It had only been a week or so since I made it into San Francisco from Turkey to get my MFA in film, when I first heard of Michael Moore and his then-new documentary Bowling for Columbine, an in-depth study of USA’s fascination with gun ownership in relation to the then recent Columbine high school massacre of 1999.
I was living in Turkey, earning my BA in (Guess what?) film when Columbine happened. We got the news in Turkey, and I remember discussing it with friends, but it of course didn’t have nearly the same impact on us as it did on American citizens.
I remember in January 2003, about a week after I landed in San Francisco, I went to a party hosted by a distant family friend, where a discussion started between two people who had just seen Bowling for Columbine. It was mainly about the ridiculous obsession white American suburbanites have with the arsenal of weapons they keep in their house, which is more than likely situated in some of the safest neighborhoods in America.
One of the party goers recounted a conversation he had with his friend who lived in Orange County, who apparently owned a bunch of guns. As we all know from The O.C., Orange County is one of the richest and safest areas in the US. But to his friend, it didn’t matter, he had to be “prepared”.
After my interest in the film was sparked, I decided to see it before it got off the theaters and thought it was the best documentary I’ve seen up until that point. It was daring, informative, effective and surprisingly humorous and entertaining. As a foreigner, it gave me an insight into my new temporary (now permanent) home that I found equally terrifying and comically absurd.
Gun ownership is legal in Turkey, yet I never heard about a lone gunman armed to the teeth just busting into a public place and killing people indiscriminately. Yet it seems to happen once every six months in America.
Doesn’t it feel like yesterday when Gabby Giffords got shot by a batshit asshole who was “in no way influenced by” a bunch of batshit Republican assholes? She’s not even fully recovered and now we got the shooting at the movie theater where The Dark Knight Rises was being shown on midnight.
Every time one of these shootings happen, I re-watch Bowling for Columbine, and each time I watch it, I see more horror than humor in it. This was the first time I’ve seen it since I became a US citizen last year, and I don’t find it remotely entertaining anymore. Even the scenes that are meant to be amusing, like the animated sequence about the history of America, make me feel sad and hopeless.
The reason for this is simple. It’s a hell of a lot more personal now. Yes, us in the west coast live in our own bubble and believe the craziness only exists in “hick” towns in Colorado or somewhere else in the mid-west. But drive out about an hour outside any liberal big city like San Francisco, and you’ll find yourself in the middle of Gunland, USA.
One of the most baffling aspects about Bowling for Columbine is the fact that Michael Moore cannot come up with a distinct answer as to why gun violence is so high in the US (Around 10-20 times higher than any European country) and why nonsensical massacres like Columbine only seem to happen in America.
Some people blame our violent past, yet England and certainly Germany has more blood on their hands. Our violent video games and movies? They are just as popular, sometimes even more, overseas. We have too many guns? Canadians have more guns than we do, and their murder rate is practically zero.
“Then what is it about us?” Moore asks the father of a Columbine victim, who replies, “I don’t know, what is it?” The scene soon turns into a real-life version of “Who’s on first?” The question spins around and around without anyone to answer it.
Of course we’re gonna go through the same moves all over again, the right-wing will say if there were more people armed in the theater, the gunman could have been stopped, since we live in a world where everyone is a sharp-shootin’ badass and Die Hard is a documentary.
The left wing will talk about gun control but will not lift a finger to change literally anything. Our lord and savior George Carlin kept repeating that this country was bought and sold years ago and that the occasional voting switcheroo doesn’t mean a god damn thing. Who do you think sold it and who bought it? Just take a look at the defense budget numbers for an answer.
And of course, the precious fallback for the right-wing, the violent media. How perfect is it that this massacre happened at the screening of a movie that depicts terrorist acts in graphic detail?
His upbringing, his mental state, his arsenal of weapons that could only be used to kill people, the fact that he could order thousands of rounds of ammunition from the internet, has no bearing. It’s the violent movie that made him do it. I can imagine right-wing pundits salivating at the mouth (and other places) when they found out the shooting happened in a movie theater.
I know that this post, or any other, are absolutely pointless. None of it will change a thing and all of it is dead air. Just like that famous Twilight Zone episode, we will keep repeating Dennis Weaver’s nightmare over and over again, without anyone recollecting it as the 55th time we’re going through the motions.
So why did I write this post? Writing practice, I guess.