Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Michael Moore & Me

I talked with Michael Moore once. He called the office, hoping to speak with the Mayor. As the Director of Communications for the City, I often fielded his calls when he wasn't available.

Lucky me.

Or so I was feeling as the receptionist put the call through. I was aware Michael was likely recording the call. Just what would he do with the tape???

This, of course, took place in the wake of Roger & Me, a movie that made all of us left in Flint feel a great deal of shame - like orphans, I suppose - like our wealthy parents had decided to quit providing us our necessary food and shelter, and embarrassed that some of our family members didn't know how to act in front of a camera.

Now, having grown up a little, some of us can look at bit more objectively at the movie and understand it was the parental abandonment of General Motors that Michael was filming about.

What do we do when the kids are left to their own accord?

But I was still bitter when Michael called the office that morning, having fielded so many calls, letters and questions from people who wondered if the show actually portrayed the community correctly. Back then, I said NO!, always adding that there are so many wonderful parts of the community - and so many wonderful family members who actually present themselves quite well whether it be on camera or not. Today, I say yes and no, especially as I see us in Flint repeatedly miss the point to so many issues. The show portrays a painful truth. When I was being honest, even then, I couldn't deny it.

But I still didn't want to talk to Michael Moore on the phone.

Sure enough, Michael was the guest on a radio show and he did inform me up front that I was live and on the air. He asked to talk to the Mayor. I explained that he was away at a conference, but offered to take a message for him. He then asked about the Mayor's efforts to improve the community. While I don't remember the exact phraseology, I do remember explaining to him that I - that we - simply wanted to be a part of a solution.

A couple people told me they heard me that morning - and that I didn't sound like a complete jackass.

I feel differently about Michael now, not because I made it through the phone call, mind you. Fahrenheit 911 was a powerful show. And I was among the few of my friends and family that found myself cheering at his "acceptance" speech at the Academy Awards.

As I read and heard of Davison voting against recognizing Michael, despite his Emmys and Academy Award, I once again became ashamed of my community. They voted to not recognize the achievements of Michael Moore when so many in the country - including myself - believed he was something of a hero. He alone was bold enough to take on the government and share with America very important truths about the war, about our country and its leadership.

I was pleased to be be able to work with his wife, Kathleen Glynn, when she was a guest of the Women in Education at Mott Community College last year. I spoke with her several times to arrange for her appearance. Surprisingly, she said it was the first time she had ever been invited to speak anywhere in the Flint area, despite being an Academy Award-winning producer and a voting member for the prestigious Academy Awards. We were pleased when we packed out the facility the day of her appearance, so many well wishers and fans she likely never knew she had in this city. She kept wonderfully humble as she described her success and the challenges that came with it. She and Michael have truly been partners in every endeavor.

Last night, I saw their latest effort, Sicko.

And again I feel shame.

As I walked out with my friends, I struggled with what I could do to make a difference, to improve not just health care offerings in this country, but also the human interactions to prove that I care about others as least as much as I care about myself. At the same time, I wondered how quickly I could move my family to Canada or France or Cuba, where there seemed to be a humanity Americans have lost, excepting the brief moments following a crisis. It's not just about health care and it is all about health care. It's not just about bad leadership and it is all about bad leadership. It's not just about money and it is all about money.

This I know - America needs to change. I want to be a part of the solution. I want you to help me be a part of the solution. If you haven't seen Sicko, I urge you to see it. If you have seen it, please do not let it's impact upon your heart and spirit fade. There is so much to distract us. There are many who want to distract us. Let's do something to show we care, to prove we care. I still believe we can be the change we all so desperately need in this country, in this community.

Tonight, I join many other Americans and applaud the man I once dreaded speaking to on the phone. If only I had another chance ...

I wish I could thank him in a more meaningful way...

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