Stupid White Men was written before the World Trade Center attacks -- back when free speech was more readily accepted by the majority of people in this country. Since then, war has silenced most criticism of the Bush administration. Presuming that patriotism and blindness are synonymous, many Americans chose to close their eyes to the failing economy, the loss of personal freedoms and the destruction of decades old international alliances by Bush hawks. For that reason alone, Michael Moore’s angry tirades are a refreshing reminder of when it was okay to notice the emperor’s lack of clothing.
I read Stupid White Men while on vacation. Perhaps if I had been at home, I would have taken it more seriously. While I had no doubts about Moore’s veracity, his solutions made me laugh. In a world where conservatives bitterly brand as "liberal" anyone they disagree with and the word "conservative" calls to mind the disapproving eyes of a Christian coalition preacher, Michael’s suggestion that one get involved in party politics to resolve national disagreements seemed a little naďve. Unless of course, he meant for conservatives to join the Democratic Party and for liberals to lobby for plank changes in the Republican platform for 2004.
On the other hand, most of Moore’s suggestions are tongue in cheek. For example, he follows his assertion that women only need men to get pregnant and to reach things on top shelves with a short segment on “How Women can survive without Men.” I said to myself as I turned the page, “He’s going to recommend sperm banks and a stepladder.” When he did just that, I giggled anyway. His humor may be predictable but it’s still funny.
Another piece that cracked me up was based on the dilemma most of us face on Sunday afternoons. Do we watch Parade of Homes or the McLaughlin Group on TV? According to Moore, “If you like the sound of hyenas on Dexedrine, of course, you go with McLaughlin.” On one particular Sunday, a panelist named Fred Barnes lamented the state of education in America by pointing out that most kids don’t even know what The Iliad and The Odyssey are about. Feeling puckish, Moore gave Barnes a call the next day to ask, “What ARE The Iliad and The Odyssey about, Fred?” Stuttering with embarrassment, old Fred had to admit that he didn’t know either. “Happy now?” He grunted. Having caught the editor of the right-wing Weekly Standard in a faux pas did make Moore’s day. “Grow up, get some books and go to your room,” he told Fred. Now THAT’S funny.
Not one to pretend to be something he’s not, Moore reviews his own educational adventures from the early days with Sister John Catherine to the moment in high school when at age eighteen he realized he could run for school board President. “Alarmed by the idea that a high school student might actually find a legal means to remove the very administrators he was being paddled by, five local "adults" took out petitions and got themselves added to the ballot too.” They split the adult vote and every kid between the ages of 18 and 25 went for Michael. The day after he won, he walked down the hall at school with his shirttail hanging out of his pants. “Good morning, Mr. Moore,” the principal greeted him. The day before it had been “Hey you!” It was then that Michael knew what it meant to be the boss. In the end, Michael dropped out of college in his sophomore year because he couldn’t find a parking spot. However, he is no less educated than his Harvard and Yale counterparts. After all, he knows what The Iliad and The Odyssey are about. You gotta love a kid like that.
In one of his most insightful chapters on race relations in the United States entitled “Kill Whitey,” Moore goes into a Carson-esque monologue about why he’s more afraid of white people than black -- even though he himself is white. “Every person who has ever harmed me in my lifetime -- the boss who fired me, the teacher who flunked me, the principal who punished me, the kid who hit me in the eye with a rock, the other kid who shot me with his BB gun, the executive who didn’t review TV Nation, the guy who was stalking me for three years, the accountant who double-paid my taxes, the drunk who smashed into me, the burglar who stole my stereo, the contractor who overcharged me, the girlfriend who left me, the next girlfriend who left me even sooner, the pilot of the plane I was on who hit a truck on the runway, the other pilot who decided to fly through a tornado, the person in the office who stole checks from my checkbook and wrote them out to himself for a total of $16,000 -- every one of these individuals has been a white person. Coincidence? I think not!”
I chuckled to myself remembering an elderly aunt who constantly sought justification for her prejudices. When I told her I’d witnessed a car accident, she asked, “Was the driver black?” When I told her about a schoolyard fight, she asked, “Were they black?” Interestingly, when I told her that someone had beat me in my quest for class valedictorian, she never asked, “Is he black?”
That’s the thing with this book. It rambles all over the place -- and I rambled with it. Gladly. A chapter about how the Bushes manipulated the vote in Florida during the 2000 election ticked me off. A long discussion about the sorry state of education exhibited by our congressional representatives sent me scurrying to look up answers to a pop quiz Moore recommends be given to people before you vote for them. A reverie about gas-guzzling SUVs reminded me of my own father’s love for great big cars with V-8 engines and tail fins. Of course, that’s when service stations staged "gas wars" and sold regular for ten cents a gallon. Each time Moore changed topics, I’d nod and say, “Oh yes, that bothers ME too” or “Who does he think HE’S fooling?” or “Lord help us, he’s right.”
I found myself wrestling with my husband and daughter for ownership of the book. Every time I’d lay it down, one of them would pick it up and read long passages out loud while everyone else in the room groaned and rolled their eyes. Moore digs the Bush administration most. After all, they are currently in charge -- but he goes after Clinton, Bush Senior, Reagan and Carter with equal enthusiasm based on the issues at hand. That means there’s something for everyone in this little gem. He addresses the environmental concerns of my vegan daughter as well as the political frustrations of my Democratic husband. My more conservative friends will be amused when Moore disses Clinton for being a Republican in disguise. In addition, there are enough quirky Moore-isms to annoy and amuse just about everyone else. Stupid White Men is a great vacation book, after all.