If you know the Upper West Side of Manhattan, you know there are probably more progressives per square inch here than in all the 50 states. So, it's no surprise that a big bunch of people showed up this evening at my small one-bedroom apartment in this highly liberal neighborhood to see Michael Moore's masterpiece, "Capitalism: A Love Story."
My event was one of MoveOn's nearly 1,000 parties nationwide tonight to show the film in an effort to generate grass roots action against some of the evil excesses of capitalism rampant in the United States. These evils are powerfully exposed in Moore's movie -- the foreclosures on people's homes; the cancellation of jobs in order to make way for profits; the practice of taking out insurance on employees unbeknownst to them and then collecting large payments when they die (of which not one cent is shared with the family survivors), and all manner of other immoral practices so harmful to decent working Americans.
My fifteen attendees were a typical group of Manhattan Upper West-Siders -- among them three educators, two theatre directors, a chef, a photographer, an obstetrician/gynecological surgeon, two free lance classical musicians, an administrator for Friends In Need, an organization which provides physical and spiritual support to seriously ill persons, a 95-year-old novelist, and me, a singer-songwriter and political activist (and a partridge in a pear tree).
Our evening began with a delightful treat. We got a call from the master himself, Mr. Moore. We were absolutely bowled over by the tone of his conversation. It felt as if we were talking to a good friend -- simple, no baloney, responsive, open. He asked where we were located, and when told it was 72nd and West End Avenue he informed us that he had lived in this area for a number of years before relocating to Michigan.
One of us asked him if there were any coordination between him and other leading Progressive leaders like Dennis Kucinich, Al Franken, etc.
Moore replied that, sadly, there was not much. He said that it was important to form liaisons, that it was one effective thing about the Republicans -- no matter what their ideological differences, and there are many and deep ones, they hang together when it comes to acting against us. "I've been thinking about this for a long time," Moore said, "and I hope we can begin to start working together more."
We also asked him if he thought the health care reform legislation would do anything to resolve some of the terrible ills of capitalism. He stated that we all know there is much lacking in the legislation, but he feels it is a baby step forward and its main value may be to influence Obama to take more bold action in the future.
Michael Moore told us how he'd thought about this film for 20 years and how very important it is to him.
We then proceeded to watch it. It wasn't shown in ideal circumstances by any means. The volume wasn't loud enough, the screen wasn't big enough, and the space was crowded without enough circulating air. Nevertheless, it received our rapt attention and we gave it a four-star rating.
Afterward, we had some discussion as to what we might do to resolve some of the crises caused by the banks, the insurance companies, and the financial institutions, which, as so convincingly illustrated in the film, don't give a damn for us and are ruining everything we believe in.
Our group was tired and anxious to go home, so we didn't have much time for an in-depth analysis. But, we did agree on one thing. We decided that a good place to begin with unified action was to oppose the recent Supreme Court decision allowing corporations unlimited contributions to political candidates.
Michael Moore tells the complete truth, and we must listen to him very carefully. In his first film, "Roger & Me," he warned that jobs would vanish on a huge scale and that we were facing horrendous times if we didn't do something to stop the damage. We didn't listen. We didn't listen when he exposed the out-of-control gun culture in "Bowling for Columbine," and pleaded for regulation. Nor did we listen when he urged us to reform the health care system in his recent film, "Sicko."
We listened tonight, Michael, and it's very clear that we must act on your warning to suppress the runaway destruction caused by capitalism.
Let's shake off our lethargy, people, and get started. Our democracy is at stake.