Florida Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, has filed a bill for the 2015 legislative session in Tallahassee asking his fellow legislators to make it mandatory for students in 8th and 11th grades to watch Dinesh D'Souza's movie America: Imagine the World Without Her. The movie, made by a conservative commentator who has built a career out of making controversial books and movies with provocative titles like The Enemy at Home: The Cultural Left and its Responsibility for 9/11 and Obama's America: Unmaking the American Dream, is a love song to the United States. It is meant to be a response to the Howard Zinn-style exploration of U.S. history that brings unflattering and overlooked historical perspectives to the table. Zinn focuses his work on telling history from the perspectives of regular people – slaves, laborers, Native Americans, people exploited by the powerful while the nation was being built. D'Souza, however, says we shouldn't sweat the small stuff – he thinks we should overlook some ugly historical moments so we can recognize the greatness of the nation. Plus, he says, a lot of the bad stuff is being blown way out of proportion by liberals.
Take slavery, for instance. Sure, slavery was bad, D'Souza acknowledges – but he doesn't seem to think it was so bad, at least not as bad as people make it sound. After all, some former slaves managed to make a decent living once they were freed, he points out, plus sometimes white people were exploited, too. Those are just two of the arguments the auteur makes in insisting that we don't make too much of the horrors of the past.
In his bill, Hays calls D'Souza's movie a "patriotic film," but it might be more accurately described as conservative agitprop – he's anti-Obama, anti-progressive, anti-liberal and his movie isn't so much about history as it is about his political point of view – his very pointedly anti-liberal, pro-Christian point of view. Which is fine – that's his right as a filmmaker/director – but mandatory viewing for all public school kids?
If Hays' bill is passed – and we can't imagine that it will be, although we did just re-elect Gov. Rick Scott, so you never know – he wants to make sure school boards across the state force students to attend viewings of the movie, unless their parents request in writing that their kids be excused. Which is a little bit ironic, considering the filmmaker is so anti big-government and pro-freedom. “Whenever the government is involved, there is an element of coercion," D'Souza says. Right.
Oh, and one more thing about D'Souza: He pled guilty earlier this year to violating federal campaign-finance laws by having people donate to a friend's campaign in their names, then paying them back out of his own pocket. He's been sentenced to five years' probation and eight months in a community confinement center. If you take a Howard Zinn approach to looking at D'Souza's actions, this is a case of a powerful person gaming the system for the benefit of himself and his friends, further marginalizing the average American. If you take a D'Souza approach to interpreting his actions, though, it was a simple mistake that shouldn't tarnish the shiny image of an intellectual who loves his country.
Anyway, here's the trailer for the movie: