Sunday, June 20

THE TEMPERATURE AT WHICH BUSH BURNS

Right wing white man John Derringer castigates and dismisses documentary filmmaker Michael Moore as a rank propagandist. Derringer should add a word to his vocabulary: Polemical.

Americans saw little of the polemicist spirit--or decent discourse at all for that matter--from any of the mainstream media leading up to, and during, the Iraq war.

Here in Canada, beyond yours truly, virtually no commercial radio broadcasters questioned the rationale of the Bush administration.

"When I was growing up in Flint, MI, we watched Canadian news to get the real story on the war in Vietnam," Michael Moore said to a packed house at the Varsity Cinemas on Friday night. He was fielding questions following the Canadian premiere of Fahrenheit 9/11.

He clearly feels comfortable in Toronto, since Film Festival audiences have been so supportive.

Moore is anticipating the firestorm of hate he'll receive once the film opens. "I wanted Canadians to see it before Americans did. And I needed to come up here and just visit with Canada."

There is something of the honorary Canadian about Moore: his objective remove, his essential morality (we are not trigger-happy), his ethical prerogatives. So, why the controversy?

The controversy lies less in the explication of known facts about Iraq, the Saudis, and Bush's many intellectual shortcomings. More from the huge visceral impact in the presentation of these events, characters, and victims.

Moore's documentary is simply the most powerful, pulverizing polemic to be released since The Battle of Algiers was shown in 1965 and denigrated France's colonial war in Algeria.

Moreover, Moore's film will be, in my view, comparable in its cultural impact to the publication of the novel Uncle Tom's Cabin in the 1860s--a novel which decimated international support for the Confederacy.

Fahrenheit 9/11 is more powerful than what was experienced during the protest movement for the very fact that we feel above it.

There is a notion that we are of a "post-Vietnam" era, one that is beyond unnecessary wars. An era that is past nasty, internecine, self-recriminating squabbles.

The fact is, many of the same long-hairs that protested the Vietnam war, are now neo-con Republicans that gleefully wrap themselves in the flag and support their President and stomp their little feet at the scent of dissent.

Moore points out that only one Congressman has a son actually serving in Iraq--or in the forces, period.

That politicians, as parents, might have to sacrifice their own, and do greater due diligence, is a blatant truism that regularly needs reinforcing.

For it is always easier to send Blacks and poor whites off to die. It reminds me of the General who asked the hawkish, desk-bound and corpulent Richard Perle if he was going to suit up with the Special Ops, or just wave his pen.

Many are concerned that this highly provocative documentary could lead to an assassination of the filmmaker.

Having spoken to some who work with Moore, and who are also worried about his safety, it is highly possible that he may be killed for his authorship.

The truth hurts.

Thursday, June 10

OUR MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE

When Richard Condon wrote The Manchurian Candidate in 1959, he was spooked by, and spooked, the Cold War zeitgeist to further frenzy with the notion of a brain-washed political insider--the ultimate Trojan Horse.

The recent musings by Conservative M.P.s on a variety of issues, from abortion to same sex marriage to minority language rights, to the role of the Church in government, to increased political control of the Supreme court, smack of an angst-ridden, chip-on-the-shoulder, regional protest party--exactly what the name change was supposed to erase.

The Conservatives were supposed to be more centrist, more national. And since Canadians vote parties out more than vote them in, methinks some folks out West misunderstand what current poll support really represents.

What we're seeing is the old serpent of politicized, religious fundamentalism sticking its head out of the Tory swamp, emboldened now by new political fortunes.

Many disaffected Liberals, of which I am one, would really like to see a change in government. But there seems to still be a problem with the structure of central Canadian power politics. This is where Ontario and Quebec call the shots. However now, Quebec has sided for a rejectionist, "Quebec First" platform under the regional Bloc, while the West tries its hand with its own regional disaffection/protest party--"Conservatives"; with a large provisional attempt to make the Conservatives "Ontario-friendly" in order to expand their regionalized roots.

The problem with reforming the reformers, and the reformation of the Conservatives, is that you can take the reform out of the Alliance, but you can't take the Alliance out of the Reform. However way you call it, it is still, in terms of its base political culture, a regional protest party.

The proof of this lies in the coded language used where the base understands, but where the rest of the media see oblique thrusts.

A case in point is abortion. Instead of Steve Harper saying, "An M.P. can introduce a private members bill and we can take it to a vote, but I, personally don't want it ... I, personally--as a leader--wish to avoid these divisive issues. I, personally, don't agree with abortion, but, as a political leader, I understand that this debate itself should be aborted. A woman has the right to choose."

Harper needs to express his political views, instead of hiding behind "the right of M.P.s to express themselves".

So, if you are in the political center, this is what any leader would say, more or less:

On Gay rights: "Apparently, God made queers too. Basically, religion and politics don’t mix. And, if a man has been with another man for 30 years and nursed him for 10 while he was dying, why should his no-good next of kin--that never saw him--get the preferential treatment just because he wasn't allowed to marry."

On The judiciary: "The Supreme court must interpret the laws under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. You know, Constitutional Liberalism has been called 'unjust' many times before. Like when the Supreme Court and the Executive Branch in Washington overturned the democratic will of regional politics in Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi in the early sixties."

On Iraq: "OK. I was wrong. I fucked up. I believed what the Bush team said about the imminent threat bullshit. Knowing what we know now, we should've let the inspectors do their job, then re-assess on the basis of more evidence, and then pursued Bin Laden with greater vigour. No Canadian boys should die especially when the predicate for the war is proved to be false."

Since our old friend Mulroney went to the political fringes of Quebec to gain a foothold there, and in the process creating Bouchard, there has been no "national" party except for the Liberals, who, are themselves now shut out of Quebec (according to polls).

I’ll be interviewing Steve Harper very soon. I will look him in the eye and he will not escape direct answers–-which will show whether he is really a national leader or a protest fringe player in his heart, and in the heart of his real political culture.

That's the question: is he a national leader? Or, culturally and politically, is he the Manchurian Candidate Trojan Horse of Alberta religious and regional values?

Come to Jesus, Stephen.

Come to me first.

Friday, June 4

JEWS AND HATE

I had the chance on Thursday to chat with Ron Rosenbaum, the author of Those Who Forget The Past: The Question of Anti-Semitism. His previous work, Explaining Hitler, took a decade to compile. Both books are a collection of essays by thinkers, academics, and journalists.

Rosenbaum was asked to explain the reason for Jew bashing. His reaction was blank. Despite years of studying the topic, this prolific writer and editor was reduced to an exasperated shrug.

That's because there's no rational understanding when it comes to the Judeo-fixedness of hate.

Jews on this continent have been extremely successful, so, why the fuss? "North America is not a problem for Jews," Rosenbaum admits.

OK. If that’s true, then why all of the "media monitoring"? Why the public protests against desecrating Jewish homes, schools and cemeteries? Are normal people really for hate? It's really a case of constantly preaching to the converted.

Revealingly, in his book's introduction, Rosenbaum uses the word "equanimity" in the pejorative. He's really saying Jews should be vigilant--even around here. So, North America could be a problem then I guess.

This determination frustrates and disappoints me because he vast majority of Gentiles do "get it". Moreover, no one has not hired someone in North America in recent memory for being Jewish, yet, discrimination with other groups is still a problem; where some Jews also participate in the problem as discrimination knows no cultural border.

Even when we look to history, specifically WW2, we find a mixed response from some Jews. This, despite the fact that those of us who lost relatives to Hitler in war, where we lay in opposition against the Nazi worldview, it still, somehow, doesn't seem good enough.

However, the very idea of a dominant ethnicity, a majority that somehow has a collective voice derived from specific origins, is a thing of the past.

Where homogeneity once reigned, and Anglo-Saxon life was once agrarian--no Sunday shopping, and the main divisions existed within Protestant circles (with the main divide being Catholic), that society is now secular and diverse. Today, divisions are cultural, rather than religious.

Nowadays, being Anglo means an urban workaday existence. In most instances, the culture of thought is larger than the religious grouping. Two city dwellers, despite having different languages and backgrounds, will have stronger cultural links with each other than a couple of hicks from the sticks.

What does it matter if one of the urbanites is a Jew? Myself, I have more in common with Seinfeld than Stompin' Tom.

Rosenbaum's also book features a couple of pieces on Mel Gibson's sores and sandals epic, The Passion of the Christ. I pointed out that no one walked out of the movie theaters to hunt down Jews. The opposition from Jewish groups and individuals was hysterical, and not commensurate with the thing itself.

"Passion plays have a history of inciting hatred," Rosenbaum countered. Mel Gibson's dad, he informed me, is clearly an infamous anti-Semite, and Jews are again cloaked in the classic "deicide" role in this movie.

Well, so what? Can't the 1st century Pharisees be depicted in a certain light without painting all Jews as Christ-killers? Don't we depict Mafia types on TV without saying that this is what Italians are all like? Of course not.

I asked Rosenbaum what the problem was with Jews, given how Christ was a Jew. No answer.

How did the Romans get off so easily? They killed him, and Christ wasn't Italian.

Christ had to die for all of our sins--for Christian sins. No Christian sins, no death.

Maybe we should stop blaming Jews ... and look more at the Mafia.

The real problem lies with international relations: in the Middle East, the West has exacerbated regional divides through a militarized foreign policy in Iraq, and a heavy-handed--albeit effective from the perspective of suppression--support for Arab ghettos in Israel.

The hatred in the region is immense. This is where The Protocols of the Elders Of Zion is taken literally, and where 9/11 was started by Jews.

Where will it all end? Depressingly, Rosenbaum seems to believe that a second Holocaust, in an era of portable nukes and desperate enemies is all but inevitable. Where there's a will, there's a way. He calls it, "Hitler's posthumous victory".

There is only the whiff of the embers of this hatred in North America. What burns brighter is an urban society where everyone eats bagels--devoid of deference for its cultural associations, undeterred by texture.