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Bowling for Columbine (Documentary) ( 2002) 2003 by Raymond Weschler Major Characters

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The Selling of Fear.

Correcting America’s social problems took a

back seat to fear, panic and a new set of priorities.

If X “takes a back seat to” Y, it is decided that X is not as important as Y, and therefore less energy and effort is put on X. A “priority” is something that is considered important and worth spending energy or time on.

They’ve been stocking up on supplies…weapons, ammunition.

To “stock up” on something is to buy or obtain a lot if it, in order to have it stored close by. “Supplies” can refer to any product that is stored or housed that is necessary for survival, from food to medicine.

Wall Mart says that after September 11, gun sales surged 70%.

If sales of a product “surge,” they go up dramatically.

In Dallas, they’re already taking potshots at Osama Bin Laden.

A “potshot” is a gunshot from behind a bush, or more generally,

very critical comments or remarks (Bin Laden, of course, is the bozo behind the September 11 terrorist attacks).
We Americans were gripped in a state of fear.

“To be gripped” is to be held tightly.

It’s probably a little paranoia, but I’m not going to take chances.

An important word from psychology that refers to the irrational

belief that somebody (or everybody!) is trying to hurt or harm you.

And so there’s a vested interest… a lot of activity to keep us afraid.

If a person has “vested interest” in something, they

could benefit or profit from it if things turn out well.

Everyone felt safer….with the army doing garbage detail on Park Avenue.

“Garbage detail” is a way of referring to the job of collecting the trash.

Park Avenue is one of the richest streets in the United States.
The corporate and political leaders can get away with just about anything.

“To get away with” something illegal is to be able

to do it without being caught or punished.
Richard is paralyzed for life and in a wheelchair.

If a person is “paralyzed,” they are unable to move a part of their body.

Mark and Richard were disabled and suffering from

the 17 cent Kmart bullets still embedded in their bodies.

If a person is “disabled,” they have a physical

limitation, such as the inability to walk or see.

I asked the boys if they’d like to go to Kmart to return the merchandise.

Kmart is a well known department store. “Merchandise” is another word for goods or products that are sold at a store, from food to furniture.

One request is you get rid of the bullets and you don’t sell them in this store.

“To get rid of” something is to eliminate it or throw it away.

We only carry sporting firearms and accessories that go with the hunting sports.

A “firearm” is any type of gun or weapon, and “accessories” are those things that are often used with a product (For a gun, accessories could include bullets, a gun lock or a gun holder).

We’ll certainly take your message to our chairman and CEO, Chuck Conoway.

The “chairman” of a company is the head of the company’s board of directors, who makes general company policy. A “CEO” is the Chief Executive Officer, who is the most powerful person in a company and the person who is responsible for running it day by day.

Let me blunt….Mark has a Kmart bullet just

an inch away, from….your aorta and spine?

If a person is “blunt,” they speak very directly, without worrying about hurting other people’s feelings. A person’s “aorta” is a large part of the human heart. A person’s “spine” is their backbone.

Somebody here should take their request seriously,

not just a PR person, but somebody who has some authority.

A “request” is the formal act of asking for something. A “PR” person handles public relations for a company, which means they try to make

the company look as positive as possible to the public. In this case, “authority” is another word for power.
Take care.

One way of saying “see you later.”

As we left the building, Mark came up with an idea.

“To come up” with an idea is to think of it.

Mark pretty much cleared them out of their ammunition.

If you “clear a store out” of a particular product,

you buy the store’s entire supply of it.
Kmart is phasing out the sale of handgun ammunition.

“To phase out” an action is to gradually

reduce it until it is no longer done at all.
Wow, that blows my mind.

“Wow” is a common way of expressing surprise or amazement. “That blows my mind” is a very slangy way of saying “I think that is totally amazing (or incredible).”

Charleston Heston and the American Disease.

All I needed was a star map.

A map that is sold on the streets of Hollywood

which shows where famous movie stars live.

He took me out to his pool….so we could have a chat.

A casual or informal conversation.

I assume you have guns. :: Indeed, I do.

A favorite British word meaning “in fact,” or in this case, “absolutely.”

Have you ever been assaulted? :: No

If a person has been “assaulted” they’ve been physically attacked.

Note that Heston taps his fingers on some furniture when answering, since “to knock on wood” is a way of hoping for continued good luck.
Let’s say it’s a comfort factor.

“Doing this is what makes me feel comfortable (or at ease).”

I’m exercising one of the rights passed on down to me from

those, wise, old , dead white guys that invented this country.

“To exercise a right” is to use it or take advantage of it. If a person is “wise,” they’re intelligent, prudent, and have a good understanding of the world. Heston is referring to the founding fathers of the US, including Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin.
Hear me out!

“Listen to what I’m saying!”

American history has a lot of blood on its hands.

One way of saying American history is

filled with violence and bloodshed.
The Brits? They ruled the world for 300 years at the barrel of a gun.

“Brit” is a slangy word for a British person. “To rule from the

barrel of a gun” is to control people with the use of total force.
You’re going to explore it at great length, but that is all I have to say on it.

“To explore something at great length” is to investigate or research it

with great care and energy, perhaps over a long period of time.
We have a more mixed ethnicity than other countries…. :: It’s an ethnic thing?

If a country has a “mixed ethnicity,” its population is made of many

ethnic groups, such as black, white, Asian, Jewish, Indian, etc..
I left the Heston estate atop Beverly Hills and walked back

into the real world, an America living and breathing in fear.

In this case, an “estate” is an very large house, often surrounded by large gardens. “Atop” is another way of saying on top of, and Beverly Hills is an extremely rich part of Los Angeles where many movie stars live.
Imagine somebody might break into your house, to harm you or your family.

“To break into” a house is to forcefully and secretly enter it, usually for the purpose of stealing something inside. “To harm” a person is to physically or emotionally hurt them.

It all comes back to bowling for Columbine.

If a particular subject or topic “all comes back to” one thing, this means that no matter how that topic is discussed, that discussion will ultimately be about that one thing (For Moore, a discussion of guns in America will always come back to the question of fear).

Yes, it was a glorious time to be an American.

A powerful adjective meaning wonderful, splendid or delightful,

though here, of course, it is said with humor and sarcasm.

Bowling for Columbine

Some Potential Questions for ESL Class Discussion

1. Who is to blame for the Columbine massacre? The two kids? Their parents? Easy access to guns? Marilyn Manson? The school? The other students who teased and made fun of them? Poverty? Injustice? Kmart? American society?….

2. Do you believe in gun control? Would it work? Is there some kind of gun control in the country you’re from?

3. Do you agree with Michael Moore that the United States, unlike Canada, is a country dominated by fear? What are we afraid of?

4. Do you think Moore’s way of interviewing people such as Charleston Heston, John Nichols and the spokespeople for Lockheed and Kmart was a little unfair?

5. Why do you think there is so much violence in the United States?

What can we do about it?

6. Are people in the Michigan militia just patriotic, or crazy, or both?

7. Was this movie disturbing? Funny? Both? Neither?

8. Do you own a gun? Would you?

9. Were you scared to come to the US because of the violence?

10. What did you like and not like about this movie?

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