11/26/2006

S'Moore

I've never been a big one for Michael Moore. His films have the hallmarks of the same propaganda style I decry when it represents views I don't agree with; and so, I find it hard to get behind him, even though I usually find my views (at least basically) aligned with his.

But in the past couple weeks, he's written two pieces that really deserve to be read, even if just to spark conversations.

First, a few days after the election, he wrote this piece: A Liberal's Pledge to Disheartened Conservatives.

It's a set of promises that we (as progressive democrats) should make to our conservative brethren. While many of the "promises" are really just unhelpful (and boorish) attacks on legitimately held conservative views, there are at least a few of them that I'd be proud to say I support, and I'd wish to see everyone of political integrity get behind.
"We will never, ever, call you 'unpatriotic' simply because you disagree with us."

"We will discourage religious intolerance and fanaticism -- starting with the fanaticism here at home, thus setting a good example for the rest of the world."

"We will go after any elected leader who puts him or herself ahead of the people. And we promise you we will go after the corrupt politicians on our side FIRST."

That's great stuff. As for the balance, let me just emphasize my caveat above: I think many of these "promises" are just "nyah nyah" style flamebait, particularly the bits about handguns, stem cells, and counting age from birth. I may agree with him on many of them (don't worry, my Texas neighbors: not the handguns part) ... but I think that's a particularly unhelpful way to change the minds of conservatives, which is ostensibly his goal here. A dialog may change minds; a diatribe won't.

In any event, I think the list is worth reading.

Second, just today he published this letter advising America to "Cut & Run" in Iraq.

As most people have, I've been of the opinion that an immediate troop withdrawal would plunge things into chaos. But he makes a few stark points about how the operations there have, ultimately, already failed - the war of ideas has been decisively lost, even if the war of bullets is still suffering a slow burn. Many of these things I agree with strongly - most importantly, that for a people to be "liberated", they have to make it happen themselves. After impugned motives on the way in (oil? revenge? popularity ratings?) and seriously compromised execution (rising violence? massive civilian deaths? rapes?? Gitmo???), there is now no way that anyone in Iraq can view the Americans' actions with the same gratitude that we were viewed with at the end of WWII. They (collectively) look at us and want us either out or dead.

What I like about this piece isn't the bullying tone, but more the perspective he ends with:
"A majority of us were upset and angry after 9/11 and we lost our minds. We didn't think straight and we never looked at a map. [...] We didn't know what a Sunni or a Shiite was, never even heard the words. Eighty percent of our young adults (according to National Geographic) were not able to find Iraq on the map. [...]

But at our core we are a good people. We may be slow learners, but that "Mission Accomplished" banner struck us as odd, and soon we began to ask some questions. [...] The majority now feel a deep sadness and guilt and a hope that somehow we can make make it all right again."

Well said, sir.

I'm glad there's a Michael Moore to take these ideas and galvanize them. I'm also glad he's not running things at the top, because I don't think he leads from a place of quiet wisdom like truly admirable leaders do. But for heavens' sake, these pieces should be read and digested, and argued about - and, perhaps, answered by conservatives with equally compelling arguments (and a minimum of FUD slinging).

Any takers?

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