Martin LeFevre: American Might and Blight
American Might and Blight
''If Arnold Schwarzenegger can be elected governor of California, then Oprah Winfrey can be elected president of the United States.'' So reasons, with tongue firmly planted in cheek, Michael Moore, author, filmmaker, and fellow former Michigander, (“Bowling for Columbine” is a scathing, Academy Award winning satire on violence in America.)
I’ve never met Michael Moore, which is really surprising, since I learned on this trip to Michigan that he is a good friend of my oldest sister’s best friend. After two weeks here, that kind of non-connection connection begins to loom large.
It has been a very nice visit, long overdue. Indian summer kissed the land for most of the period, and the autumn leaves have been more spectacular each day. I come away with two overriding perceptions, and a sense of foreboding.
The perceptions are of smallness and surrealness, with respect to the Mid-West and America in general. The foreboding is much more inchoate, but rooted, to use a contradiction in terms, in not being able to see bottom.
Though Michigan is surrounded by more freshwater than anyplace else on earth, one gets the distinct feeling, after a week here, of being landlocked. Not in a literal sense of course, but psychologically. For as far as the eye can see, there is homogeneity.
I once heard a professor say that the reason we talk about diversity so much is because there is so little of it left. The loss of diversity, both ecologically and spiritually, is the greatest threat to the earth and the individual. Since the individual cannot separate himself or herself from the world, being inextricably part of it, what can one do?
Michael Moore draws a parallel, now familiar to the minority of thinking people left in America, between the present-day US and Nazi Germany the decade before World War II. He also says that the attacks of 9/11 were of a military rather than terrorist nature. His conclusion is that in order to avoid a repeat of history, people of conscience now have to speak up.
While Michael Moore seems to be a thoughtful fellow, his remarks (as indicated by the Oprah for president refrain) have more to do with getting a voice in the wilderness heard on CNN than with serious political analysis. There are indeed parallels between Germany in the 1930’s and present-day America, but it is misleading to say that the terrorist attacks of 2001 were military (much less pointing the finger at Saudi Arabia).
The real threat from America is not military takeover, but mental makeover. Though I’m loath to use the cliché, this is a war of ideas more than a war of bullets and bombs. The campaign of “shock and awe” in Iraq was not just to gain Iraqi submission; it was to make people all over the world believe that resistance is futile.
But resistance to what--American might and Bushit blight? (Or is it Bushit might and American blight?)
This is where the smallness and surrealness of things in Michigan come in. America has become a very small country, not just in the sense of ‘it’s a small world,’ but also in the sense of the horizons that people are willing and able to consider.
Inner and intellectual horizons have shrunk to the vanishing point in this land, and that lends a surreal feeling to the social landscape. That is the real danger of America to the global society.
After two days of fog and smog, a windswept Saginaw Bay, with clouds on the horizon casting a luminous gray hue, dawns clear as far as the eye can see.
- Martin LeFevre is a contemplative, and non-academic religious and political philosopher. He has been publishing in North America, Latin America, Africa, and Europe (and now New Zealand) for 20 years. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. The author welcomes comments.