Drift by Rachel Maddow
Had an uncle once that ran off to Canada and I don’t really know why. I mean, there was nothing romantic or exciting about him running off. But I suspect there was something behind it more than just getting out of dodge. My uncle was the son of a circus worker. I never met his father. But he talked about him all the time. Well, not all the time. Anywho. In order to finally figure out a somewhat complex uncle, I visited him in the early 90s, flying from Eurowasteland to Seattle and then driving north in a rental car. Funny things is, I almost turned around when I got to the Canadian side of the border crossing. It was there I realised why the American border guards cynically wished me luck on my journey. Yes, I had been to Canada before but it was always via a direct flight from Eurowasteland. This was the first time entering Canada from the US and doing so by car. The Canadians were so obnoxious questioning my intentions that it kinda woke me up to what I had assumed all along was the reason my uncle went there in the first place. Like me, he sought a way out of the madness. Never mind that he was a Vietnam vet that served honourably. Nor that he was a retired Capital Policemen in Washington DC. And then there was the fact–and I don’t know why I didn’t tell the Canadian guards this in the first place–that I was traveling to Canada to talk to my uncle one last time because he was ailing. But that didn’t work either. Upon further questioning I added that I wasn’t in anyway interested in their country and that I had found other shores to immigrate to. I also added that I hated maple syrup. The guard looked again at all the visa stamps in my passport. What did you do in Mauritius? What’s it like in Kenya? Egypt? Thailand? Bali???? I answered all as best I could, even showing the guards my scuba certificates that I always carried with me. Another long pause in empty space with fake over head lighting. I don’t know if they were confused or jealous about me. Probably neither. Then another guard asked me the reason there were so few entry stamps for when I travelled back to the US. I told him that I never asked for the stamps. “So you’re an expat, are you?” One asked. “I guess so,” I said. Then I added that my uncle was married to a Canadian Air Force Officer. They asked for her name and station. I gave them her name but didn’t know where she was stationed. They left me alone and many hours later I was told by my Aunt that the boarder guards sounded like nice fellows. I only smirked. Anywho. After almost an hour of questioning they let me pass and I got lost the whole night trying to find my uncle’s house.
Luv Maddow. Finally a youthful, new face in/on the old landscape of American’t media. I download her podcasts regularly on this side of the pond. Of course, my initial excitement with Maddow waned when she, excuse the pun, drifted from Air America to MSNBC. But her network/cable show is pretty good because she fills that void of political science mixed with journalism like no one I can remember in the past 20 or so years. Of course, I’m probably wrong on that assessment on account I also haven’t lived in my grand united mistakes for that same twenty years. All I know is that when I visit home I’m appalled at TV and what people watch that is supposed to be the news. No need to mention the disgusting Goebbels propaganda of Faux Newz and/or the dipshittery of CNN. Btw, I used to watch CNN all the time. As a news junky, though, it was easy giving up that cesspool of infotainment. Anywho. Maddow has lifted herself to new heights with churning out a show that is really worth watching. I recommend it to Europeans all the time. Some of them even come back to me and say that they like Maddow but she’s not very funny and her voice is strange. I add that what I don’t like about her is when she questions people on her show and rarely looks them in the eye. That bugs me and makes me wonder if this chick has some serious psyche issues. But I guess I’ve learned a bit from Eurowastelanders and their comic cynicism about news.
Let me get on about Drift and my last border crossing from the US into Canada. As far as I can tell Drift is a narrow news summary of American militarism and how it got to be that way. Maddow has decided that militarism is the way it is because we have drifted to far when it comes to checks and balances in government. And that’s not far from the truth. The problem I had with this book, though, is that Maddow’s approach to something obviously complex is to summarise the news about it. The whole time while reading this I was expecting some kind of analysis or perhaps a conclusion regarding American’t militarism. But what Maddow offers is what I’m finding to be exactly what a lot of arm-chair politicians are doing these days–especially from those on the left, i.e. progressives. They can tell me about a problem but they can’t tell me how to fix it. Of course, I’m not sure if a journalist is supposed to offer conclusions, that may make her/him biased. The other problem I have with this book is that it feels like a bored or pressured PHD thesis where in a rush footnotes were joined with some narrative. But all that aside, this book was almost worth the read. The thing about Drift is this. If you’re born, let’s say after 1975 or maybe 1980, then you should probably read it. You’ll get up-to-date on history. Born before that, don’t bother. If you don’t know what’s in this book, then you’re lost anyway. And. Even though Maddow spends quite a bit on Ronald Reagan, I don’t why any 20-something would be interested in that. Her thesis that Reagan unleashed the politically motivated exploitation of executive power/privilege that got us into these middle east and crusade (for oil) wars is true but never once does she mention that American’ts want this or that American’ts are too stupid to want something else.
Now. What does drift have to do with my Canada trip almost a quarter century ago? Well, not much. But do you know how reading a book takes you to some place else? As I was reading Drift I couldn’t help but be reminded of all the places I’ve been while trying to figure out what it’s like to be American in this dismal beginning of the 21st century–which seems to be no different than the beginning, middle and end of the previous century. One of the influences in my life was my uncle who served two tours in Vietnam. He said everything I needed to know about war was in any of the rings of a three-ring circus. He said all you have to do is watch carefully and only laugh if you have to. Watch the ring leader, the artists and especially the animals. The ring leader is your ruler. The artists follow the ruler. And the animals fight. And years after he would take me to these circus extravaganzas I had to grow up to figure out what he was talking about when he would point and yell and sometimes slightly laugh. He would be picking out the whip scars on the horses or showing me the fear and rage in the eyes of the lions and the tigers and bears. And he would growl himself while pointing out the cynical smile of the ring leader as he looked down upon everyone. Here the words I will never forget from my uncle: Never join a circus.