SiCKO Shows the True America: Michael Moore’s Masterpiece

SiCKO is one of the greatest movies in the history of cinema. It ranks with Citizen Kane, Apocalypse Now and On the Waterfront as an epic masterpiece. Michael Moore combines wit, information and courage in presenting this tour de force. He demonstrates with understatement the hypocrisy of American exceptionalism in which 50 million of its own citizens do not have health insurance; Americans die due to lack of financial assets; Americans are kicked out of hospitals and on to the streets and even retroactively forced to pay for previously approved procedures from heartless insurance companies; Americans flee abroad to get health care. Only the United States, the leader of the “Free World,” among western, democratic developed nations fails to provide health care coverage for all its citizens. These are “fellow Americans” who have to stitch their own wounds; these are our neighbors that have to flee to Canada or France to receive basic health coverage.

In one of the more gripping segments ever to be filmed in an American documentary, Mr Moore directly challenges the sixty-year Cold War battle against Cuba. He enters the Guantánamo Bay naval station with four rescue-victims of the 9/11 attacks and notes how the internees get health care but not Americans who volunteered to assist the dead and dying at Ground Zero in Manhattan. He is able to see the concentration camp and red cross-festooned hospital but is not allowed to enter the facility. The director and his patients then enter non-American occupied Cuba and are given physicals, M.R.I.s and medications that the 9/11 victims cannot afford to purchase in the U.S. Mr Moore directly challenges the official perception of Cuba as a totalitarian, evil Communist state by demonstrating its concern for the health of its own people: Cubans live longer and have less infant mortality due to universal health care despite its poverty and status as a developing nation.

SiCKO uses striking cinematic amplification of the text of insurance companies’ rejection of Americans applying for health insurance. The movie quotes hard working Americans as wondering, “Why has the U.S. become this way?” “I did not know American could ever be like this.” The documentary achieves true brilliance, a magisterial power, when Mr Moore shows the cynical journey of First Lady/Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton from avid supporter of socialised medicine during her husband’s first term to paid pawn of the insurance companies who fails to even mention the topic today. {She has raised the issue in her cyncial presidential campaign but I agree with Mr Moore, the prowar senator’s commitment to helping those in need is more rhetoric that true commitment.} Such is the price of not alienating the moral majority, white middle class.

Mr Moore wears his usual proletarian baseball cap but what a myriad variety! While most are reflective of his roots as a Michigan native such as a Detroit Tigers and a Michigan State cap, the director also wears a red and white Rutgers University logo that is obviously a gesture of support for the women’s basketball team that was the victim of a sexist, racist tirade by Don Imus.

Those who see this wondrous film should stay for the credits. They are in a sense a movie within a movie: Kudos to Kurt Vonnegut, quotations from De Tocqueville, statements of criticism of U.S. unstinting emphasis on competitive capitalism.

America’s image in the world has become one of a pariah state. Flag burnings and general revulsion against this warrior, terrorist-democracy that commutes privileged convicted felons’ sentences have escalated and for good reason. We need to address not only our image abroad but also our actions here at home. Let us repair our failed democracy and our emphasis on wealth at any price and begin to construe our nation as a community in which the strong succor the weak. A transformation of values domestically may over time lead to a less violent, preemptive approach to international relations abroad. To a large extent our wars abroad are reflective of a lack of compassion here at home.

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