Saturday, November 26, 2011

Domestic Exile

When I was young and dumb, I was proud to be an American. I was acutely aware of our flaws, of course, and never more so than when traveling abroad. Our congenital gaucheness positively glares in foreign climates, and our voices are flat out offensive, like a bad odor. I regret to inform you that you have one. So do I. It’s our birthright as Amurricans. Nevertheless, I got a certain thrill out of being a natural born citizen of latter-day Rome. For good or ill, America was it, the center of civilization. We were where it was at, and I was a part of it. It was a kind of privilege. When the aliens came to make contact, they weren’t landing at Ulan Bator. They were going to New York or Washington. What else would you rather be, Transylvanian? Basque? Uzbeck? Hell, no. I would have chosen to be an American if I could.

That being said, I didn’t go around advertising the fact. In this connection, I have to say the Russians did me the fine honor when I was there of always confusing me for a German or a Finn. Even my Russian girlfriend at the time said she would’ve have guessed I was German if she didn’t know better. “You don’t smile as often as most other Americans do,” she said, ha ha (she told me I was a blend of the melancholic and phlegmatic humours. Yeah, she really said that. I thought that kind of talk was snuffed out around the time of the Enlightenment, but there you have it).

The South Americans, on the other hand, had me pegged as a gringo the second I stepped off the plane. This was during the Bush-Cheney apocalypse, so whatever feeble remnants of good will they ever had towards us were dead and buried. Yet another reason, if you needed one, to despise those villains. Chileans outright call you gringo. “Hola, gringo” or “Ciao, gringo,” but they assured me this wasn’t derogatory, although it felt like it.

And reentering the US shortly after 9/11 was, I can say without fear of exaggeration, like entering a police state — a noisy, rude, clumsy and inefficient one. A dedicated terrorist would have no trouble getting past the lard-asses and ex-gang bangers who work airport security. I had two Easter Island head statues, sort of like bookends, from Chile that some sub-moronic security flunky at the Miami airport broke. They also broke a candlestick holder that was made of lapis lazuli, a rareish blue stone that exists mostly in Chile and Afghanistan. Verily, we are a land of coarse and cultureless poops.

All of this is a round-about way of saying I don’t feel any pride at being an American anymore. None. There is a cold blue spot where my patriotism used to be. The Stars and Stripes don’t stir me any more than the flags of Belize or Tonga. It is the banner of an increasingly repressive and reactionary power that, on issue after issue, is on the wrong side of history. Old Glory may as well be a freakin’ Goldman Sachs logo, as far as I’m concerned, or ExxonMobil, or the shadow of a predator drone on its way to kill people who’ve never harmed me or wished me any ill-will at all. As James Howard Kunstler often puts it, we live in a country that is increasingly not worth caring about, a giant strip mall owned and operated by piggish elites. The flag represents unappetizing figures like Robert Rubin and Hank Paulson, or bland military bureaucrats like David Petraeus, or unctuous cretins like Joseph Lieberman, or mean-spirited trolls like Newt Gingrich and Mitch McConnell. US Inc. is the personal property of nefarious elites in the Carlyle Group and the Council on Foreign Relations, Wall Street, and the satanic fossil fuel industries. It has little to do with you or me anymore. We are just accessories, just flotsam and jetsam adrift with the polluted tide, “lagging indicators” who are trapped in a big machine that is quite intentionally mashing us to bits.

I get the distinct sensation that I’m an indentured servant in some harsh foreign fatherland that doesn’t care if I live or die. I feel like a subject, not a citizen. Our business class disdains us, our political class ignores us, and the police treat us all as if we’re guilty of some crime. “The police used to watch over the neighborhood,” a friend of mine sagely observed. “Now they watch the neighborhood.”

This is a country where vulpine criminals like Lloyd Blankfein wipe their asses with one hundred dollar bills while millions of honest people can’t find work or afford to go to the doctor, and the brunt of our political discourse is aimed at convincing us that this is natural, right and proper, ideal even, the best of all possible worlds when the divinely ordained “free market” is allowed full sway. Never have so many been so easily duped by so few.

My alienation has nothing to do with materialism, by the way. I’m not just bitter because I’ll never be able to afford a house in the suburbs with a white picket fence, a wife, one boy, one girl, and a dog named Spot. I never wanted those things anyway (matrimony has always struck me as a vaguely dirty word; if you put “holy” in front of it becomes downright sinister). No, my disaffection is intellectual. At some point during the poisonous heart of darkness that were the Bush-Cheney years, some fundamental change took place. Our country became their country. You know who I mean by they. The rest of us got heaved into the dog ditch to fight over table scraps.

It wouldn’t be so bad, I guess, if we had some countervailing or compensating virtues. We don’t. All of this ugliness exists in a cultural void. We camp outside of department stores for that abomination called Black Friday, for heaven’s sake. It just doesn’t get any lower than that, dear friends and comrades. This anecdote from the news neatly sums up what we’ve become:

Man Dies on Black Friday; Shoppers Unfazed

A man collapsed while doing some Black Friday shopping in a crowded store, and people nearby continued to shop.

Witnesses tell some shoppers walked around and even over the man's body.

Family members tell that Walter Vance, of Logan County, W.Va., passed away after being taken to the hospital.

That is not the behavior of a moral nation. That is the behavior of a misguided herd that’s been conditioned to believe that shopping is a civic duty. These are the kind of lobotomized fatties who flock to the TV on Superbowl Sunday to watch the commercials, for Christ’s sake. They are perfectly willing to make themselves chumps. Oy gevalt! “I tremble for my country,” said Thomas Jefferson, “when I remember that God is just.”

Thank God for OWS. It’s the most refreshing and hopeful development in the last thirty years. It may be our last chance for salvation.


Zoey and Me said...

Wonderful thoughts. You, my friend, are a great writer.

O’Hollern said...

Thanks, Zooey and Me, and thanks for reading. It's greatly appreciated.

Rico said...

Mickster, keep up the good word. Fun memories of when you came down to our little corner of the world, seems (is) ages ago, but still vivid, or at least the 3 minutes we stayed sober while you were down here.
Anyhow, found below joke, not really funny, old, but somehow relevant to what´s going on in the world:

A boat docked in a tiny Greek village. An American tourist
complimented the Greek fisherman on the quality of his fish and asked
how long it took him to catch them.

"Not very long," answered the Greek.

"But then, why didn't you stay out longer and catch more?" asked the
American. The Greek explained that his small catch was sufficient to
meet his needs and those of his family.

The American asked, "But what do you do with the rest of your time?"

"I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, and take a siesta
with my wife. In the evenings I go into the village to see my
friends, dance a little, play the bouzouki, and sing a few songs. I
have a full life."

The American interrupted, "I have an MBA from Harvard and I can help
You should start by fishing longer every day. You can then sell the
extra fish you catch. With the revenue, you can buy a bigger boat.
With the extra money the larger boat will bring, you can buy a second
one and a third one and so on until you have an entire fleet of
Instead of selling your fish to a middleman, you can negotiate
directly with the processing plants and maybe even open your own

You can then leave this little village and move to Athens, Los Angeles
or even New York City! From there you can direct your huge

"How long would that take?" asked the Greek.

"Twenty, perhaps twenty-five years," replied the American.

"And after that?" "Afterwards?

That's when it gets really interesting," answered the American,
When your business gets really big, you can start selling stocks and
make millions!"

"Millions? Really? And after that?"

"After that you'll be able to retire, live in a tiny village near the
coast, sleep late, play with your grandchildren, catch a few fish,
take a siesta with your wife, and spend your evenings singing, dancing
and playing the bouzouki with your friends".