“SiCKO” – A Breath of Fresh Air

sicko-poster.jpgMichael Moore‘s film making doesn’t inspire instant devotion in me in the same way it does so many other people I know. While I invariably agree with his message, I find his methods manipulative and heavy-handed. Any kind of righteous outrage or rekindled activism I might feel during these moments is disrupted by the eye rolling I can’t contain.

Yet, I loved “SiCKO” (the juvenile poster notwithstanding), his latest offering that takes a look at the appalling state of health care in the U.S. This is my favorite of all his films that I’ve seen, and perhaps, one of the best films I’ve seen in a while.

I saw a sneak preview of “SiCKO” tonight and Moore was in attendance for Q&A. I wish I took notes, but I’ve tried to capture as much as I can remember. Since so much of the film’s narrative punch sits within much of the facts he reveals, I’ll try my best to not include any spoilers.

What makes “SiCKO” so effective to me, is the way it made me aware of my own incredulity at the details of universal health care in countries like Canada, Great Britain and France. I couldn’t even conceive of how such systems worked, even as it was explained to me by the citizens who benefited from them.

This cognitive bankruptcy, a sort of slave mentality, is such a powerful tool because it colored the air I’ve become so accustomed to breathing. Normally you don’t see it, or detect it with any of your senses. You don’t even think about it- your lungs and respiratory system just work, pulling it into your body. But that color gives it shape. It has weight and taste.

Things I was able to remember from the Q&A

Someone asked the inevitable question, “Well, how much do the French pay in taxes?” I forget the number Moore responded with, but it seemed a high percentage of their income. Ack! Didn’t seem so enviable to me anymore.

But he asked the audience to call out what they pay for:

  • daycare – $800/month. A newborn costs $50/day apparently.
  • insurance premiums – anywhere from $500-1,000/month
  • school loans – $300/month

Just with this short list of typical debt, the amount came to approximately $20,000 a year. He said people would revolt if Bush announced that we would all have to pay this in taxes starting tomorrow.

Thing is, they are taxes. We pay them anyway and still get less than the French (watch the film and you’ll see what he means). They work less, and are more productive. They live longer.

He recalled the summer in France when 10,000 of their elderly died in the heat wave that scorched the country. The French were shamed into taking action. They said it was their Katrina when Moore asked about it.

So what did they do? Each person gives up one day of pay a year so that every elderly person in the country has air conditioning in their home.

Moore cited the polls in how many Americans are dissatisfied with the war in Iraq, and with Bush. The film’s distributor screened it for Republican audiences and the response has been “through the roof”. He talked about how he was booed at the Oscars and how so many of these people have since come around and apologized, seen “Fahrenheit 9/11” and question their conservative leaders.

He admitted to being an optimist, but said the time is right for a film like this to make a difference. It should. Health care is something that all of us, no matter what our political affiliation, can identify with. “SiCKO” does an incredible job of making us aware of the poisoned air we’ve been breathing without question or knowledge of its existence. Hopefully, it will inspire us to clear it.

“SiCKO” opens on June 29th. Go see it.

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