Here Comes Trouble: Stories from My Life

"Outstanding…Moore Triumphs! Publishers Weekly

Mike's Letter

September 19th, 2001 12:00 AM

Lost in America, Closer to Home

Dear Friends,

We have made it to Columbus, Ohio for the night and are staying just a couple of blocks from the state capitol building where Governor Rhodes gave the order on May 4, 1970, to send the National Guard to Kent State. There they opened fire on hundreds of unarmed students, killing four and wounding many others.

Few dared to call it a terrorist act committed by the state of Ohio… but, there I go again. Off message! Stay focused on the main themes, Mike: “AMERICA UNITED!” “SMOKE ‘EM OUTTA THEIR HOLES, HUNT ‘EM DOWN, AND GIT ‘EM!” “THE SLEEPING GIANT HAS BEEN AROUSED!” and “REMEMBER THE POSTER IN THE OLD WEST: ‘WANTED: DEAD OR ALIVE!’”

I have a question to all the war hawks out there: When you listen and look at our Commander-in-Chief, do you really think THIS is the guy who is going to kick some major league ass? I’m just asking all you conservative drum beaters out there -- man, you must be embarrassed that this is the best we have to offer.

I know we are all supposed to be supportive of Mr. Bush, at the moment, but has it dawned on anyone that he is not, in fact, the “president?” I hate to bring up a thorny subject, but this is the man who lost the election. He got the least number of votes between the two major party candidates. His brother oversaw a rigged vote in Florida.

I am so, so sorry to bring this up now, but the tragedy of the past week is EXACTLY the kind of horrible circumstance many Americans feared we’d find ourselves in -- A NATIONAL CRISIS UNDER A LEADER WHO IS NOT THERE BY THE WILL OF THE PEOPLE. It is a tribute to the goodwill of the American public that they have rallied behind George W. Bush as best they can, ‘cause he and his fake flight jacket is all we got right now in the Oval Office.

Someone needs to get in charge and propose some real solutions to bringing the perpetrators to justice and preventing this -- as best as possible -- from happening again. Instead, what we have is Bush speaking like a wind-up doll, mouthing a bunch of nonsense clichés, repeating them over and over and over.

But occasionally his batteries run out -- and he goes off on some unintelligible tangent. You can see his handlers desperately trying to cut him off and whisk him away. You watch in awe and you ask the question that none of us even wants to contemplate right now, and that no one will dare to ask, so I might as well take the hit and be the one: THIS is the Commander-in-Chief of the most powerful country on earth? Who amongst you feels secure tonight? What enemy is going to be afraid of this guy?

Bush keeps calling what we are in “a war.” Has anyone told him that the more he keeps using this word, the more HE puts US in jeopardy? A “war” implies that two sides are participating in an action to kill as many of the other side as possible. Bush and the pundits use the word like it’s a one-sided deal, like we’re going to be the only ones doing the bombing. War means we bomb them, then they bomb us. That’s what war is, you idiots. We strafe Afghanistan, then the terrorists drop a canister of chemical weapons in the New York subway. We send in a group of commandos and wipe out a camp of Muslims, they take out the Sears Tower.

All of you who are screaming for war: are you prepared to pay the price, to take thousands of more casualties? Because, my big, macho-talking friends, THAT is what this kind of war would be like. America is a complex and open society with a massive and intricate infrastructure that is fragile and vulnerable and susceptible to easy attack and disruption. IT CAN BE BROUGHT DOWN WITH A BOXCUTTER. Let me repeat that:

IT CAN BE BROUGHT DOWN -- IT CAN BE BROUGHT TO A TOTAL STANDSTILL -- BY A BOXCUTTER!

Nearly a week with no stock market, no commercial television, no professional sports, three days with no planes in the air (for the first time since 1911), no airports open, the country essentially shut down. A week later and the phone lines still don’t all work. A boxcutter, folks! Do not be misled into thinking he with the biggest missile is going to win this “war.”

We will never be able to protect all of us from this kind of terrorism. Back and forth, more buildings bombed, more planes downed, more innocent American lives lost. When does this end? After we have killed every terrorist? When exactly is THAT scheduled to happen? Or is it just when we kill Osama bin Laden, then we win the war? Are you serious? We couldn’t even assassinate Hitler during a massive World War that lasted 6 years!

Bush now says this is “a war against the evil people in the world.” Oh, really? THAT war! Yeah, we should be able to defeat “evil,” oh, sometime in the next millennium or two. Get a grip. “War” is not going to get the justice we demand or make us more safe. You know it and I know it. There is a different way to go, and I will lay it out in a later letter, but to simplify it for now and put it in a nutshell, it goes like this:

One billion people on this planet have no clean drinking water. Two billion have no electricity. Three billion have never made a phone call from their home. We have the money and the people-power to alter ALL of this. We also have the moral imperative to stop supporting repressive regimes and corporations who exploit these people.

When we decide to help improve these billions of people’s lives, we will pull the rug out from under the terrorists who need those they send to their deaths to be poor and exploited and angry at us. The multi-millionaire bin Laden isn’t going to give up HIS life!

When all the people in the Middle East have food on the table, a decent home, a good job, and democratic control over their own lives, who among them is going to be convinced to sacrifice his life by crashing himself into a tall office building?

Sure, there will always be those who go insane and kill without reason. The British saw that in a Dunblane schoolyard, we saw it in Oklahoma City. There will always be religious fanatics willing to kill and be killed because they believe God has so ordered them. Ask the families of the assassinated women’s clinics’ doctors in Buffalo and Florida about those willing to commit evil in the name of religion in America.

There IS a way to protect us from further attack, to lift the rest of the world out of its misery, but it requires some smarts and some guts, two things in short supply in Washington these days.

After arriving in Columbus, Kathleen and I met up with one of our best friends from Flint, Al Hirvela. Al teaches at Ohio State. He was just the shot in the arm I needed this week. He, Kathleen, I and a bunch of others all used to put out an alternative newspaper in Flint many years ago and we miss being around each other in times like these. We miss being able to talk and try to figure out what it all means -- and what we should be doing about it. Al is a Quaker and a pacifist, and sitting in the Big Boy last night talking to him was the kind of grounding experience I needed after four days on the road.

My publisher called two nights ago to ask where I might end up for the evening, as my editor wanted to ship me a copy of my new book, just off the press. This was bittersweet news -- I have dedicated this book to Al, and to think that I would be there when he opened it up and saw his name on that dedication page was indeed a lucky privilege, a cool moment I never expected to have.

But the book publisher also gave me this news: They are “delaying” the release of my book due to the events of the past week. No doubt, this book is going to ruffle some feathers, and in light of the attack in New York, the book suddenly gave everyone connected to it (including me) the heebie-jeebies. What a feeling to have in a free country!

In a way, though, I was relieved with their decision -- I have absolutely ZERO interest in going out on a book tour this week. Even though I have much I would like to say -- opinions and thoughts that are NOT being heard in the media right now -- I just can’t go out there and have my name attached to something that is “on sale” (I have asked our webmaster to remove anything from our site that leads one to purchase any of my films, TV shows or books).

I am very proud of this book, and I hoped it would stimulate a lot of discussion on various topics. I don’t know now when it will come out -- maybe next month, maybe next year. In the meantime, I will continue to communicate on the Web and speak to any media outlet that will listen to -- and report uncensored -- what I have to say about the tragic situation in which we are now immersed.

I can’t believe all the incredible letters you are sending me -- over 41,000 letters in the last week. I am so sorry I cannot respond to each of you. I have scrolled down through the subject headings and read a few of the letters and it is clear I am not alone in my sadness over this tragedy or in the anger I have for what is being proposed by our leaders. I will print these letters and let our elected officials see what the REST of America is thinking about the idea of “war.”We are now driving across Ohio toward West Virginia and Pennsylvania. On the radio, NPR is running a history report on Osama bin Laden. We are told that he comes from a wealthy family and that they are the main builders for the Saudi royal family. They’ve remodeled palaces and built holy sites. Their construction projects are everywhere. Kathleen turns to me, and with one word sums up the kind of low-life we are talking about here.

“Contractors,” she says. “Bin Laden is a contractor.” Indeed, it all made sense.

Someone at NPR tracked me down on the road and asked me to stop by the nearest NPR station and read my letters over the air. I agreed, but I got choked up reading them into the microphone. I wonder if they will even broadcast them. I hope they do, as I felt that my reading of them conveyed more of a real and human sense of what I am trying to say and what I am seeing on this drive across America.

Later in the evening, my letters go out on an NPR program called The Connection from WBUR in Boston. More mail pours in. On the Pennsylvania Turnpike we pass through nearby Shanksville, PA, where the United flight went down. The girl at the newsstand counter in the rest stop says it was “just three miles down the road.” Close enough for all of them to hear it crash. Her voice shakes as she tells me this. A car parked in front of the door has a temporary “Cemetery Pass” sitting on its dash.

I think of Barbara Olson, the conservative commentator and wife of the man who argued Bush’s case for installation in front of the courts last year. I have been on “Politically Incorrect” with her on a couple of occasions. She was always a warm and friendly person. She was on that plane, on her way to do that show.

Monday night, the program went on, and Bill Maher left a chair on the stage empty, in her honor. I agreed with her on nothing, and I cried when I saw that empty chair. She was a human being who deserved to live. She was an American who loved her country. Maybe I should have gotten to know her better, instead of just ignoring her because of her politics. She was a year younger than me…

We will make it home to New York, sometime tonight…

Yours,

Michael Moore
mmflint@aol.com
www.michaelmoore.com

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