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Fahrenheit 911 and Patriotism

May 17th, 2004

Well, Fahrenheit 911 opens today at Cannes, and Moore has let a bit of a cat out of the bag: the film is not completely about what he said it would be about. Yes, much of the film deals with Bush’s ties to the Saudis and the bin Laden family, as has long been reported. But at least half the film, Moore says, is about Iraq. With very unexpected footage: “we were able to get film crews embedded with American troops without them knowing that it was Michael Moore.”

This should be interesting, and the timing more than just a little bit spot-on, considering how Iraq is now dragging Bush down more than anything else in his three and a half years. “The film is only partly to do with the Bin Ladens and Bush,” Moore added. “I was able to send three different freelance film crews to Iraq. Soldiers had written to me to express their disillusionment with the war. It’s a case of our own troops not being in support of their commander-in-chief.” Moore has been printing letters from soldiers on his web site since last October.

One should also not miss the New York Times article on Moore and his film, which adds details about the films content, and does a very balanced job reporting on the issues involved and public views on the film.

One columnist points out that Moore is often seen as less than a patriotic American, a theme which is more often implied and hinted at than stated outright, but it does bring up a point that I think a great many people would agree with, but an ideal that is far from universally observed in the U.S. these days: one can be no more patriotic than to point out what is wrong with one’s own country.

Many people have a skewed perspective on patriotism. They think that “my country, right or wrong” means that whatever terrible things happen in their country, or is done by their country worldwide, the patriotic thing to do is to deny they happen, zealously attack anyone pointing out these faults, and wave the flag while singing the national anthem at the top of their lungs. They have mistaken patriotism for idiocy.

Patriotism means that one will do whatever is necessary–sacrifice your life, your fortune, your sacred honor if needed–to ensure that your country is safe, sound and secure. And ignoring, even denying its faults will not accomplish any of those. Protesting what we believe is wrong is not just simply a right, it is a vital mechanism required to keep this country from destroying itself from within.

Some times good countries come under the control of bad people, some times people with base and selfish motives subvert the mechanisms of government. And some times even well-meaning leaders and administrators do things that are wrong despite their good intentions. Were we never to criticize these things, the results would be disastrous. Bad policies would not be reversed. Wrongdoings would not be corrected, and wrongdoers would know that all they have to do is get elected and they could abuse and undermine the system as much as they wanted, without fear of challenge from the people.

No, it’s the ones who are mindlessly and blindly patriotic who are dangerous, those are the ones who the wrongdoers will prevail upon to hide and legitimize their misdeeds. Those are the people who attack the real patriots, who have the courage and will to stand up and criticize their own country, not because they hate it, but because they love it, because they know that however painful it might be, criticizing their own country is sometimes the only way to keep it whole and true.

If a family member became an alcoholic or other kind of drug user, went driving while under the influence and displayed other self-destructive behavior, would the measure of a loyal family member be to quiet their conscience and their criticism, and tell their kin nothing but positive things? Of course not–you would only be helping to destroy them if you did such a thing. A true parent, sibling or child would take that person aside and tell them what was wrong, and would do everything possible to help them make it right.

The same applies to one’s country. Right now, Bush and his people are driving this country into the ground. We do our country no favors if we simply stand by, put our fingers in our ears, and hum the national anthem real loud. Public criticism, at times like these, is the highest and truest form of patriotism.

  1. May 18th, 2004 at 19:40 | #1

    Comments about Michael Moore being a patriot remind me of a speech today given by Bono at the Unviersity fo Pennsylvania.

    “If you want to save the age, betray it,” he said, quoting the Irish poet Brendan Keneally. “Expose its conceits, foibles and phony moral certitudes.”


  2. May 20th, 2004 at 16:04 | #2

    As John Kerry once said, taking the approach of “my country, right or wrong” is as ridiculous as the one that says “my mother, drunk or sober.” Of course you’re going to stick with your mother, but if she’s drunk, you dry her out!

  3. Jane Sales
    June 18th, 2004 at 01:14 | #3

    The original quote was from G.K. Chesterton, born in London in 1894, and the author of the Father Brown stories. He was one of the few contemporary journalists to oppose the Boer War. He said “‘My country, right or wrong’ is a thing no patriot would ever think of saying except in a desperate case. It is like saying ‘My mother, drunk or sober.'”

    He also said “It is terrible to contemplete how few politicians are hanged.”

  4. June 18th, 2004 at 07:22 | #4

    Here are some useful resources about the anti-Fahrenheit 9/11 pressure group, Move America Forward. Turns out, it’s a front for a political PR firm that does all its business with the GOP. What a surprise.

    See Disinfopedia article about Move America Forward

    and The article that first exposed the truth about Move America Forward

  5. Lou
    June 28th, 2004 at 15:44 | #5

    Arguably Moore’s best work. Bush supporters and Republicans will argue that our country should move forward, but the reality is you can’t move forward without learning the lessons that history provides us. There is moral good in Moore, and he demonstrates this by aiming his concerns to those who are suffering. Anyone who voices their opinion in regards to an issue that he or she regards as troubling in hopes to bringing out goodness deserves much merit. He indicates that there is a problem, and although he does not clearly state his own solution, it’s left for the public to decide, which is one of the facets that demonstrates the beauty of his work. After watching the film, someone approached me and had wondered just how much information in the film was manipulated, to which I replied that everything that we do in life is tainted with a certain degree of manipulation. How else would we get our points across? But as taxpayers who keep our so called “leaders” running the country, we have every right to question authority at all costs. I tip my hat at you Mr. Moore :)

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