The United States of Flint

In one of the more disturbing scenes of Roger and Me (no, notthe pets or meat moment) the people of Flint are being lectured to by a snake-oil salesman preacher who tells them that “just because you’ve got problems is no excuse to be unhappy.” During the montage shown over the top of this gasbag’s ranting, you see a program from the event with the phrase: “Flint’s attitude toward unemployment: Yes we can!”

Not sure if this is what Obama had in mind when he picked his catchphrase, but the parallels are eerie. I thought of this even more when I looked back atA’s post on how newspapers are essentially being asked to play music at their own funerals. In one scene, the GM factory closed and the company sent the workers home with flowers. “You know when they send you flowers?” one worker asked rhetorically. “When you die.”

It’s been 20 years since Moore’s seminal documentary that detailed how corporate greed gutted a working-class town. The downward spiral that Moore so painstakingly details grips your heart and agonizingly tightens slowly but surely throughout the film. The brutal job cuts, the vacant storefronts and the boom in plasma donations all resonate with the viewers of today. If you get past the time-dated fashion and the oddly effeminate sources he keeps finding (the guy at the athletic club is a stitch), you’ll see the same issues, concerns and worrisome outlook about life we have today. The ex-autoworkers who couldn’t hold down a job at Taco Bell, the guy from Moore’s high school getting evicted and former feminist radio host who was forced to sell Amway all demonstrated a palpable desperation and a sense of defeat. These people could be our current neighbors, friends and colleagues.

Moore manages to use a mortician’s humor to hold the audience’s attention. The argument he has with the GM lobbyist about premise that the way out of Flint’s economic downturn is to manufacture more lint rollers is hysterical. The scenes with Bob Eubanks are even more so, but for all the wrong reasons. (The one clip that’s not on YouTube that needs to be is when Eubanks attacks Moore for suggesting Eubanks isn’t wholesome. Cut then to a clip of Eubanks telling the joke: “Why don’t Jewish women get AIDS? Because they marry assholes, they don’t screw them.” Ah, Bob, such a card…)

The ending is a harmonic convergence of all of these elements. As the GM plant is getting the wrecking ball, Moore’s narration sums up the current state of crisis in a nutshell: The rich are getting richer, the poor are getting poorer and “people have a lot less lint thanks to the lint rollers made in my hometown.”

It couldn’t be any clearer.

We are becoming a nation of Flints.

3 thoughts on “The United States of Flint

  1. At one point, the entirety ofRoger and Me was on YouTube. I know, because I sat there and watched it in ten-minute chunks.
    mechanization will give us LEISURE time. computers will give us more LEISURE time.
    Well, you know, if the population were the same as in the 1950s when people were making all those kinds of predictions, and productivity were the same (hint: it’s way, way, up), and participation in the workforce were the same (hint: also way, way, up, thanks largely to women’s being able to do more in the workforce than be maids, prostitutes, teachers, nurses, and secretaries), and if hours of income required to maintain standard of living (hint: also way, way up, like from 35 to 77), probably mechanisationwould equal more leisure time. Nobody in the 1950s had any reason to suspect that by 30 years later, the prevailing corporate ethos would be to work working people ever harder for less money. You do more work for the same amount of money, adjusted for inflation, than your counterpart in the 1950s, and you also get or take less time off…

  2. It is a good blog. However I strongly agree to the quote that “The rich are getting richer, the poor are getting poorer and people have a lot less lint thanks to the lint rollers made in my hometown”.

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