Monday, July 05, 2010

Happy Fifth of July

Do yourself a solid and don't miss the hour with Michael Moore on today's Democracy Now!—it's an enlightening look at 25 years of filmmaking and activism, and it's often laugh-out-loud funny to boot.

A part that isn't laugh-out-loud funny is about what happened after his brief antiwar remarks at the 2003 Academy Awards, where he won an Oscar for Bowling for Columbine. Taste the liberty! Smell the freedom!

I went back to the hotel room that night, made the mistake of—my wife went to bed, and I stayed up with the remote control. In LA, after the Oscars, it’s only 9:00 in the evening, so every local channel has a, like, post-Super Bowl show. And every local—I just went around. “Well, that’s the end of Michael Moore.” “Why would he do that?” “Well, that’s the end of his career.” “No one’s going to give him a job here.” I mean, every channel was saying that. And I watched that literally for an hour. And by the time I went to bed, I believed it. I believed that was it, I’m toast.

We got back to Michigan. Our house was vandalized, horse manure spread everywhere, signs on the trees telling us to move to Havana, and everything else, which, when you live in Michigan in the winter, that actually doesn’t sound so bad.

And then life got—you know, I decided to say just to hell with it, and I, fifteen months later—in those fifteen months, I made Fahrenheit 9/11. And it was made during this time of constant death threats, constantly being attacked physically—and I’ve told you some of this before. I don’t really like to talk about it publicly, because I don’t want to encourage, you know, nuts to—but eventually, they had to put—I had a total of—it got up to nine bodyguards on me, three per shift, twenty-four hours a day, living with us.

You know, I mean, there was the guy in Nashville that came, jumped up on the stage with a knife. There was a guy in Portland that had a metal pipe coming at me. There was the guy in Fort Lauderdale who was just walking out of Starbucks and saw me on the sidewalk and became livid and took the lid off his hot, scalding coffee and threw it in my face. The bodyguard was so—I mean, he was so fast, he put his face in front of mine to catch it and got second-degree—we had to take him to the hospital, but not before he took the guy down on the sidewalk and handcuffed him. And then, there was the guy who was going to blow up our house. And he was making his practice bombs in Illinois, and one night one went off accidentally. He wasn’t hurt. The neighbors heard it. They called the cops, and they came there, and they saw all the materials and the list of people whose homes he was going to blow up. And it was Janet Reno, Rosie O’Donnell, Hillary and me. And how I made it on the lesbian list, I don’t know, but I—But Girlfriends Magazine, the following year, named me "Man of the Year," so—that’s the lesbian magazine. So, no, all I can—I try to laugh about it, because—anyways, he was convicted and went to the federal penitentiary.

And as I’ve said to you privately, I’ve wondered at times if I had it all to do over again, whether I actually would, because I don’t know if it’s been worth it, personally. I don’t think it’s been good for my health. I don’t think it’s been fair to my family to have to live in fear, to my eighty-nine-year-old father, who lives alone, who has to live with that fear, and all the security apparatus that has to be put in place to protect them. And the honest answer—I’d like to give you the brave answer, but the honest answer is I’m not so sure I would do it again, having gone through what I went through at that time. And I say that only because I’m human, and I’m every bit as frightened of not being able to finish my life as any of you would be.

But somehow I pushed through it. I have some very good friends and a wonderful family, and so many—you know, all of you and the people that keep going to my movies and send me lots of words of encouragement, and all my Twitter followers. So, I’m grateful for that, and I persevere and keep going. And I don’t know what I’m going to do next, because I’m not doing anything right now. But I’d like as many people as possible to see this last movie, and it’s because I think it says everything I want to say about how we’ve structured our society when it comes to how we treat each other.

Call me crazy, but that "I don't know what I'm going to do next" makes me wonder whether he's thinking about running for President in 2012. He's exactly the kind of well-situated oddball who could mount an insurgent campaign from the left—one that would be far more visible and credible than, say, any of Nader's challenges. He knows how to handle the media, and he can talk class conflict in a way that crosses traditional right-left divides. Hell, he's willing to talk class conflict. Don't try to tell me there won't be millions of Americans ready to speak that language, too, after another year of recession and austerity pimping. (As my friend jules would say, the boots are wearing out.) Actually winning might be a very long shot, but attracting enough votes to scare Obama into triangulating leftward for a change—could a run by a media-savvy old-school labor Democrat with celebrity unignorability be a way of accomplishing that, at least? Or am I dreaming again and don't know it?

If you're dreaming, I want some of whatever it was you ate just before you went to bed.
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