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Does it bother you?
Well, yes, of course it does. I don’t understand it. What are the crimes I’ve committed? I made a movie because I felt bad that my hometown was dying. I felt bad that students at Columbine High School were massacred so I made a movie about guns. [Is it a crime] that I wanted to protect soldiers from losing their lives in an illegal and misbegotten war or that I feel there’s something wrong living in a country where 47 million people don’t have health insurance? That’s my work, and for that, I’m vilified by a certain segment of the population. It kind of boggles my mind.
You just referenced Bowling for Columbine. Are you still a member of the National Riffle Association?
I’m a lifetime member, but last I heard there was a vote to have me excommunicated.
You once said you joined the NRA to run for president and dismantle the organization.
That was my original idea – to run against Charlton Heston.
So have you ever considered running for government office?
Well, I already did. I’m the youngest elected official in the history of this country. When 18 year olds were given the vote in 1972, I ran for the Board of Education. I was still a senior in high school the day I won. I was suddenly the principal’s boss. I get asked [about running for office], but my work is what I do. I’m informing people and telling them the stories they aren’t told by the mainstream news media.
There is a theory that says the old model of changing the world by becoming president of the United States no longer holds true and that you can effect more change outside of politics, be it through film, activism or even how you chose to spend your money. Do you agree with that?
Yes, but it still doesn’t hurt to be president [laughs].
What do you think of Obama winning the Nobel Peace Prize?
Elated. Not surprised. I think the point that some people miss is that he won it on the day he was elected because the day he was elected the world became a safer place. The day he was elected the rest of the world knew that none of their countries would be invaded by the U.S. in the next four years. He won it on the first day because he made history in a country that was built on the backs of slaves and who only gave African Americans voting rights just 40 years ago. That this same country would elect an African American as president shows all the possibility of what can be done here in this great country.
What about the people who say we’re still in the middle of two wars?
These are wars he has inherited. Both of them are now catastrophes, and he has to clean up the mess he’s been handed.
Looking back on SiCKO, do you think Obama is going in the right direction with his health care plan?
That’s the problem. He hasn’t really proposed his health care plan. He’s left it up to Congress to come up with some patchwork plan that just upsets everybody on the right and the left.
After watching Capitalism, we left the theater frustrated that there was nothing we could do to change the broken system. What did you want people to take away from that film? What can we do?
What I hope people take away from the film is first of all, the information about how this [stock market] crash occurred, and then be inspired by the people I show in the film who are standing up to the powers that be. I want everyone who calls themselves a Christian or Jew or Muslim or Buddhist to ask themselves if they are really following the tenets of their beliefs. I don’t know how you could be for a system that’s set up to protect the wealthiest one percent who have more financial wealth than the bottom 95 percent combined. It’s just not morally right. I want people to become active. Here’s an example: My wife and I moved to northern Michigan. We moved here full time about five or six years ago. It was the 2004 election and we wanted to hook up with the local Democrats. We discovered that the total number of members of the Democratic Party in this county was four. When you hear a number like that [laughs], you can either become dejected or you can say, ‘Man, do I have a challenge [laughs].’ So we became active and within three years there were over 300 members of the Democratic Party in the county. It went from four to 300. My wife is the vice chair of the party. Anybody can do that. Anybody can go to their county party meeting, and if you bring enough friends, you can take it over.
Stepping away from politics, you made your first feature film, Canadian Bacon, in 1995. Have you ever considered making another one?
Oh yes. I’ve actually been working on a screenplay. I don’t want to jinx it so I’m not talking about it.