"Dude, Where's My Country?"
(Reviewed by Judi Clark SEP 16, 2004)
"So our challenge, our mission, is to find ways to reach out to these millions of working people and show them how they are voting against their own best interests."
I keep thinking of people that I'd like to give a copy of this book to. I'm not saying that I agree with everything Michael Moore says, but how nice to have someone easy to read, articulate and FUNNY to express the many of the things that Carl and I have been saying for the past couple of years. Yes, I realize that the current United States political scene is so polarized -- and especially with only weeks to go before the election -- that I'll probably have all kinds of people unsubscribe from the MostlyFiction.com newsletter before they even get to the end of this paragraph.
But, maybe I won't lose that many subscribers.
Michael Moore insists that we do live in the land of "liberal-lefty, peacenik, tree-huggers." We are the majority. As he points out (and polls have backed), that most of us hate the thought of going to war (but once at war we will support our children, because they are our children so it only appears we are pro war), believe in equal rights for women, believe in labor unions and workers' rights, abhor guns, agree that woman should have control over their reproductive organs, believe that gay and lesbian people should have the same opportunities as straight people nor should they be discriminated against in any way. We want the strongest possible protections to ensure a clean environment, we believe in universal health care, racial diversity in college but we don't necessarily believe in marriage as more and more of us are choosing to simply live together. We don't even believe that all drug users should go straight to jail (because 41% of us have used illegal drugs at one time or another). So how is it that this nation is ruled by a conservative majority, a nation whose moral agenda seems set by the Christian Coalition? This is just one of the anomalies that Moore addresses in this book.
But I'm jumping ahead of myself.
I didn't know what to expect when I picked up Dude, Where's My Country. But I thought Bowling for Columbine was very well done, raising issues I had not expected. Most recently I saw Michael Moore on the Real Time with Bill Maher and enjoyed his point of view. (I also was quite impressed with former Canadian Prime Minister Kim Campbell during that show). Though I have not seen the movie Fahrenheit 9/11 yet (too long a line the one time we actually drove over to the theater) I know that I want to see it. This means I don't have an allergic reaction to Michael Moore, like some people I know. So, the next logical step was to actually read his book. Rationale being that one shouldn't be FOR Michael Moore any more than AGAINST Michael Moore, if one has not read any of his books.
So here's my assessment. It's simple. Read the book. Don't tell me you already know what he is going to say (FOR or AGAINST), because you don't. But what you might find is that he's saying lots of things you have already said privately amongst yourselves. Nothing like feeling you might not be so crazy (or so alone) after all. For me, there were some new questions, like why did the headlines never read "SAUDIA ARABIA ATTACKS THE U.S." when all the hijackers were from Saudi Arabia (note: not Iraq)? If they had been from Iran, would not the headlines have said IRAN ATTACKS? But that's just one quip, amongst hundreds. Moore is especially good on long memory, connecting the dots between events, opening our eyes to things that the Bush administration (and even other administrations) have said and done, some things that have not had any air time in the U.S. news (like when the Taliban took a trip to Texas in late 1997).
It's Michael Moore's writing style that makes this book a good one for anyone to pick up. There are lots of books in print right now, but most are written more seriously. I'm the first to admit that I did not get very far with Noam Chomsky's Hegemony or Survival, I'm just not that smart. Moore's writing is for the average attention span. It's varied, it's funny, and it's footnoted so that no one can quibble with his sources.
The first chapter is done as a list of seven questions that he'd like for George W. Bush to answer; seven questions that no one seemed to be asking. The next chapter delves into the lies this administration has told us, appropriately titled "Home of the Whopper" and then using the analogy to show just how many ways the lies have been served. Then he switches gears completely and tells a little dream-fable in which his great-granddaughter (inexplicably named Anne Coulter Moore), wants to know what the world was like when it had oil and plastics and why, if oil was a limited resource, no one planned for the inevitable. I agree this is an absolutely silly chapter, but then again it sure seems to work better than simply writing the sentence that we aren't thinking about our children's children. In chapter 4, titled The United States of BOO!, Moore turns to essay style writing as he explains that "THERE... IS... NO... TERRORIST... THREAT!" Statistically there are so many other ways that we are likely to die, that well there is no threat and but believing there is one does help us citizens to let the government dismantle our civil liberties. That said, it does not mean there are no terrorists. Chapter 5 talks about better ways to stop Terrorism, which many of us already know that answer -- stop being terrorists ourselves. I like this chapter because much of the information found in in this chapter I have tried to use in arguments with my father. Granted, it's been to no avail, but I like seeing the list of our own atrocities in writing; I'm thinking I'll just hand this book to my dad next time our conversation starts down this path. Actually no I won't. As we get closer to the end of the book, Michael Moore even tells us how to listen, empathize and talk to the the inevitable right-wing amongst family and friends, which is important to succeed in our goal. The goal? To defeat George W. Bush in 2004.
There are lots of surprises in this book, such as whom Moore thinks should run for president (besides General Wesley Clark) or any public office. "We live in a nation of 300 million people and everywhere you look there is someone who understands more about what it is to be an American, more about the struggles of everyday life than these dudes we keep having to choose from." And more fun chapters such as one in which God interrupts and another in which Michael gives President Bush a big thank you for giving him a tax break in the one year that he made more money than ever. (And how he plans on spending that tax break to help the economy, just as the President promised he would. <wink wink>)
Finally, Moore urges us to act, "we cannot leave this election to the Democrats to screw it up again." He outlines the "Operation 10-Minute Oil Change," by doing something just ten minutes a day, we can remove Bush and his oil buddies. Count this review as my first ten minutes. Now, let me check the list...
Amazon readers rating: from 904 reviews
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Bibliography: (with links to Amazon.com)
- Downsize This! Random Threats from an Unarmed American (1996)
- Adventures in a TV Nation: The Stories Behind America's Most Outrageous TV Show (1998)
- Stupid White Men: ... And Other Sorry Excuses for the State of the Nation! (February 2002)
- Dude, Where's My Country (October 2003)
- Mike's Election Guide for 2008 (August 2008)
- Here Comes Trouble: Stories from My Life (September 2011)
- Will They Ever Trust Us Again? Letters from the War Zone (October 2004)
- The Official Fahrenheit 9/11 Reader
- Roger and Me (1989)
- The Big One (1998)
- Bowling for Columbine (2002)
- The Awful Truth (April 2003)
- Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004)
- Sicko (2007)
- Canadian Bacon
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- The official website for Michael Moore
- Wikipedia page on Michael Moore's life
- IRS Government form 8302 -- now here's a form I wish I needed
- The GOP doesn't reflect America by Michael Moore
- American Civil Liberties Union website
- BlogCritics review of Mike's Election Guide
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About the Author:
Michael Moore was born in 1954 in Davison, Michigan, a suburb of Flint Michigan. Hi smother was a secretary for General Motors' factories and his father and grandfather were also employed there. His uncle was one of the founders of the United Automobile Workers labor union.
He was brought up Catholic, attended a youth seminary at age 14, then attended Davison High School. In 1972 he ran for and won a seat on the Davison school board. At 22, he founded the alternative weekly magazine Flint Voice that lasted 10 years.
Moore is documentary film director and author known for his advocacy of social democratic views laced with satiric humor. His documentary film Bowling for Columbine received special notice at the Cannes Film Festival and won France's Cesar Award as the Best Foreign Film. In the United States, it won the 2003 Academy Award for Documentary Feature. It also enjoyed unusual commercial success for a film of its type, becoming by some measures the highest-grossing documentary of all time. His movie Fahrenheit 9/11 won top honor at the Cannes Film Festival, the first documentary to win the prize since 1956. Despite the controversy surrounding Moore and his work, he has had great success as a documentary filmmaker and writer. His films "Bowling for Columbine" and "Fahrenheit 9/11" debuted as the highest-grossing feature-length non-music documentaries of all time.
Michael Moore lives in New York City and Michigan.