The Student News Site of University of Arizona

The Daily Wildcat

88° Tucson, AZ

The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Moore’s latest a plea for decency

    Justyn DillinghamEditor-in-Chief
    Justyn Dillingham

    I was standing in line at the movies the other night when I heard an ominous voice rumbling behind me.

    “”‘Sicko’!”” sneered the voice, referring to Michael Moore’s new movie about the health care system in America. “”Who the hell would go see that?””

    The voice was that of a man with one of those “”America”” T-shirts. You know what I mean: something beery and macho about how great America is. I didn’t focus my eyes on him long enough to take away a snappy, succinct description, Andi Berlin-style. You’ll have to use your imagination.

    I chuckled nervously and shuffled my feet. The voice piped up again, addressing his companion: “”Someone ought to assassinate that fat piece of shit!””

    Half-dreading and half-relishing the words about to come out of my mouth, I stepped forward and loudly said to the ticket window, “”Two for ‘Sicko’!””

    To my relief, the man behind me burst out laughing and said, “”That’s all right! This is America, you’re allowed to have a difference of opinion. Enjoy the movie!””

    I did enjoy the movie, but the incident stayed in my mind. I was genuinely heartened by my fellow moviegoer’s good-naturedness when confronted with an actual representative of that abstract entity – the “”liberal”” – I am sure he despises. Especially because “”Sicko”” is, among other things, a simple plea for decency.

    There’s little sense of decency in our political discourse these days. By “”decency,”” I do not mean politeness. I mean the simple respect we pay to each other as citizens. Few politicians or pundits, however much they might howl and fuss about “”compassion”” and the like, ever display much ordinary decency.

    This stands in stark contrast to the kind of ordinary decency we see around us every day. A stranger holds the door for you or lets you borrow her savings card in the grocery checkout line. For all the talk about how people aren’t as polite as they used to be, I think our sense of everyday, almost automatic decency is remarkably alive and well. (I’m not, of course, including drivers. Some things are just beyond hope.)

    It is no mere fluke that common decency is widespread in our country. It is part of our most fundamental creed, Jefferson’s decree that all are “”created equal.”” Common decency between citizens is nonexistent in a totalitarian land where citizens are rewarded for spying on each other.

    The core of Moore’s attack on our health care “”system”” – and he piles up a waiting-roomful of evidence that our health-care “”system”” is a shambles that allows a

    A people that is constantly oppressed by fear of sickness, fear of crippling financial debt, fear of being uprooted from one’s home and deprived of one’s livelihood – that is a people that will not trouble its rulers.

    small host of mendacious insurance companies to brutally exploit the poor and the sick – is his conviction that keeping universal health care from the people is a blow to equality. Not the fantasy “”equality”” of communism, but the presumed equality of all citizens in the eyes of the law.

    “”I never thought we would let this happen, that this could happen in the United States.”” That’s what Moore hears from one ordinary citizen after another, one person after another whose life has been gutted by an insurance company’s refusal to pay.

    That most people express shock upon learning the shallowness of the ice across which we glide is telling; it tells us that most people are so convinced of the rightness of guaranteed universal health care that the fact that we do not have it has not sunk in.

    This is not foolish naivete but rather the same powerful impetus that lies behind all reform. One cannot change what is wrong without first knowing what is right.

    Unlike “”Fahrenheit 9/11,”” in which Moore threw in every possible argument he could use against the Bush administration (some of it shaky) in hope that some of it would stick, “”Sicko”” sticks with cussed, admirable single-mindedness to its one argument: To allow our very lives to be entrusted to private powers who regard each payment doled out to the needy as a “”loss”” – this is a crime.

    It makes a simple, powerful demand of health-care critics: If you disagree that government-run health care is the answer, no problem. But put it in human terms. Don’t bleat about the “”right”” of insurance companies to fleece their clients. Don’t claim that “”equality”” is a socialist concept.

    In France, one of Moore’s interviewees tells him, “”The government is afraid of the people, they’re afraid of protests, they’re afraid of reactions from the people. Whereas in the States people are afraid of the government. They’re afraid of acting up, they’re afraid of protesting, they’re afraid of getting out.””

    This is no accident. A people that is constantly oppressed by fear of sickness, fear of crippling financial debt, fear of being uprooted from one’s home and deprived of one’s livelihood – that is a people that will not trouble its rulers.

    After the movie, my friends and I were standing outside, talking about what we’d learned, when an enormous beetle came past us. We stared at it in mild amazement. Oblivious to our gawking, the beetle marched straight up to the curb, slid down and set about intently exploring the parking lot.

    I found I couldn’t take my eyes off it. It kept wandering straight into traffic, and I found myself actually cringing a little as cars came at it, and feeling a faint tinge of relief when their tires missed it.

    Finally, the beetle seemed to understand that it had wandered into the wrong territory, and it marched back to the curb. Here it encountered a problem; the curb was straight up, and it couldn’t climb. Finally, it figured out that it had to find a better place, so it found a corner and tried again.

    It made it halfway, then froze; its little legs just couldn’t force its body up. It looked like the little guy was condemned to spend the rest of its truncated existence in a cold concrete parking lot.

    I couldn’t take it anymore. I walked over and used my shoe to give the beetle a gentle shove, and it went toppling over the curb, righted itself, and scampered away, disappearing into an island of lush bushes and trees in front of the theater. You could almost hear the music swelling.

    Maybe it was the particular movie I’d seen; maybe I wouldn’t have been as moved had I just seen “”Knocked Up.”” But something about this small, helpless, universally despised creature’s plight made me feel that I had to give it a hand.

    “”Sicko”” was a powerful movie, but it was, in the end, just a movie. Before and after seeing it, I was reminded that what matters is what you do when you’re not at the movies.

    Justyn Dillingham is the editor-in-chief of the Arizona Summer Wildcat and a senior majoring in political science and history. He can be reached at

    More to Discover
    Activate Search