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FIRST-PERSON: An evening of Michael Moore

McMINNVILLE, Ore. (BP)–Michael Moore has generated controversy with his films, which are regarded by many, including yours truly, as nothing more than slanted “mockumentaries.” Currently he is making waves as a political pitchman for Democrats in general and John Kerry in particular.

The irreverent filmmaker brought his “Slacker Uprising Tour” to Salem the evening of Oct. 18. The one-night-stand was the 32nd stop on a tour of 60 cities, nearly all in battleground states for the Nov. 2 election.

Moore’s visit to Oregon’s capital city, sponsored by Willamette University’s Association of Students and Willamette Events Board, drew a sellout crowd of 6,000 “anti-Bushies” to The Pavilion located on the state fairgrounds.

The tour’s stated objective: Get out the slacker vote and, in so doing, defeat President Bush. Slackers, according to Moore, are turned off by politicians and traditionally do not vote. He described them as those who “proudly sleep ‘til noon and believe papers are for rolling, not reading.”

An opening announcement by student organizers that Moore’s appearance was not intended to put forth a particular political agenda was met with muted laughter. It was obvious from the audience response that they did not buy the disclaimer. Most everyone in attendance had paid $5 apiece for one reason: They were there to hear Moore mock the president and ridicule conservative values.

Moore’s profanity-laced monologue began with a declaration that John Kerry had won all three presidential debates.

Moore’s debate analysis included a recounting of the president referring to the Internet as the “Internets.” While absent any specific issues, Moore’s inane insights nonetheless managed to produce applause and laughter from the partisan crowd.

Backed by two large video screens, mostly showing a picture depicting a U-Haul truck parked in front of the White House, Moore broadened his remarks to include Republicans, who he said were “like sharks who never stop” in their efforts to impose their agenda.

Moore indicated that the only way Republicans are able to win elections is due to low voter turnout. Thus, he said, “They will appeal to cynicism and despair” in hopes of keeping people away from the polls.

According to Moore, Republicans are going to continue to emphasize Kerry’s flip-flop on the Iraq war so that voters will finally say, “What the (expletive deleted). I just won’t vote.” Given the sedate reaction to Moore’s explanation, his logic seemed lost on the crowd.

He chided Republicans by insisting repeatedly, “You are the minority and we [Democrats] are the majority.” Moore went on to declare that when “we” are in charge everyone will have healthcare, good-paying jobs, and gays and lesbians will be allowed to marry.

Moore stated that not only did President Bush lie about the reasons for invading Iraq, but he is also “lying to you about the draft.” Though the president says he opposes the draft, Moore declared that if Bush is re-elected, he is “coming after” the 18- to 26-year-olds in America.

The evening also included several distasteful mock video ads Moore said he had designed for the Bush campaign. The content focused on wars past and present and included such lines as “Vote Bush: He lets others do the dying” and “Vote Bush: He’s already working on his next 1,000 body bags.”

The evening’s most animated moment came when Moore exhorted those present to vote no on Measure 36, Oregon’s ballot initiative to define marriage as between only one man and one woman. The crowed cheered and stomped as Moore loudly bellowed at the proponents of Measure 36, “How dare you!”

As the event drew to a close, Moore encouraged the non-voting slackers to go to the polls. He asked those present who did not vote four years ago to stand if they intend to vote in this election.

After reading reviews of Moore events in other cities, I expected at least half the audience to rise to its feet. However, out of a crowd of 6,000, it appeared that perhaps only 100 or so stood.

If the stated goal of Moore’s “Slacker Uprising Tour” is to motivate non-voters to go the polls, it would seem that the Salem event was like the Oregon weather the day of his appearance — all wet.

Michael Moore has proven he is adept at generating controversy. On Oct. 18 in Salem, he showed he knows how to pander to a partisan crowd. However, it remains to be seen if he can actually inspire slackers to, in his words, “take 10 minutes and vote.”
Kelly Boggs’ column appears each Friday in Baptist Press. He is pastor of the Portland-area Valley Baptist Church in McMinnville, Ore.

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  • Kelly Boggs