We recently returned from a much anticipated three week trip to Virginia and New York City. I’ve tried to do a blog post about it since we came home but found I could not do it. This is my very emotional response to both the trip and my reactions since. I make no apology but there are powerful sentiments here and I hope my US readers will be as generous as their natures usually are and see these words are written with love and concern.
Thomas Jefferson and I.
These feelings first rose in me as I stood beside a life size Thomas Jefferson at his historic home, Monticello, near our base at Charlottesville.
The American Dream.
We dreamed of John Wayne tall, James Stewart laconic, Gregory Peck noble in iconic places.
Places filmed by Hollywood factory dream makers. Dreams of cowboys and Indians and Sitting Bull Custer battles won by the good bad guys with bigger guns. Seas of buffalos destroyed so Sioux starved and fought battles they could not win against railroads and Gatling guns.
The great western myths John Forded on screens to make the nasty truths pretty and scenic and the genocides swallowable by the great penny-seat boys of far-away lands where our grandfathers brothers sail to seek the dream and the nightmares of Ellis Island and the Bowery and the fleeing west to manifest destiny.
Then the John Wayne heroes came East to save us in the wars that they won alone without us. They wrote the history in the films as they made new truth and fed it to us on flickering screens and our fathers said, “You’d think they did it alone. My war was myth. My war didn’t have the blessing of the screen heroes.”
And my mother stabs at him with her broken dream: “I could have married a Yank and gone with him back to…”
And I think: “ Why didn’t you. You silly fifteen year-old swept away by the stockings and chocolate GI wealth that got your knickers off so easily.”
The dreams of America, all Eliot Ness all Capone tommy-gun blood soaked streets and the dollar is God King and Queen.
The dollar beckons the failed out the skyscraper windows to crash into Wall Street ruined and crushed, but JP Morgan builds empires and collects all the great books of the world with his mighty dollar.
Henry Ford builds a new way for men to be slaves and fills them with desire to be that so they can buy a Ford and another and another every year new, never old. The old are for the other slaves free in name but not free – the clan and the burning crosses and the nobility of Paul Robeson ‘Old man river’s’ us on the radio and Nat King Cole croons so mothers swoon but wouldn’t want their daughters marrying one all the same.
The great divide remains and the blues and jazz cry to us across the seas and we glimpse the other dream – the Martin Luther King dream and the shattered dreams of Dealey Plaza and Dallas and the lies and cover-ups and the state machine that serves the dollar-King grinds on and wars and wars and Vietnam nightmares into our lives and changes it all forever and the invincible myth explodes and leaves the dream shaken.
I Love Lucy tells us all is well and Tricky Dicky Watergates into myth and another nail gets driven into the dreams and “These truths we hold to be self evident…” are not so evident and they never really were since Jefferson did not mean all men, only men like me, our kind, our class, our color and our race.
Manifest destiny and guns, lots of guns for sale in flea markets to anyone with the dollar. Guns to enforce manifest destiny on those who do not have the dollars or those who try to get them by foul means or those who resist or disagree or bully in school and create angry children with guns to kill their classmates and teachers or snipe at strangers but the dream says – we must be free to carry arms to protect ourselves from … the nightmare.
The dream has run to fat… so much fat, so much excess and troughs of self-service breakfast cafes with fat people and piled plates of fat food from factories that need people to be fat to sell them more fat palm sugar corn-starch saturated fats.
The dream is supermarkets stuffed with processed foods. Not real, not whole foods but products from factories with added value and added salt and sugar and added fats and added dollars.
They wheel their oversize trolley to their oversize SUVs and still their oversize children with DVD’s in the headrests and chips coke and chocolate stuffing their faces to silence, the hyperactivity fed by the sugars and E number colors and additives that the factories make while adding value to stuff no human needs.
The dream is cheese that is one molecule away from being plastic spread on burgers that are ten percent whole meat and ninety-percent ears cock asshole and saturated bleached fats hydrogenated and added as value to burgers costing two cents to make more dollars for Ronald to add a bigger grin to his smirking manifest destiny.
The dream is rush rush, rush hyped on coffee rush to work and making dollars for more, more more, more what? More SUVs stuffed with stuffed kids and stuffed fathers with guns in their rack and pride on their John Deere caps and dreams of old west and cowboys that were real men.They hunt and they hunt bears but don’t eat bears but their cocks are made hard by the real-men cowboy myths and they try to forget the truth of the fat that stops them seeing their cocks over their fat bellies stuffed not with bear, but hydrogenated fat and pigs dick and lettuce.
The dream is shattered by the reality of what we see and we leave confused and sad and wondering how anyone can live with the illusion that the dream is real.
We leave happy with the warm people we met and the friendly brave folk who live the dream and see the dream and hope the dream may yet be made real.
We leave stimulated by the iconic enormity of it all and the art and the grandeur and we try not to see what made JP Morgan’s huge book collection or the commercial whore that is the 9/11 memorial.
We leave glad to have seen it and glimpsed the glory of what the dream could be if only the people could wake up from the nightmare.