We saw Fahrenheit 11/9 on the opening day, September 21. In all fairness here, I’m a fan of Michael Moore’s films. I cheered after watching Fahrenheit 911 in 2004. I think Sick-O, on the U.S. health care system, helped bring universal health care into public discourse and Bernie Sanders was its political voice. Bowling for Columbine brought out attention to guns and the 2nd amendment. At the end of these movies, I cheered. I felt hopeful.
At the end of Fahrenheit 11/9, I wanted to weep. I wanted to move to another country.
This movie is Moore’s most powerful and disturbing depiction of the U.S. and of democracy as a system. It scared me. It underscored everything I’ve felt about trump since he announced his candidacy – that he’s a conman, a sham, a lover of authoritarian leaders who would like to be prez for life. He’s a crude narcissist who doesn’t give a shit about anyone except himself – and maybe his family.
But as Moore drives home in the film, trump and the republicans aren’t entirely to blame. The democrats haven’t been blameless. They’re the supposed “old guard” of democracy, but have manipulated things according to what the party wants. Case in point. In West Virginia’s primaries, Bernie Sanders won all 55 counties. But at the Democratic Convention, the delegates from that state declared their candidate as Clinton. In other words, since the democratic party wanted Clinton, it rigged the count in WV so Clinton would become the candidate.
Sanders appears in Fahrenheit 11/9, talking with Moore about his campaign, and these scenes were moving for me. I got choked up seeing all the incredible energy he triggered among young people.
There’re scenes of Obama in Flint, Michigan, where he supposedly sipped from a glass of Flint’s water…and basically gave a pass to the state’s governor, who created the situation that led to lead poisoning of more than 10,000 young kids. I Googled it when I got home and it’s depressing.
The water in Flint is still undrinkable. The film also notes that Obama took more contributions from Goldman Sacks than any other candidate, that he detained more immigrants than any other president, and stepped up drone attacks considerably. On all counts, my respect for Obama plummeted.
The film shows a fundamentally broken political system that screams for the electoral college to be abolished so that the voice of the people, through the popular vote, elects the president. It underscores the reality that if the democrats hope to win the majority in anything, they need to get rid of the old guard – Pelosi, Schumer, the ones who have been in politics for decades – move to the left of center, put term limits on congress, and that rigging by the party should be illegal.
As a two-party system, democracy is doomed to failure. In a system where corporations are recognized as people – Citizens United – democracy becomes the world of Blade Runner and results in more tragic debacles like Flint. When science is put forward as fake news, when facts about melting ice shelves are deemed to be hype by the Chinese or some other foreign power, when the commander in chief’s daily lies are documented, when the president is an admitted sexual predator (Hollywood access tape), when 3% of Americans own nearly 170 million guns, when the largest voting block is non-voters, we’re in deep trouble as a democracy.
As Moore asks at the beginning of the film, “What the fuck happened?”
The one hope in this film pertains to Parkland. The Parkland survivors invited Moore to join them at their activist headquarters. These scenes were powerful on a visceral level. The fact that these high schools kids galvanized a movement – March for Our Lives – and are political activists is encouraging. And some of them will be voting in the midterms. The hope they symbolize is embodied in the powerful speech by Emma Gonzalez.
Moore has captured the heart and soul of the tumultuous times in which we live right now. Every Dystopian novel I’ve ever read, from Fahrenheit 451 to Hunger Games seems not only plausible, but hasn’t imagined the vast scope of where we may be 10 or 20 years from now.