Monday, May 14, 2012

Michael Moore: The Evolution of An Activist

Having suffered one of my fairly frequent bouts of insomnia last night, the blog post I had hoped to make is not yet complete, so just a quick entry here. I recently completed reading Here Comes Trouble, Michael Moore's memoir that takes us from his childhood to the world premier of his first documentary, Roger and Me. It is a book I highly recommend.

Although I initially had no particular interest in reading it, I happened to see the book in my local library branch one day and was pleasantly surprised by its drolly amusing, self-deprecating and very informative content. I realized that heretofore I actually knew little about Moore, other than his success in the film world. That success, and the activism behind it, I discovered, were clearly presaged very early in his life, only one indication of which I will deal with here.

When he was 17, he was invited to take part in a mock state government. Housed in a dorm at one of the universities, Moore actually had little interest in partaking in the process, but one day when he was going to the vending machine for a snack, he saw a notice inviting entries into a contest sponsored by The Elks on the subject of why Abraham Lincolm was a great president. Knowing that The Elks, a private club, at the time excluded non-whites from membership, Moore, in a moment of teenage outrage, was truck by the hypocrisy of the essay topic. He therefore wrote an essay, not about Lincoln, but about the fraternal order's hypocrisy. Having to deliver the speech the next day with some trepidation in a room filled with other entrants, he was shocked to learn that the judge, a high school teacher and a non-member of the Elks, declared him the winner.

His victory required that he give the speech again at the awards ceremony, where he would be presented with the trophy by the Elks' president. When he gave the speech ...., well, you'll have to read the book to learn of the immediate result, but I will tell you that he next received a call from CBS requesting an interview with him, to be shown on Walter Cronkite's evening news. Moore declined the opportunity, but the event was a pivotal formative moment in what was to become his destiny, and the publicity resulting from his speech had a real influence on legislation that was later enacted outlawing racial discrimination in private organizations.

Many people frequently get annoyed or outraged by Moore's antics, but Here Comes Trouble does a very nice job in providing some real insight into the passions that drive the man.

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