Monday, March 7, 2011

Michael Moore and the War of the Classes

For weeks now, ever since the people took over the State House in Wisconsin, we've been looking for a leader.  We've watched the momentum building, knowing this was our chance and we couldn't let this die.  Each of us in our own way has been spreading the word, supporting labor, doing what we could to build this movement to such a juggernaut nothing would stop it, ever again.

We all knew that without leaders, once the cheering stopped we were dead in the water.  We looked first to the leaders in the Democratic Party, starting with the president, Barack Obama.  It wasn't just silence we got from the White House, it was a slap on the hand to the DNC for jumping into the fray (as they should have) and a slap in the face for the rest of us when they called the Wisconsin triumph a "distraction".

With the exception of a few Democratic politicians, my party leaders--those same party leaders who depend on labor to get them elected--have been maddeningly  non-commital, pretending this is a states issue and all they can muster are a few rah rahs from the sidelines.  The few who have come out in support haven't been able to find their way to Wisconsin yet.  Russ Feingold has been there, but Feingold, as good as he is, as impassioned as he is, isn't in office any more. 

So here comes Michael Moore, our resident comedic rabble-rouser, our Hollywood style muckraker, and what is he out there doing?  He's doing what our Democratic politicians should have been doing all along.  He's committing himself to a cause worth fighting for.

I wasn't surprised that MM took up the Wisconsin cause.  He's from Michigan, my Michigan, and Wisconsin is right next door.  We're so much alike, we two states, we could be twins.  But what did surprise me is the level of thought that went into what he chose to do.

Michael Moore, as unlikely--no, incongruous--as it  seems, is, in my eyes, now the de facto leader of the long-time-coming 21st Century American Class War.  He is our general.  He is leading the troops and if we have any sense about us we will follow.

I know. Look at him.  Michael Moore. 


But give him a chance.  Listen to him.  I turn the rest of this post over to Michael Moore.  Just read what he has to say.  Take your time. Understand what we're up against.  This isn't just a battle but an all-out war.  A Class War that's been in the making since the dawning of the Industrial Age and is now so weighted against us it's going to take massive effort to even get us back to a level where we can breathe again.  (Reading this may take a while, following the links and all, but remember, we're in a war.  This is just a small part of our preparation):

How I Got to Madison, Wisconsin ...a letter from Michael Moore
Sunday, March 6th, 2011

Friends,
Early yesterday morning, around 1:00 AM, I had finished work for the day
on my current "project" (top secret for now -- sorry, no spoiler
alerts!). Someone had sent me a link to a discussion Bill O'Reilly had
had with Sarah Palin a few hours earlier about my belief that the money
the 21st Century rich have absconded with really isn't theirs -- and that
a vast chunk of it should be taken away from them.
They were referring to comments I had made earlier in the week on a small
cable show called GRITtv (Part 1 (
I honestly didn't know this was going to air that night (I had been asked
to stop by and say a few words of support for a nurses union video), but
I spoke from my heart about the millions of our fellow Americans who have
had their homes and jobs stolen from them by a criminal class of
millionaires and billionaires. It was the morning after the Oscars, at
which the winner of Best Documentary for "Inside Job" stood at the
microphone and declared, "I must start by pointing out that three years
after our horrific financial crisis caused by financial fraud, not a
single financial executive has gone to jail. And that's wrong." And he
was applauded for saying this. (When did they stop booing Oscar speeches?
Damn!)

So GRITtv ran my comments -- and all week the right wingopoly has been
upset over what I said: That the money that the rich have stolen (or not
paid taxes on) belongs to the American people. Drudge/Limbaugh/Beck and
even Donald Trump went nuts, calling me names and suggesting I move to
Cuba.

So in the wee hours of yesterday morning I sat down to write an answer to
them. By 3:00 AM, it had turned into more of a manifesto of class war --
or, I should say, a manifesto *against* the class war the rich have been
conducting on the American people for the past 30 years. I read it aloud
to myself to see how it sounded (trying not to wake anyone else in the
apartment) and then -- and this is why no one should be up at 3:00 AM --
the crazy kicked in: I needed to get in the car and drive to Madison and
give this speech.

I went online to get directions and saw that there was no official big
rally planned like the one they had last Saturday and will have again
next Saturday. Just the normal ongoing demonstration and occupation of
the State Capitol that's been in process since February 12th (the day
after Mubarak was overthrown in Egypt) to protest the Republican
governor's move to kill the state's public unions.

So, it's three in the morning and I'm a thousand miles from Madison and I
see that the open microphone for speakers starts at noon. Hmm. No time to
drive from New York. I was off to the airport. I left a note on the
kitchen table saying I'd be back at 9:00 PM. Called a friend and asked
him if he wanted to meet me at the Delta counter. Called the guy who
manages my website, woke him up, and asked him to track down the
coordinators in Madison and tell them I'm on my way and would like to say
a few words if possible -- "but tell them if they've got other plans or
no room for me, I'll be happy just to stand there holding a sign and
singing Solidarity Forever."

So I just showed up. The firefighters, hearing I'm there, ask me to lead
their protest parade through downtown Madison. I march with them, along
with John Nichols (who lives in Madison and writes for the *Nation*).
Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin and the great singer Michelle Shocked have
also decided to show up.

The scene in Madison is nothing like what they are showing you on TV or
in the newspaper. First, you notice that the whole town is behind this.
Yard signs and signs in store windows are everywhere supporting public
workers. There are thousands of people out just randomly lining the
streets for the six blocks leading to the Capitol building carrying
signs, shouting and cheering and cajoling. Then there are stages and
friendly competing demos on all sides of the building (yesterday's total
estimate of people was 50,000-70,000, the smallest one yet)! A big semi
truck has been sent by James Hoffa of the Teamsters and is parked like a
don't-even-think-of-effing-with-us Sherman tank on the street in front of
the Capitol. There is a long line -- *separate* from these other
demonstrations -- of 4,000 people, waiting their turn to get through the
only open door to the Capitol so they can join the occupation inside.
And inside the Rotunda is ... well, it will bring tears to your eyes if
you go there. It's like a shrine to working people -- to what America is
and should be about -- packed with families and kids and so many senior
citizens that it made me happy for science and its impact on life
expectancy over the past century. There were grandmas and great-grandpas
who remember FDR and Wisconsin's La Follette and the long view of this
struggle. Standing in that Rotunda was like a religious experience. There
had been nothing like it, for me, in decades.

And so it was in this setting, out of doors now on the steps of the
Capitol, with so many people in front of me that I couldn't see where
they ended, that I just "showed up" and gave a speech that felt unlike
any other I had ever given. As I had just written it and had no time to
memorize it, I read from the pages I brought with me. I wanted to make
sure that the words I had chosen were clear and exact. I knew they had
the potential to drive the haters into a rabid state (not a pretty sight)
but I also feared that the Right's wealthy patrons would see a need to
retaliate should these words be met with citizen action across the land.
I was, after all, putting them on notice: We are coming after you, we are
stopping you and we are going to return the money/jobs/homes you stole
from the people. You have gone too far. It's too bad you couldn't have
been satisfied with making millions, you had to have billions  -- and now
you want to strip us of our ability to talk and bargain and provide. This
is your tipping point, Wall Street; your come-to-Jesus moment, Corporate
America. And I'm glad I'm going to be able to be a witness to it.
You can find the written version of my speech on my website 
 Please read it and pass it around far and wide. You can also watch a
video of me giving the spoken version from the Capitol steps by clicking
here ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wgNuSEZ8CDw ). 

I will be sending you a second email shortly with just the speech so
you can forward a clean version of it without the above story of how I
abandoned my family in the middle of the night to go to Wisconsin for the
day.

I can't express enough the level of admiration I have for the people of
Wisconsin who, for three weeks, have braved the brutal winter cold and
taken over their state Capitol. All told, literally hundreds of thousands
of people have made their way to Madison to make their voices heard. It
all began with high school students cutting class and marching on the
building (you can read their reports on my High School Newspaper (
http://www.mikeshighschoolnews.com/ ) site). Then their parents joined
them. Then 14 brave Democratic state senators left the state so the
governor wouldn't have his quorum.

And all this while the White House was trying to stop this movement (read
this (http://www.michaelmoore.com/words/latest-news/excerpt-from-less-drama )!

But it didn't matter. The People's train had left the station. And now
protests were springing up in all 50 states.
The media has done a poor job covering this (imagine a takeover of the
government HQ in any other country, free or totalitarian -- our media
would be all over it). But this one scares them and their masters -- as
it should. The organizers told me this morning that my showing up got
them more coverage yesterday than they would have had, "a shot in the arm
that we needed to keep momentum going." Well, I'm glad I could help. But
they need a lot more than just me -- and they need you doing similar
things in your own states and towns.
How 'bout it? I know you know this: This is our moment. Let's seize it.
Everyone can do something.  
Yours,
Michael Moore
MMFl...@aol.com
MichaelMoore ( http://www.michaelmoore.com )

P.S. This local Madison paper/blog captured best (http://www.thedailypage.com/daily/article.php?article=32648 ) what happened yesterday, and got what I'm really up to. Someone please send this to O'Reilly and Palin so there's no mistaking my true intentions. 

P.P.S. Full disclosure: I am a proud union member of four unions: the
Directors Guild, the Writers Guild, the Screen Actors Guild and AFTRA
(the last two have passed resolutions supporting the workers in
Wisconsin). My production company has signed union contracts with five
unions (and soon to be a 6th). All my full-time employees have full
medical and dental insurance with NO DEDUCTIBLE. So, yes, I'm biased. 


***

So, okay, I've promoted MM to General, but we need many more.  We need more leaders, and so far they're not flocking to us.  We need to get out there and recruit.  We can start with the Labor Unions and their leaders.  Let them know we're behind them and ask them what we can do.  Spread the word.  We're gearing up and ready for War. (And don't forget to sign up for MM's newsletters.  They're messages from our General.)

5 comments:

Alan said...

Aux barricades!

Anonymous said...

I am on Michael Moore's mailing list and sat last night and listened to the entire speech from Wisconsin. It is on my FB if you want to listen to it. It's time to move the Money Changers out of State and Federal Government. I stand with Michael Moore on this one. Nedra

Ramona Grigg said...

Yes, I got this letter in my email this morning. The link to the video of the speech is in there. I'm impressed, and energized again. I hope it does the same for everyone else.

Nance said...

I have watched the news from Wisconsin carefully, but I was distracted from the news of MM's role by some medical issues. (All better now, thanks).

I cried when I read this post...with pride in the working class that's had enough, with delight in Moore's decidedly un-clownish contribution, and with real sorrow, too. The sorrow is personal; it has to do with that robbery and how hard I've tried to just suck it up. It has to do with hope.

Following. Up one side and down the other. Thank you.

Ramona Grigg said...

Hi Nance, these are the days that will decide who we are to become. I really believe that. We have to keep this momentum going. I'm thankful that so many good people, including Moore and Maddow, are sticking with it. I plan to give it my all. We just can't let this die. Thank you, too.