A couple of days ago I watched Michael Moore’s controversial documentary Bowling for Columbine. While I am aware of some of the recent criticism of the film (a few examples are from Spin Sanity, Galun.com, Wikipedia and Hardylaw.net) I generally found the film very compelling.More specifically though, on the criticisms, I agree that this film was not a documentary but rather a fictionalized film based on true events similar to say the movie Catch Me if you can. Bowling… uses a fair amount of artistic license, which I do not find troubling as long as the viewer is made aware that this is the case which the film does not do. This unfortunately weakens its total impact IMHO…. anyway though that is beside the point, I do think the movie made one point very clearly. . . Canada and the US are very different culturally.
This has to be the case because in many ways we are very much alike… both nations have lots and lots of guns (with Canada having less handguns being the main exception, due to their tighter gun control laws). Both nations are reasonably prosperous compared to most of the world. Both nations share many of the common cultural phenomenons (even to their collective love of violent entertainment).
In the end though the one major difference is that Americans are more afraid than Canadians. Canadians are less likely to lock their doors, they are more trusting of each other, they are much more open with their neighbors. I think in the end this fear is partially the result of our paranoid chicken little media, but also (as Moore explores a little bit) because America has been in the role of being a super-power for too long.
We Americans have grown up with fear as our continual companion. Be it the days of the cold war, to today’s obsession with terrorism, I think this fear translates not only in the larger geopolitical context, but I think it also translates into the personal context. If we as citizens see our government lashing back with violence every time we are threatened (whether real or perceived), then it would make sense that the unspoken message is that we as individuals will take the same response… shoot first, ask questions later.
I truly do believe that Canada is on the right track in many ways. As a nation, Canada is much less focused on war as a solution to the problems of the world (they stayed out of Vietnam and Gulf War II) and seem to be more focused on creative ways of bringing peace to the world. Canada is by no means perfect but it seems that they do set a good example for the US in a lot of ways… foreign policy, universal health care and drug laws.
(One thing that I would say that is negative about Canada is that their Constitutional provisions on search and seizure are pretty weak, and their rights of speech and free association are much more limited than what we have in the US with our first Amendment)
Also one last thing returning to the comments on Bowling for Columbine, I did not find the interview with Heston to be troubling. I know many have criticized the way that interview took place and said that Moore took advantage of Heston’s mental disability with Alzheimer’s but I found that to be unpersuasive.Heston seemed very alert and very intelligent in the interview. He also seemed to be rather calloused and locked into a paradigm of violence but that doesn’t make him unintelligent or impaired. If Heston looked bad it was because what he was caught off guard and expected that Moore (a life-NRA member) shared his assumptions. I really do not think he was having any symptoms of Alzheimer’s at that time.BTW, for any who are interested, I don’t generally favor gun control as it is generally proposed because it does nothing to curb the most frequent use of weapons for intimidation purposes… that is their display by cops. No gun control laws ever will stop them from using weapons as a means of intimidating the populace so I don’t see why it is fair to disarm everybody else. Even if police never fire their guns, they always are there to remind us that we are under their control. Philosophically I don’t believe in any form of coercion and force, I don’t like the idea that the government itself is in the fear and coercion business. — Of course I don’t believe in violence period and would love to see the day when no one owns a gun for any reason but sporting/hunting, but in the meantime I think it is a good thing that there is a balance of power between the people and the government.