The Good: Funny, Well-written, Insightful
The Bad: Will not endure, Chapter 8
The Basics: Michael Moore explores the hypocrisies and lies that have engulfed the United States during the Bush administration in a very readable satire.
[Back in the day, I was a political dissident. Yes, I was. I loathed what was happening in the United States under the Bush Administration and I did my part to stem that tide. In addition to a failed run for the U.S. House Of Representatives, I learned all I could about U.S. politics. I particularly enjoyed the commentaries and essays of Michael Moore. Moore's books, like this one I am reviewing here, are often very timely. As a result, Dude, Where's My Country? is pretty much worthless these days because the people in power Moore is kvetching about are no longer in power. But, for posterity and the reader's enjoyment, here is my review of this classic humor and political commentary book! Enjoy!]
I used to enjoy watching TV Nation when it was on Fox, but outside that, I realized I had not read or seen anything by Michael Moore. While debate currently rages about the release of his film, Fahrenheit 9/11, I found myself with the opportunity to pick up (and read) his book Dude, Where's My Country? The title alone is almost worth the price of the book.
Dude, Where's My Country? is a left of center treatise on the state of the union that attempts - mostly successfully - to illustrate what has gone wrong in the Bush administration. Moore tackles issues that have not been explored throughout the media and the most troubling aspect of reading this book is the thought that most of it will be new information to most people. Facts like the Bin Laden family being flown out of the United States without interrogation after the September 11, 2001 attacks will shock most people. Dude, Where's My Country? is full of such revelations.
Chapters include a searing look at the lies that followed the September 11th attacks as well as exposing the false information that George Bush used to commit U.S. troops in an armed conflict with Iraq. Moore wonderfully exposes the flaws and lies of the conservative commentators, satirically cuts into the oil-driven war to "liberate" the people of Iraq and explores the solutions for the world oil shortage. In addition, Moore attempts to rally support against Bush and his cadre of fascists by exposing the lies that have cost U.S. citizens their prized freedoms.
Perhaps the nicest aspect of this book is the extensive collection of citations. Moore thoroughly documents his allusions and allegations. Unlike much of the worst of the conservative commentators that make blanket statements and slanders, Moore has extensive footnotes and citations. It's refreshing because it immediately establishes his authority and insulates him from being accused of simply being a loudmouthed jerk.
Moore has becomes something of a public presence and he actually takes some time out of his scathing debates on the incompetency of Bush and the cronyism of his Cabinet to deal with the backlash that has come from him speaking out. By directly citing the words of conservative commentators, Moore factually deconstructs their arguments to illustrate them for the falsehoods and slanders that they are.
More than that, one of Dude, Where's My Country's? principle theses is well illustrated throughout many of Moore's arguments; the conservative element in the United States is feeling threatened because public opinion largely is against them. One of the most intriguing chapters is Moore's call to arms to all those left of center to stand up and voice the opinions the polls indicate they have. Moore most impressively explores what the issues that define "liberals" are today and illustrates that they are not simply some lunatic fringe, but most of mainstream America.
Furthermore, the admirable aspect of this book is that Moore implores the public to become involved in politics, a call that desperately needs to be heard. The fundamental rights of the American citizens have been undercut, largely because we have not stood against those who are defiling our rights. Moore calls upon us - and this is a message that should be heard by all of the citizens, not simply those who are left of center - to retake our democracy. Perhaps the most potent idea presented in the U.S. Constitution (and recalled in Dude, Where's My Country?) is the idea that the citizens ought to control the government and they are responsible for their leaders.
In fact, with Moore's endless citations, there are only two real drawbacks to Dude, Where's My Country? The first is chapter 8, a little section where Moore writes from the perspective of God, decrying Bush's justifying actions in his name. Chapter 8 rightly observes that Bush has wrongly appropriated the voice of the divine in justifying attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq. There are several quotes wherein Bush claims he is doing God's work in ridding the world of evil (and they are cited efficiently by Moore). The problem with this chapter in Dude, Where's My Country? is that the narrative technique undermines the tone and importance of the argument. Bush's theocracy and theology are dangerous things and Moore's satirical tone makes it too easy to dismiss this particular argument. Moreover, because of the jovial, sometimes cheap jokes Moore uses in his voice of God, some of the importance of this issue is diluted. And this is coming from a reviewer who loves changes in narrative technique, especially in books (just read my novel Within These Walls!).
Finally, the black mark against Dude, Where's My Country? is in its place in the library. This is a book that is of critical importance now. Right now, in the history of this particular democracy, Dude, Where's My Country? is an important document that should be required reading for those who vote in the middle of the political spectrum. Seeing how very far the rights of the individual have been compromised to benefit the few rich who serve under George W. Bush and his government is eye opening, disturbing and the cause for genuine political revolution. The problem is, if the book has its desired goal - which I share - in ousting Bush as president, and replacing him with a person who undoes all of the injustices this man has perpetrated, this book becomes simply a reminder of what we went through. Unlike something like Twain's Letters From The Earth," which is also a satire and exposing hypocrisy, Dude, Where's My Country? does not have that same timeless quality.
I suppose my hope should be that this book becomes out of date quickly. If you haven't read it, you ought to - certainly before election day - and it is likely you will feel the same way.
For other political books, please check out my reviews of:
Keeping Faith - Jimmy Carter
Lies And The Lying Liars Who Tell Them - Al Franken
The Onion Presents Our Front Pages
For other book reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!
© 2010, 2004 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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