A pang in my heart. Sounds cheesy, but that's truly what I felt when I watched "Where to Invade Next," Michael Moore's funny, enlightening film about what America should steal from the rest of the world. The pang came from recognizing, as I listened to citizens of other countries describe ways of perceiving the world that are utterly alien to American sensibilities, how far we have to go.
Finland, Portugal, Norway: What Moore uncovers in nation after nation is a mindset where human dignity comes first. That's all. It's really that simple. The concept that only some schools are "good schools," and you're lucky if you happen to live near one, is incomprehensible in Finland. There, every school is good -- damn good. Because little human beings are of great worth, and deserve excellent education, and Finland did the work and made the investments to ensure they get the schooling they need. Period. No waffling. In Italy, employers put up with providing workers with extravagant paid time off because happy employees are good employees -- but also because Italians know that a life is a terrible thing to waste and consider family time sacred. Tuition-free higher education? Incredible parental leave, with a stipend? Well, yeah. Because, duh: PEOPLE -- human dignity, health and happiness -- take primacy over "the market" and cut-throat capitalism.
"Where to Invade Next" left me stunned. It shouldn't have: I'm a world-class cynic and quick to see all America's faults. But this little movie, and the people it introduced, opened my eyes like never before to just how cold the U.S.A. really is. Cold. Sometimes cruel. And terribly ignorant. When an Icelandic leader offers a message to America late in the film, she seems palpably angry at what she views as our failure to be good to our people. It's sobering. And inspiring, if you're working for change. If you haven't seen this movie yet, you MUST. Here in Kalamazoo, we're lucky to have Michael coming for a visit tomorrow. I can't wait to hear what he has to say, from his inimitable perspective. And if I feel another pang, I'll use it to stay fired up about AWE.