Where to Invade Next

We have a lot to learn from other countries, and it’s time our politicians start paying attention.

Where to Invade NextIt is a pity that Michael Moore’s wonderful documentaries are hidden behind his buffoonish image. Being a longtime fan of Mr. Moore’s films, I am the first to admit that he projects the appearance of an intellectual slob. Monstrously overweight and oafish, he dresses as if he is going to harvest corn on an Indiana farm.

But say what you want about Mr. Moore as a person, he makes brilliant documentaries. Bowling for Columbine (2002) was magnificent, and it deserved the Oscar it received. Roger & Me (1989) remains a documentary that is as funny as it is intriguing, and given that Mr. Moore was born in Flint, Michigan, it would be worth revisiting Pets or Meat: The Return to Flint (1992). In light of the fact that the State of Michigan has channeled lead tainted water into all the homes of Flint, that city seems to be cursed.

While his more recent films are very watchable, ranging from Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004) to Capitalism: A Love Story (2009), Where to Invade Next is his best film in a long time. Though it is a manifestation of his arrogance at times, Mr. Moore tones it down as he pursues a theme of visiting other countries and pretending to steal their best attributes to take back for use in the United States.

In the process, he visits Italy, Slovenia, France, Norway, Finland, Tunisia and Germany. He interviews everyone from the heads of government to the working class in those countries, and he makes some very interesting observations.

For example, did you know that in Slovenia college is free, and is even provided to Americans who may move there simply to obtain a higher education? On top of that, I think it was in France that interviewed college students were perplexed over the thought of assuming college debt.

Did you know that in Italy all working class people are given three to six weeks vacation every year, including several months of paid leave for women who give birth? Nearly everyone in Europe receives government paid health insurance, and employers in Italy are forbidden to contact employees while they are on vacation. That includes a restriction on trying to send emails to those employees. That is a reminder of the good old days in the United States when you could travel to a Caribbean island and be beyond the reach of your office. As the old song goes, “Those were the days, my friend, we thought they’d never end.”

Norway does not believe in the death penalty, and the harshest sentence for murder is 21 years in prison. There is a heartbreaking interview with the father of one of the 50 plus teenagers shot and killed on an island off Norway several years ago where he condemns the attacker but rejects the death penalty as making him and his country as fundamentally brutal as the hated man who took his son’s life.

In Finland, Moore visits several prisons, including a maximum security facility. None of the guards carry guns, and the prisoners are treated as residents of a facility where they work on their rehabilitation. Sadly, we have a prison system in the United States that functions as a substitution for slavery. The majority of inmates are black and sentenced for lengthy periods of time where little is done to educate, train and rehabilitate them.

In was either France or Italy where Moore  visited grade schools where the food is prepared across the country by chefs. Everyone drinks water with their lunch, and there are no vending machines in any of the schools. Shown pictures of meals served in American schools, the kids could only gasp in amazement.

Much more was revealed by Mr. Moore, but let me simply touch on Tunisia and Germany. In Tunisia, women fought for the right to be given equality with men, and they succeeded in passing an amendment to their Constitution. Among other things, it remains ironic that we have failed to do the same thing in the United States.

In Germany, Mr. Moore visits an old friend as they reflect on the time the Berlin Wall was torn down. You see old pictures where Germans were once again able to greet each other without being shot, and I could only imagine what it would be like if Donald Trump was President and built a wall separating the United States from Mexico.

While I am certainly aware that many Americans continue to pay homage to President Ronald Reagan, I would urge all of us to remember the President’s classic statement, “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.” No matter what the intentions of Mr. Trump may be, isn’t he just seeking to import the Berlin Wall to be used on our Southern border? If he succeeds, do you think Pope Francis will appear and say, “Mr. Trump, tear down this wall?”

And whether you agree with me or not, the benefit of Mr. Moore’s films is that they cause you to think. You are forced to consider facts and reach your own conclusions, and that is an intellectually healthy way to pursue a noble life. After all, it is the ability to reason that places human beings at the top of life forms on our troubled planet.