July 05, 2004
Frank Schaeffer on Farenheit 9/11
Frank Schaeffer is a Marine Corps Dad. He didn't expect his upper middle class family to produce a Marine, but it did and he has the same feelings of intense pride and fear that the rest of us do. Here's his reaction to Michael Moore's latest "documentary":
As a military parent whose son was recently deployed in the Middle East I object strongly to Michael Mooreís cynical exploitation of our men and women in uniform. When a political satire stoops to manipulating young soldiers and Marines and their grieving parents to score political points something is very wrong. And when a political film like ďFahrenheit 9/11Ē uses the military as fodder for satire aimed at someone elseóBushóthen feigns respect for those same soldiers the filmmaker is mocking I want to tell the film maker he canít have it both ways.
Moore reminds me of a wife beater who brings his wife flowers in the morning to assuage his guilt for the black eye he gave her the night before. First Moore disrespects the military then he says I really do love you. No matter how much he hates Bush getting rid of the current president is no excuse for insulting my son and all his military brothers and sisters. And Mooreís movie is an insult to our men and women.
First it is condescending as Moore pretends to sympathize with our military men and women. Then Moore turns downright mean when he portrays our men in uniform as mindless thugs. Either way we never hear about patriotism, let alone loyalty to other soldiers, let alone who is really in the military or why they are there, let alone about all the Marines and soldiers who are dead because they hesitated to shoot at enemies hiding behind civilians. We see the anomalies not the mainstream. We see exploited African-American youth and white crackers and a few conscientious objector types. What we donít see is the real military majorityómiddle class white kids from small towns following in their fatherís footsteps and minorities of all ethnic backgrounds who want to give something back to the country they honor.
Moore has every right to say whatever he wants about President Bush. (Just for the record I was and am a John McCain supporter.) And Moore has the right to edit old video tape to make the President look like a simpering fool even if it is grossly unfair. Politics is hardball. Moore makes some excellent points about our naive American relationship with the Saudis and also about our staggering lack of adequate response when we sent only 10,000 men to Afghanistan and missed our shot at bin Laden. He also comes close to telling the truth about the hysterical paranoia that leads to grandmothers being frisked in airports while nothing much is done about our real enemies. (Though if we had followed the logic of Mooreís movieóthe Saudis are the real enemy in the movieóand attacked them after 9/11 I bet Moore still wouldnít like Bush.)
It is a little hard to take Mooreís Bambi approach to the pre-American invasion Iraq seriously. Remarkably all we see is in his movie of Saddamís Iraq is happy footage of happy children before the Americans bomb them. (Bambi as in the scenes in the forest with his mother before the evil hunters arrive!) There is no sign of mass graves or gassed Kurds. Iraq under Saddam looks like a commercial for an Islamic Disneyland.
Fairytales about happy pre-invasion Iraq aside, Moore crosses the line of decency when he uses ambush tabloid-style methods on young military men and reduces their lives to cleverly manipulated sound bites to serve his political attack. Someone needs to explain to Moore that presidents come and go and arenít really all that important (it has been a long time since the best and brightest wanted to run and weíve had a string of second-raters and survived just fine), but that our military IS important. We NEED our men and women more than they need us. There really are people who want to kill us.
Moore edits some footage of pumped up teenagers in uniform talking about the music they listen to when they are getting shot at and shooting back. He uses the macho swaggering statements of a few immature soldiers out of context, a context where they were trying to pump themselves up to face battle with brave and foolish words (or violent music). The fear and horror of battle make men do and say many things and until Moore walks in their shoes he should back off. Moore manipulates their words to portray an entire military campaign as driven by young men listening to heavy metal as they gleefully blow away women and children. It is a lie. I have just finished editing a collection of letters from hundreds of military men and womenóďVoices From The FrontĒ ó due out this fall, and the letters, not to mention all the men and women I know personally, not to mention my son, tell another story. They grieve over civilian casualties. But then Moore was not trying to tell the truth. He was making propaganda. And that is fine too, but not on the backs of men and women who will die for Michael Moore and the rest of us tomorrow.
Moore would not know a nuance or a complexity let alone a paradox if it bit him. He simplistically portrays a military that only exist to protect the ďcapitalist systemĒ he hates and that he is convinced doesnít work because there are some streets in Flint Michigan where the houses arenít very nice. (Will he be sharing the 20 million or so heís earned so far this year with the ďexploitedĒ African-American recruits he interviewed? And when in his movie Moore challenges some congressmen to sign up their children for military serviceóa great idea by the way, listen up Ted Kennedyódid Moore just happen to forget to also ambush his rich pals in Hollywood? Have any of Harvey Weinsteinís kids signed up recently? Or does Moore only hate rich jerks that vote Republican? Will Mooreís kids ever show solidarity with the rest of us by enlisting?)
Moore portrays the military men and women as the stooges of rich white men and oil companies. The problem is that this is a lie. Many of our men and women serving are doing so for patriotic reasons and/or for reasons of loyalty to their fellow soldiers. Moore never mentions this. Many others come from upper middle class families, like my son. In the world according to Moore they donít exist.
My son did not join the Marines to blow away children to rock music. Nor did he need college benefits. He joined to be part of something bigger than himself. He joined to serve his country. He joined because he wanted discipline in his life. He joined for adventure. And he is not alone.
Moore shows his profound ignorance about the real military because he does not acknowledge that there are thousands of men and women who may well have joined for a utilitarian reasonósay college benefitsóbut who then underwent a profound spiritual rebirth in the military. Now they are motivated to serve because they want to watch the backs of their fellow soldiers. Moore doesnít seem to know that there really are thousands of our people who the military has taught to live by a selfless code: the man or woman standing next to you is more important than you are.
In some scenes a camera crew follows a grieving mother of a killed soldier as she cries. Of course she was carefully chosen so as not to alienate Mooreís leftist base of support. She was not any old military mom. What would Mooreís core constituency have made of a mom who cried for her son and still wanted Bush to win? Moore is sympathetic to her but only after establishing her politically correct credentials. She is wearing a special cross that symbolizes diversity and tolerance. And she is in a multiracial marriage. This is fine with me by the way. Iím all for tolerance and multiracial marriages. In the military that Moore disdains there are plenty of mixed race couples, a lot more than in Hollywood. The military, unlike the Oscar voters, really is a color-blind meritocracy. In the end Moore abuses even his token military mom. Moore hates Bush so much he is willing to stoop to following this weeping mother around the perimeter of the White House in a bizarre tabloid-style moment of maudlin and insensitive exploitation.
In other scenes military men and women are portrayed as fools, killers or just dumb white guys, say the two Marine recruiters, following poor black young men and trying to fool them into joining Bushís military. I know a lot of Marine recruiters and Moore must have worked very hard to edit these two into the idiots they come off as. The recruiters I know, and most likely these two Marines as well, are bright, dedicated and kind. But then, as someone who has made a lot of documentaries myself I know what can be done to get a point across when you want to. Moore could make the Pope look like Hugh Hefner. Michael Moore is a very good film maker. Heís just not a very good person.
In all cases the men and women of our military are stripped of dignity in Mooreís movie. They are portrayed as either mindless killers or manipulated victims, never heroes. The only military personnel given more than a ten second out-of-context sound bite are the soldiers and Marines Moore finds who are against the war in Iraq. They get to say things about how killing makes you lose parts of your soul. But the problem is that Michael Moore is not really interested even in them. He is interested in politics and is using these men as a stick with which to beat the president.
What is so dishonest in his movie is that Michael Moore wants to have it both ways. In one interview he says that America is a great country. But for the rest of the movie he tells us that we are a nation of easily led fools with a fascist/victim military. Moore wants to stir up the anti-war crowd on the one hand by showing soldiers killing babies to rock music, and exploit the sympathies of the American middle class for our men and women on the other hand by showing a crying mother whose son got killed.
(Note to John Kerry: If you really love our military denounce Mooreís portrayal of our men and women and tell America that you donít want our votes if they have to be generated by sinking to Michael Mooreís level. Do that and Iíll vote for you, Iíll even work for you!)
It is unfair for a movie maker who will make tens of millions of dollars this year from attacking Bush to sandbag some 19 year old Marine, who is making $18, 000 a year. Moore has all the intellectual and technical weapons Hollywood could give him and a huge team backing him up. The 19 year old soldier has a high school diploma. Michael Moore is a bully.
Our military men and women deserve better. So do their parents. Moore has misrepresented us. For every mother who hates the President for her sonís death there are fifty others who want us to win in Iraq so their sonís deaths wonít have been in vain. Maybe they are deluded but Moore should at least have represented the bereaved parents fairly.
Here are some things Iíd like to explain to Michael Moore:
These days the military is the last place you canít opt out of your commitment when the going gets rough. Many young men and women who signed up did so out of a desire to serve our nation. Most of us military parents see that the military has made our children and our familiesí better less selfish people. Our men and women have their bad days and their good days, but most of all they are loyal to each other; black or white, male or female. They get through each day motivated by taking care of the man or woman standing next to them.
Last word to Michael Moore: Itís not cool to spit on your military, even metaphorically, even if the French do like you for doing it. You can help bring down Bush without stooping to this.
My son did not join the Marines because he had no other options. He was another "middle-class white kid" who looked at his choices and decided that he had something to offer his country. I would have happily paid his tuition at any college of his choice. His choice was the United States Marine Corps. He wanted to be the best. He is.
I wonder what Michael Moore's reaction would be if his child chose to enter military service.
Posted by Deb at July 5, 2004 07:28 AM
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Deb Conrad at Marinecorpsmoms prints a letter from Frank Schaeffer: As a military parent whose son was recently deployed in the Middle East I object strongly to Michael Mooreís cynical exploitation of our men and women in uniform. When a... [Read More]
Tracked on July 5, 2004 03:34 PM
Thank you Mr. Schaeffer. 50 years ago, you could have been describing me. Middle class, white, HS graduate thinking about his future. I wasn't ready for college although my mom, a teacher, would have taken in laundry at night to pay my tuiton. Dad, working in the Post Office would have done anything he needed to do. The decision to enlist in the USMC was a seminal moment in my life, and I can't imagine how things could have turned out better for me. I learned how to be a man, and got an education that was to become my life long career. I wish you, your family, and your brave son a continuing joyful life.
Posted by: EddieP at July 5, 2004 01:17 PM
Michael Moore be damned for his condecension toward our fine young men and women.
Posted by: EddieP at July 5, 2004 01:19 PM
Sorry about the typo.
Posted by: EddieP at July 5, 2004 01:21 PM
Thank you, Mr. Schaeffer. I, too, am the parent of a young man who joined the Marines out of a sense of duty to his country. I can afford to send him to college, and he did, in fact, attend two years before he enlisted. He plans to complete his degree.
I have not seen the movie, and do not plan to, as I have already felt a profound sadness from just hearing about its content, and I can't stand the idea of contributing my $8 to that creep. I agree that Mr. Moore simply has no understanding of the utter patriotism of our young men. In addition to that, his hateful disrespect of our President is unforgivable.
God Bless you and your son
Katherine Meyer, CDR, USNR
Mother of a LCPL in Iraq
Posted by: Katherine Meyer at July 12, 2004 08:27 PM
When will you Americains realise that nobody else than you believe in this utopic dream of patriotism, love, pride for your country? Please, stop trying to make us believe that those kids are dying in the name of the country!! I can understand reactions like Frank Schaeffer's, it's their kids who are dying in the Middle East, but please, Mr. Schaeffer and the rest of the Americans: wake up; open your eyes, realise that the American gouvernment is just defending personal economic interests and not the "love" for their country!!! my message is: "I understand your pain, but do not let gouvernement get away with it, wake up, realise, and DO something!!!
Villa Mercedes, San Luis, Argentina.
Posted by: Maria Santillan at July 13, 2004 08:54 AM
Do you remember the April 1982 invasion of the Malvinas/Falkland Islands? Margaret Thatcher, then the British Prime Minister, was having none of it and sent a huge naval task force. After a short war, it evicted the Argentines ignominiously. The war destroyed Galtieri's career and paved the way to the restoration of democracy in Argentina.
The same thing happened with the first Gulf War when Saddam invaded Kuwait. Even though Kuwait was not and never will be a colony, America came to the rescue and ousted Saddam. Argentina participated in that war by sending troops. That paved the way to Saddam's eventual fall and now we are seeing the first stirrings of democracy in Iraq.
Freedom is worth fighting and, yes, dying for. Our brave young men and women who are fighting for that freedom have liberated an oppressed civilian population from a brutal regime. Did you support Saddam's brutality? That's really what it comes down to. It's sad that people like you will never understand that.
Posted by: Deb at July 13, 2004 10:48 AM
I do agree with you: ďfreedom is worth fighting and yes, dying forĒ. I guess I didnít express my message clearly or you probably misunderstood it.
I do believe in American soldiersí struggle for freedom in Iraq. I do believe in their courage. I do believe in their desire to liberate an oppressed civilian population from a brutal regime. And no, as you can see now, I donít support Saddamís regime. However, soldiersí beliefs are sometimes not the same as governmentsí Ė thatís probably why I understand the reasons of Argentinean government to send their troops to Kuwait-. And I think itís the case of your country: American government sent their kids to war trying to make them and the entire world believe that freedom and anti-terrorism were the true reasons. You and I, and the whole world know now that it was one of the biggest lies in History. Should we continue to support this war, where thousands of your young brave men, as well as thousands of young brave Iraqis are dying? Why should we keep on defending a cruel unjustified war on behalf of freedom and democracy? Especially when the American government has been publicly questioned and condemned by the entire international community as regards this warís reasons? I do agree with you that Iraq is now ďfreeĒ from a brutal regime, but learning to live in a ďfreeĒ country is a long learning processÖ American government is proving to have many difficulties in carrying out this learning process and, even worse they seem not able to complete it. Which is, in your opinion, the value and the price of this ďfreedomĒ you have ďofferedĒ to Iraqi people?
As regards Malvinas war, I donít remember very well Ďbecause I was too young by that time. Nevertheless, I remember getting some tapes from my father and my uncle who were fighting there, and I remember as well that the only thing I wanted was to see my father at home again. I also remember my fatherís sadness about some of his friends who died during the war. As you said, Margaret Thatcher, then the British Prime Minister ďwas having none of it and sent a huge naval task force. After a short war, it evicted the Argentines ignominiouslyĒ. Something similar happened during the 18th century when the English Army invaded our territory and, this time, they exterminated a big number of aborigines. Anyway, regarding Malvinas war, I would like to remind you that military government in Argentina was undergoing serious economic and political crises by 1982. One of the main reasons of this crises was, of course, the armyís brutality towards the Argentinean population Ėwhich became evidently unbearable for the population- and the loss of economic support from the United States, a country which had actively supported the coup díťtat in Argentina. Therefore, Deb, when I look at myself into the mirror, I do not exactly think to Margaret Thatcher for having ďdestroyedĒ Galtieriís career. I rather think, first, to all those who died during Malvinas war, then, to the 30,000 people who disappeared during this horrible period in my country, and also to all those young or old men and women, American, Iraqi, or from anywhere in the world. I think to all those who are dying everywhere in the world defending interests which are probably not compatible with their own values and ideals.
Posted by: Maria at July 30, 2004 05:18 AM
All i can say is , Haliburton, Haliburton, Haliburton , wake up and smell the coffee.
Your kids are being murdered for profit.
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