Fahrenheit 911

by Dr. Wunmi Akintide

When it comes to turning huge disappointments and terrible tragedies into appointments and huge opportunities, America leads the world without any iota of doubt. I had thought the 911 tragedy was a huge setback for God’s own country, and for a country that I have had cause and conviction to describe in all of my works and writings in this column, as the new Canaan. May be, the new Jerusalem that the Holy Scriptures have predicted may be a more appropriate word to use here. I cannot help but wonder why theologians don’t talk much about that New Jerusalem and which country in our world, truly fits that bill as we speak. I don’t know about you. The more I get to know America, and her amazing history and evolution, the more I am convinced America is that country. I must hasten to add, however, like a good many of you, that I also do know something about Sodom and Gomorra.

There are a few things happening here that might lead many to see some elements of those two cities in the new Jerusalem. I must confess that I do see that as well. But when all is said and done, and when you remember that good and evil are often two sides of the same coin, you have to understand why America is never going to be perfect. You will, for ever, look in vain and probably die in frustration like the hunter keeping a night vigil with a view to catching the crab. If you are looking for the perfect human being or a Utopia country in this universe, you will have to wait a long time. Your quest may, indeed, boil down to the precept that everything made by man and even things made by God can be infinitely improved. You are never going to find one perfect society or country. You are just going to have to make do with what Millie Jackson had eloquently said best in one of her famous albums, “making the best of a bad situation” and just picking one country as the leader, based on the aggregate of her strength and weaknesses. The best you can do is just compare and contrast, look at the record and the relativities, and just make up your mind like I am doing in this write-up. I could be wrong or right. What is important is that I am neither shy nor ashamed to share my thoughts and conviction regardless of whether or not you do agree or disagree with me. You really don’t have to agree with me. Mine is only a viewpoint among a legion of views. You do me a big favor, however, by even reading my views, talk less of accepting it as the gospel truth.

It is my plan, if I can spare the time, to do a series of articles on this subject, because there is no way I can cover, in one or two articles, my true reflections, and what I take away from Fahrenheit 911 and the newly released report of the 911 Commission. I am, therefore, going to focus, first and foremost, in this opening salvo, on the controversial new movie by Michael Moore. I have gone to see the movie two times already, and I still look for more opportunities to see it. I intend to purchase the DVD edition of it, as soon as it hits the market, so I can watch it as often as I need to, as I do more analysis of it for future articles.

The first thing that strikes me in looking at that movie is the inescapable similarities I see between Michael Moore and a Nigerian compatriot scholar and genius named Wole Soyinka, the first Nigerian Nobel Peace Laureate in Literature who has recently turned 70. Both Mike and Wole are geniuses in their own right, and they are both award-winning intellectual juggernauts who have been able to profoundly influence the world with their uncanny minds and works of art. I see “the man died” written so many years ago by Wole Soyinka and many of his marvelous works and productions, in the same light as I view Fahrenheit 911, and some of Michael Moore’s previous works in Theater Arts. The two giants are a whole world apart in their background. But they have both earned themselves world recognition, in the way and manner, they have used their powerful minds and individual convictions to influence or shape politics in their two countries.

I urge those of you who have never seen Fahrenheit 911 to do yourself a favor by going to see the movie at your earliest convenience. You will be glad you did. Don’t get discouraged by the Republican propaganda machine or crocodile tears about the movie and the suggestion that it is a misrepresentation of the political reality of America under the current Administration. I totally disagree with that characterization of that movie. It is an amazing piece of work, brilliantly put together and factually synthesized. The dots are clearly marked out, as they should, and the audience or the viewer is left to simply connect the dots the way they think fit. If the movie is sheer blackmail and defamation of character as the Republicans would have us believe, who ever feels blackmailed, know their rights and should pursue it to the extent possible under the Law, if they think they have a case against Michael Moore.

In making this observation, I cannot help, but take off my hat for a system of Government that has allowed that movie to see the light of day, at a time like now. I throw my salute to a Government that has allowed the film maker and the brain behind the movie, to still be able to walk the street today, without any fear that somebody who is so aggrieved about the amazing movie, is either going to stalk him or send hired assassins to put a gun to his head, like they would have done in my own country, Nigeria, in a heartbeat. I recall the recent confession by General Yakubu Gowon at a symposium marking the 70th Birthday of Wole Soyinka, and how his military Government had decided to quickly put Wole Soyinka out of circulation for more than two years for daring to display the same kind of courage and patriotism that Michael Moore had displayed in Fahrenheit 911. General Gowon, one of the best military to ever rule Nigeria, was very generous and candid in his praise of Wole Soyinka when he openly admitted what his Government had done to Wole Soyinka. Given today‘s political climate in Nigeria, Wole Soyinka would easily have been assassinated. Period. As a matter of fact, Sani Abacha did try to take him out, like he and IBB had done to countless dissenters they could not silence. Dele Giwa was one. M.K.O. Abiola was another, and the last and not the least among several Nigerians who have been so murdered was uncle Bola Ige, the Chief Law Enforcement Officer, whose assassination had remained a mystery till tomorrow, even though his so called bosom friend is still Head of the Government in power. Bola Ige had taken the bullet, so to speak, defending his friend and his policies and thereby making too many enemies in the process. With a friend like that, nobody needs an enemy! I dare say. Michael Moore if he were a Nigerian, would be considered a dead man walking. There is no way he would have been spared. Only in America!

Michael Moore is lucky to be born and operating here in America where Freedom of Expression is not just a political slogan, but a fact of Life, all things considered. I saw the movie at the Green Acre shopping Mall in New York. That movie is so powerful that half the audience could not hold their tears just like I could not hold mine, because the movie had told the story of 911 in much the same way like the 911 Commission had told it, with candor, but with different emphasis and imagery of the story behind the story that the silent majority of Americans are never supposed to know about. Michael Moore had laid it all out, in simple but powerful language that ordinary people can understand. His genius lies in the fact that the scenes were not acted by actors putting themselves in the shoes of the people they want to mimic. The scenes were done by the very individuals currently holding the positions in Government, making it down to earth, and incredibly authentic and truthful. The more people see that movie, the harder it becomes for people to buy the thrash being peddled around that Bush was a Julius Caesar and that the war in Iraq was a war of necessity, and that Osama Bin Laden was enemy number one before and after 911 as far as this Administration was concerned. That is going to be a tough sell regardless of how you cut it. It is even going to be worse and tougher for American current and future allies to ever accept the premise for the War. It makes Saddam Hussein looks more like a victim and a scapegoat more than a heartless despot and butcher that he really was to his people. That was a masterful job.

Piecing together those scenes to give it a holistic rendition or narrative was in, of itself, a masterpiece. Perhaps it is too early to start singing the praise of those, who may not have liked the movie, for their being so tolerant of criticisms like those we have witnessed in that movie. Since the movie has just been released, there is no telling what those who are aggrieved that the cat may have been let out of the bag, may still want to do to seek revenge. We are just going to wait and see. But knowing America, as well as I do, the Republicans, if they feel as strongly as they appeared when the movie was first released, may also be planning a rapid response of their own, to counter the aftermath of Fahrenheit 911, and the irreparable damage it may have done to a President who enjoys keeping his choices and moves closer to his chest like no other American President in recent memory. The nation is still four months away from the Election. So much water can still pass under the bridge between now and then, and there is no telling what this President, as the incumbent, may yet do, to pull a fast one on his opponent. But the mere fact that the movie is still being seen all over the country and worldwide marks out America as special under the sun.

Here in lies the beauty of American political divide that is worth paying attention to. There are geniuses like Michael Moore on both sides of the isle who may be planning how best to respond to the challenge thrown by Michael Moore and people like him, and there are many in this country. You listen to Americans like Bill Maher, even Ted Turner and Don Imus, Rush Limbaugh, and you have to wonder what a country. America offers politics at its best, believe me. Why? Because there are far too many in this nation who have already reached the self actualization stage in the Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs construct while much of the rest of the world is still at the first or second stage in that level or spectra of needs. There is really no basis for comparison between America and much of the world, I might add. The release or the leakage of the gaffe or blunder committed by the former Security Adviser to the Bill Clinton Administration, Sandy Burger, some ten months ago, may have been used as a measured response to the Michael Moore’s movie, for all you know, or just a scandal thrown out there by the Republicans to muddy the waters a little bit, as the preparations for the Democratic Convention goes into high gear in Boston, this weekend. Both major parties will do that in America as they struggle to edge out each other for electoral gain. There is never a shortage of talents in both parties, and that is why who ever emerges as the major party candidate, has gotten within him or her, what it takes to be a President. If Kerry wins, and he just might win from the look of things today, America’s future and security are guaranteed, trust me. As a matter of fact, things can only get better, as some of those policies that put America in a cul-de-sac are immediately jettisoned, and the nation is put back on course, with all hands on the deck. There is no permanent enemy or friend in American Politics. There is only one permanent interest, that America remains the “numero uno” come rain or shine, and regardless of who becomes President, be it Democrat or Republican. The choice is always going to be between the two major political parties, regardless of how you cut it. I love that.

It is beautiful that the Democratic nominee, John Kerry and his running mate John Edwards are acting very polished and presidential by not joining the fray or even commenting on the movie or seizing that opportunity to jump all over George Bush and Dick Cheney, for their portrayal in that movie which speaks volumes on the way the Republicans do business in general, and how Capitalism works around the world. The more you see John Kerry and John Edwards, the more you have got to like and respect them for their decency, discipline and decorum in this election. I actually believe that John Kerry rightly believes in his heart that if he wins, which is very likely, he well might find himself, doing some of the things that George Bush is being pilloried for, today.

That was one big blunder that George Bush Junior had made on coming to office. He had so much badmouthed his predecessor in office, so much so, that he had put himself in a box on taking over the White House. Some of those things are coming back to hunt him today in very profound ways. But he has started correcting those mistakes, perhaps too little too late, when he started praising Bill Clinton, now that the truth has dawned on him that he himself lives in a glass house, and therefore must not throw stones, like he was doing before. It was the same lesson that the 911 Commission had mastered when they chose never to engage in the blame game, but to look forward to the future rather than looking backwards Engaging in the blame game would never have produced a totally bipartisan report. Only in America again!

When you are President of America, there are things you can, and cannot do or say, even though you are the most powerful man in the world. The checks and balances exist to limit those powers. Nobody in this Election circle understands that better than John Kerry. More than 20 years after his return from Vietnam the unflappable senator is no longer the angry young man he was. He has been mellowed by experience and age, and like George Bush before him, the man is more than ready to be President of the greatest country on Earth. Like his look-alike, Abraham Lincoln before him, the junior senator from Massachusetts is going to win in November and win big, because majority of Americans understand that terrorists are not after America, like George Bush wants us to believe, because they hate the American notion of Freedom and the American ways of Life. As a matter of fact, the rest of the world want to embrace American ways of life. The Indian movie industries and stars are gradually following American trends and hip hop Culture. Who does not like America? The whole world wants to emulate America. Who does not like a winner? Nobody.

There are many in the Middle East and Africa, two of the regions I know best, who can kill to come live in America and to come share of the New Jerusalem dream and values. It is not true that some of these embattled individuals do not appreciate American freedom. They, sure, do. What they are scared to death about, and what they do not appreciate is the way the Bush Administration wants to launch, pursue or impose American values on other cultures. The rest of the world wants to see some level of mutual respect or some modicum of evenhandedness in the way and manner American handles the ongoing Palestinian/Israeli conflict, as a model for future conflicts around the world. They want America to assume her role as a leader, but never as a conqueror or a slave driver, but really as a “primus inter pares”, first among equals. They know, like we all do, that it is absurd or silly or even foolhardy for any of the 192 members of the United Nations like Vanuatu, Papua, New Guinea or Gambia or Costa Rica to mention a few, to ever equate themselves with America, even if they all recognize America as the “numero uno” without any question. But that self-serving equivocation or denial or rationalization massages their ego and nationalism in ways that Presidents like George Bush don’t quite understand. That is the problem. Abe Lincoln, Woodrow Wilson, FDR, Harry Truman, JFK, even Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George Bush Senior and Bill Clinton to mention a few American presidents, fully understood that concept, and so will John Kerry.

Fahrenheit 911 and the bipartisan 911 Commission Report have spoken volumes on the greatness of America, and why America will continue to lead the world for a long, long time to come. The New Jerusalem is already here. Only those with inner eyes can see it, though. The Bible does not lie. If God has said it, it, sure, must come to pass. There is more to the greatness of America, however, than just the fact that she was God’s own country like are told. It is a great society because of men like Michael Moore and the founding fathers who had crafted the American Constitution, and the generation of Americans that abide by it, and use it as a moral compass and as an article of faith for more than 200 years.

I rest my case.

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