Saturday, June 23, 2007

It's Time to Raze Hell and Stand Up – A Review of Michael Moore’s Sicko

First, let me make clear, my comments don’t represent the views of Hollywood Jesus, The Virtual Pew or any other organization, they represent my views and I take full responsibility for my comments.

I know from the get go, this may be one of the most controversial reviews/articles I have ever written and I have to admit, I DON’T CARE! It is time that Americans, and especially Christians across the globe to Raze (definition tear down and destroy) Hell and Stand Up about the health care system in our country. I don’t want to hear from the Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, or any other Politically Conservative or Liberal Group (of which there are many) Group that would deny health care to the poorest of the poor crowd, or makes the assumption that it is already there. I especially don’t want to hear from Christians who honor a political system more than they do the commands of a Risen Savior (One who has forgiven us for the things we have done wrong.) who is supposed to be our Lord, (Leader in all areas of our life, our master if you will). Why don’t I want to hear from these people, frankly I don’t want to hear from them because I don’t think their motives are pure, and I don’t think they take the commands of Jesus seriously. It is time those of us who do to STAND UP, seek justice and fair treatment for ALL people, especially in the area of health care.

Let me make something perfectly clear. I am not a fan of Michael Moore, especially after the debacles of Fahrenheit 9-11 and Bowling for Columbine. I did see promise and enjoyed Roger and Me but was reluctant to see Sicko. It was with reluctance I saw an advance copy of the movie and decided to do an early review. To say the least, I was blown away at this incredible movie that goes back to more of a documentary style than anything Moore has done in some time.

Sicko, as documentaries go, is incredible. Moore does a fantastic job at finding people to represent his view and the perspective he is trying to show. Yea I know that may seem one sided but it is something inherent with most movies, especially documentaries. What Moore does here though is find people most “regular,” “common,” “everyday folk” can relate to. His ability to weave this 2+ hour documentary into incredible story will keep any viewer from getting bored. Most viewers will find themselves glued to their seats, even through the credits. This is an emotional roller coaster that will have those passionate about their faith, and the plight of others in tears for the last 15 – 20 minutes of the movie. Moore weaves story and perspective so brilliantly that those giving this film a chance may fall in love with the documentary form.

Sicko is about the plight of the Health Care System in America. Moore starts showing several tragedies before doing something unique, at least for Moore. He blasts both political parties including current Republicans, and Democrats including, Hillary Clinton. Moore does something he hasn’t done in his last two films; he takes appropriate pot shots at both parties for their lack of concern and compassion. From there, Moore goes to look at various countries and their health care systems, from Canada, to England, from France to Cuba, Moore adequately dispels a number of myths and the origins of those myths. He also finds ways to address the issues surrounding the health care plight of many in the United States. In this debate Moore not only looks at the opinions of single political party, he looks at Conservatives, Liberals, Christians, Atheists and others. Moore gives a brilliant presentation of what should be a non political issue from various perspectives.

From real people to politics and from corporations back to real people Moore drives home the need to address this issue. Moore concludes the program by looking at insiders within the industry and the needs of real Americans. The film climatically ends when he decides to take people to Cuba to visit the Guantanamo Bay Naval facilities where federal hearings have indicated that Al Qaeda prisoners there are receiving better health care than most Americans. Among three boat loads of people include legitimate American heroes who are experiencing serious health concerns after rescue operations during the World Trade Center Attacks in New York. This sequence when starting will have audiences applauding and laughing at the genius of Moore. Many will be critical, some such as Sean Hannity have called the movie “Un American” and even offered to pay for Moore to move to Cuba. All this political rhetoric takes away from the seriousness of the issues addressed in Sicko.

Just as viewers are quickly applauding Moore’s efforts and great story telling, they will soon be in tears. Many will be so upset at our political system they may hope for the same type of rebellion that secured the formation of the United States. A rebellion where all people, including the poorest of the poor stand up voice their concern and demand Americans receive the same benefits as does virtually every other country in the Western Hemisphere, and Western World. Moore illustrates this so powerfully one has little recourse to support current systems that put people on the streets to die, and refuses service based on ability to pay. We see an illustration of a medication that costs $120 in America, but only costs pennies in Cuba. We see democratic countries like Canada, England and France providing better services than America in their treatment of people. They treat the illness and provide help for prevention programs that addresses preexisting conditions, the same ones causing denial of services by U.S.A. insurance companies.

Moore, as always, presents himself and his commentary in Sicko but he does something in here unique even for him. Moore finds real people we can relate to and the bulk of the story is told by them, and their experiences. Moore while making his commentary, allows the people, the situations, the politics, and the realities tell the story. His blending of real people, with commentary provides lessons any film school could learn from.

As mentioned earlier, I expect this to be a controversial review. Some may ask why? The simple response to that is so many Christians in the USA have aligned their faith with a political system where they find it hard to say anything negative about our system. I challenge, especially for Christians, we have to do something with the teachings of Jesus in regards to helping and assisting the poor. Jesus, various prophesies, Biblical teachings, and Jesus life illustrated his teachings, they show obvious intent to serve. In Matthew 25 we see the only difference between those who go to Heaven and who don’t based on what they do and don’t do for “The Least of These.” In Jesus own life he went about healing people, he showed an obvious intent and concern regarding their physical welfare and their health. Instead of making excuses Jesus healed people, he was compassionate towards people with physical elements. When you watch Sicko, you will see sick people in need of hospitalization sat out on the streets. This is an on going problem in some locations. In the last weeks there is the story of a Los Angeles Hospital that allowed someone to die in the Emergency Room as opposed to giving them treatment. I recently saw conservative Christians on a wrestling talk forum making fun of the woman, making assumptions she didn’t have insurance, had a big screen television and on and on, all of this in a joking manner. I honestly believe this attitude sickens God.

I am passionate on this issue but I have personal experience. I worked at Trend Mental Health Center in Hendersonville North Carolina as the director of their Rehabilitation facility for Mentally Ill Adults, Sixth Avenue West. I was there when Trend became one of two American Pilot programs to test Managed Health Care practices. We now use this system in the USA. I was a part of negotiations regarding Managed Care in Mental Health Systems across America, even helped establish programs, coordinating these services with state mental health systems and state vocational rehabilitation systems across the USA. I am one of those insiders that could tell you from first hand experience that Sicko hits the problems exactly as they are. We have insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies basing health care decisions on their profit earning potential. Trend Mental Health Center, shortly after I left the agency went through a number of legal issues specific to this concern expressed in the movie Sicko. I have seen first hand, decisions made such as in the movie based on the companies’ willingness to pay for health care treatment. Many of these decisions resulted in serious negative consequences for those who should have received services. If you don’t believe me regarding the issues of this system, ask almost any doctor in the USA that sincerely cares about their patients what they think of the current policies, the gate keeper programs, and the decisions as to who gets treatment and who don’t. Americans should be so outraged that they hit the streets in mass numbers to STAND UP and seek out adequate treatment of our people.

I assure you, this problem; while it largely affects the poor because of their inability to have any insurance isn’t limited to just the poor. Sicko illustrates that all people, including the middle class, even with what they think is great insurance, is also greatly threatened. Sicko very accurately, according to my own experiences, the entire shows the problems of the health care system in the USA.

For those concerned with the Social Medicine Label, Moore also does a great job of illustrating “social” concepts already in place in America, including Fire and Police services, libraries, and others that provide services to all people despite their ability to pay or not. He addresses the origins of these thoughts and the current health care policies. Americans after seeing and hearing these examples will have additional reasons to be outraged. If not, it will only take a short time before they, or someone they love goes through the travesty of what we call Health Care, and they will then be outraged.

In closing, I love this film for it’s honesty to what I know to be facts regarding the health care system in America. Anyone who wants to deny these issues has not seriously looked at the problem. I can personally tell you of many conservative, Christian people, with what they thought was good insurance. After a medical emergency they found out their coverage and treatments were sub par with what was needed. I was moved by the realization that as a Christian, I must do something more to assist those Christ went out of his way to show them he loved them.

I also appreciated that Moore went out of his way to show the problem isn’t the doctors. In one sequence he alludes that because of the value of what doctors do they deserve a high standard of living. I agree; I want the best treating me when I have a life threatening illness. He shows doctors in America who hate the system, and doctors in other countries whom make great livings, while at the same time, following their passion to help people get better. In England one doctor tells the story of how doctors there can make more money the more they treat symptoms and prevent illness. In America that is not the case. Without prior approval there are limitations placed if approval is given. That doesn’t address the issue of non treatment if there is a preexisting illness or condition.

My desire is that people around the world, especially America and her poor would STAND UP, be counted, be heard, and vote accordingly. It is a shame many of those don’t vote. It is an even greater shame that Christians find excuses to not do what Jesus Commanded, stand up for the least of these. He even tells us, “What you have done for the least of these (including health care treatment), you have done to me.”

Hopefully at least 10 people will stand up and be heard on this issue, if those 10 get 10, and so forth, before long we can do what virtually every other country in the world does, provide appropriate health care for all of our people. How convinced am I of Moore’s call to action for all people on this issue? Well, when you see me wearing my button that says Stand Up, you will know what I am standing up for.

On a Scale of 1-10, for everything a documentary should be and then some. I am honoring Sicko with a Sick score of 10. .

Matthew 25: 31-46

(31) When the Son of Man comes in his glory with all of his angels, he will sit on his royal throne. (32) The people of all nations will be brought before him, and he will separate them, as shepherds separate their sheep from their goats.
(33) He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. (34) Then the king will say to those on his right, "My father has blessed you! Come and receive the kingdom that was prepared for you before the world was created. (35) When I was hungry, you gave me something to eat, and when I was thirsty, you gave me something to drink. When I was a stranger, you welcomed me, (36) and when I was naked, you gave me clothes to wear. When I was sick, you took care of me, and when I was in jail, you visited me."

(37) Then the ones who pleased the Lord will ask, "When did we give you something to eat or drink? (38) When did we welcome you as a stranger or give you clothes to wear (39) or visit you while you were sick or in jail?"

(40) The king will answer, "Whenever you did it for any of my people, no matter how unimportant they seemed, you did it for me."

(41) Then the king will say to those on his left, "Get away from me! You are under God's curse. Go into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels! (42) I was hungry, but you did not give me anything to eat, and I was thirsty, but you did not give me anything to drink. (43) I was a stranger, but you did not welcome me, and I was naked, but you did not give me any clothes to wear. I was sick and in jail, but you did not take care of me."

(44) Then the people will ask, "Lord, when did we fail to help you when you were hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in jail?"

(45) The king will say to them, "Whenever you failed to help any of my people, no matter how unimportant they seemed, you failed to do it for me."

(46) Then Jesus said, "Those people will be punished forever. But the ones who pleased God will have eternal life."

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Top said...

I look forward to seeing Sicko though I'm not a fan of MM's previous work either. We who call ourselves Christians have fallen so far behind in addressing issues and taking hits it's absolutely amazing. I believe that the American Christian mind is infected with this idea that we're to be comfortable, even rich, so we can give money to charities, rather than sacrificing our TIME and money to help others. What happened to the types of Christians that helped free the slaves? I'm ashamed I've not done more to represent the real Jesus, that cares nothing for a political party or financial status.

Mike Furches & The Virtual Pew said...

Thanks so much for your comment. I am amazed at the number of people who don't like Moore but really like this movie for what it represents. I believe there will be others just like you. As to your own call for action; a wonderful start. Bless you.