**Warning: This article contains multiple references to gun violence and murder.
Filmmaker Michael Moore has been heavily lambasted for a Tweet that said Boulder, Colorado shooting suspect Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa had “truly assimilated into our beloved American culture.”
Alissa — who immigrated to the US from Syria in 2002 — has been arrested and charged with ten counts of murder by Colorado police after the March 22 shooting spree that left ten people dead.
Moore’s full Tweet, which was accompanied by a photo of the Statue of Liberty, read “The life of Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa shows that people can come from all over the world and truly assimilate into our beloved American culture.”
The life of Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa shows that people can come from all over the world and truly assimilate into our beloved American culture. pic.twitter.com/snDMnGUG0i
— Michael Moore (@MMFlint) March 24, 2021
Almost immediately, the Bowling For Columbine director was slammed for being “anti-America” with one disgruntled person responding, “always amazes me when people with influence in this country start to bash on it like they hate their own country. yall (sic) got no idea how much better life is in the US compared to other parts of the world, no idea whatsoever.”
“Wow. You do hate your country, don’t you?” someone else replied.
Another user, who clearly understands irony a little better than the others, wrote (sarcastically), “Michael Moore supports gun violence and terrorism” — and again, people just really did not get it.
Was Moore’s Tweet funny? No. But was it on the money? Sadly, yes.
The Boulder tragedy was the seventh shooting spree in as many days in the United States — following on from the devastating rampage in Atlanta, Georgia that left 8 people, including six Asian women, dead.
Other shootings in Stockton in California, Houston, and Dallas in Texas, Philadelphia in Pennsylvania and Gresham in Oregon resulted in several deaths and multiple injuries.
Some of these tragic occurrences, such as the 2016 Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando and the 2018 Parkland High School shooting in Florida, made international headlines and saw the world sadly shake their heads at America’s gun problem, but so many more slipped under the radar, lost in the sheer volume of such incidents.
In Australia, it is easy to feel removed from the issue of mass gun violence, given that we long ago reckoned with it, following the horrific Port Arthur massacre of 1996.
In the wake of the mass shooting, the Australian government — under Prime Minister John Howard — created the National Firearms Agreement and implemented extensive licensing and registration procedures. The much-lauded gun-buyback program, which saw 700,000 firearms being surrendered, was also created.
In fact, ask any Australian who was born after 1996, and the idea of a mass shooting probably feels like a foreign concept — literally.
Even Aussies born before that time might tell you that the notion of someone spraying bullets in their school, place of business, favourite bar, or local cinema is hardly something that enters their consciousness unless they are exposed to excessive media coverage of that exact thing happening somewhere that is not here.
In those instances, we of course take a minute to feel sad for the victims and their families and perhaps even spend a few minutes thinking about how we might respond in such a situation. We are then able to go about our day, safe in the knowledge we will likely never need to find out just how brave we could be in the face of a gunman with an assault weapon.
Americans, for all their wealth and power, have no such privilege.
US citizens make up about 4.4 percent of the global population but own 42 percent of the world’s guns.
In 2018, The Washington Post reported that there were more than 393 million civilian-owned firearms in the United States — or enough for every man, woman, and child to own one and still have 67 million guns left over.
Additionally, research reveals that 31 percent of mass shootings worldwide from 1966 to 2012 were committed by Americans.
It’s an obvious and stark contrast to the situation we have here, and it’s likely that unless you had a personal connection to one of the attacks, you may not even be able to recall them happening.
It also speaks volumes about the never-ending battle that America faces, as it seems no act of gun violence is ever enough to result in sensible gun legislation.
In 2012, after a gunman murdered 20 children and six staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary, the push for gun control was louder than perhaps it ever had been, with millions assuming that the death of children would surely be enough to spring the American government into action.
They were mistaken.
Just as they were mistaken when they thought that the horrors of the Columbine school shooting in 1999 — in which twelfth-grade students Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold murdered 12 of their fellow students and one teacher — would effect any real change or see laws passed that made guns impossible to purchase without thorough background checks.
The government’s failing of the people of Columbine — and America at large — was documented by Moore in his award-winning film Bowling for Columbine and it was the point he was trying to make with his Tweet.
He was pointing out that America values firearms so much — bolstered by their beloved Second Amendment — that the ownership and use of them, often against their peers, has almost become the unspoken American Dream.
He was also pointing out, however indelicately, that gun violence in the US has become so ubiquitous, that it could be mistaken as “un-American” not to enact it.
Fortunately, several people did understand the true meaning of Moore’s message and responded in agreement.
“I get the sarcasm in this tweet that has gone over the heads of many people,” one user wrote.
“I don’t think Michael Moore hates America. He speaks the truth about American culture, some of which is ugly like gun culture, racism, and capitalism without humanity. A lot is unhealthy & cannot be fixed until problems are called out & confronted,” another said.
As for Moore, he supplied a blanket response Tweeting, “I know. I feel bad for ppl who don’t understand irony. But I decided decades ago to never explain satire as if ppl are too stupid to get it. I’ve watched the dumbing down of America & the efforts by those in power 2 create an idiot nation. They need the public ignorant 2 succeed [sic].”
It’s interesting that Moore’s comments drew so many accusations of “hating America” from people who seem to be so unaware that while their country may not “hate” them, it certainly cares little for them — as evidenced every time a mass shooting is followed by “thoughts and prayers” and then…nothing.
While Australia is obviously far from perfect and is ripe with our own political discourse, there is something to be said for living in a country that, at the very least, cared enough about its civilians to spring into action after an unspeakable tragedy and enforce legislation in order to protect them.