What’s with the US’ fevered fixation on the right to bear arms? Can’t people see the connection between the unreal number of firearms they collectively own and how the United States of America is by far the country where murder is most rampant in the world? In his timely, thought-provoking new film, Michael Moore dives right into these issues and pursues all kinds of potential answers.
Some would say violent movies are responsible, but Honk Kong’s films are much more graphic than Hollywood’s and they don’t have such a problem with gun violence. Video games are often accused of desensitising youths, but most of them are created in Japan yet Asian kids don’t shoot each other. When Eric and Dylan killed a dozen of their classmates at Columbine high school in 1999, much was made of how they listened to Marilyn Manson, but Moore points out that right before they took the guns out, they were bowling! Are we gonna accuse bowling of causing violence then?
My own take is that guns are too easily available in America. Gun shops, gun shows, guns in flea markets, guns at K-Mart, guns when you open a bank account… Hence, if you’re pissed at somebody and there are guns laying all over, there are more chances that something bad will happen than if you have to go through weeks of paperwork to get armed. Yet Moore quickly dismisses this. Apparently, countries like Canada are also host to tons of gun nuts, they just don’t use them on each other.
The possibility Moore comes up with is very interesting: the trouble with the USA is that it lives in a culture of fear. All through their history, they’ve been scared of the Other, opting to shoot first and ask questions later. Today still, the American government itself is gung-ho in its foreign policy, bombing the hell out of countries they fear. Moore suggests that maybe this passes down to the individual who, made even more paranoid by how the media focus ever more on crime, murder and snipers, comes to think that he’s in danger. Again, it’s often the “Other” who’s the easiest to pin down threat: the Blacks, the Hispanics… They’re clearly no-good, we’ve all seen them running from the police on the news and COPS, right? You better stay safe at home, watch more TV, go out only to buy useless junk and guns, naturally. And don’t vote for those pussy politicians who want to bring down pollution and reduce warfare and help the poor and the minorities, THOSE CRIMINALS! Better put a cowboy in the White House, he’ll shut em “evil-doers” up!
Moore tackles this complex subject with his signature irreverence, creating a heavy but entertaining exposé out of ironic montages, cartoons, stunt interviews with the likes of Dick Clark and NRA president Charlton Heston, news footage, film clips… It’s all interesting, really, but I found it a bit too all over the place. Unlike Moore’s Roger & Me, which passionately and relentlessly struck at big corporations, “Bowling for Columbine” takes pot-shots at everything and nothing in particular. It still hits more often than it misses and such dissent is important in a democracy, but it could be more focused. The Trials of Henry Kissinger, for instance, makes a better -if not as colorful- case against America’s violent tendencies.
Maybe I’ve grown too familiar with Moore and his agenda/schtick to get excited about it, but “Bowling for Columbine” remains a film that needs to be seen. The gun nuts, the bloodthirsty media and the war-obsessed politicians should be forced to sit down and watch it.
MICHAEL MOORE SAYS:
It is, I promise, the last thing the Bushies want projected on the movie screens across America this week. The film is, first and foremost, a devastating indictment of the violence that is done in our name for profit and power — and no one, in all the advance screenings I have attended, has left the theatre with anything short of rage. I truly believe this film has the potential to rock the nation and get people energized to do something.
This is not good news for Junior and Company. Not when they are trying to drag us into another war. Not when a crazed sniper is exercising his constitutional right to own a high-powered rifle. Not when John Ashcroft is still prohibiting the FBI from looking through the gun background check files to see if any of the 19 hijackers or their associates purchased any weapons prior to 9/11 — because THAT, we are told, would “violate” these terrorists’ sacred Second Amendment rights!