenty-something GIs or the stupefied Congressmen he catches unaware outside their Washington office buildings. There is much more one could say about the film. Perhaps most striking are those images of the carnage in Iraq: the footage of distraught, grieving parents and grotesquely decaying bodies spliced with interviews of American troops, most of them remarkably candid in their thoughts about the killing they are doing.
I left the theater saddened by the specter of so much lying and confusion: lying that leaves so many people in such a state of fear that they do anything that is asked of them by our government. But for me, even more disturbing than the film itself was the reaction of a benumbed public, stumbling out into the glaring lights of a Saturday afternoon mall. Nothing, apparently, will change these people: They are past the point of being shaken or moved or angry, and so they file the experience away, another experience of free speech and artistic expression which is, after all, a right in a democracy such as ours. As long as we can see films like this, they say, the system is working. But I was left thinking of the words of Jesus in Luke 7:
How can I describe the people of this generation? What are they like? They are like children sitting in the marketplace and shouting at each other, "We played the flute for you, and you would not dance; we wept and wailed, and you would not mourn." For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, "He is possessed." The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, "Look at him! He is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners." And yet wisdom is proved right by all who are her children.