Perpetual War For Perpetual Peace, How We Got to Be So Hated by Gore Vidal
Americans morality has nothing to do with ethics or right action or who ever is stealing what money–and liberties–from whom. Morality is SEX. SEX. SEX. -Gore Vidal in the book mentioned here
The island of Mauritius is cool. It’s also pretty. For worst-writer, it was my first tropical island–or is it sub-tropical? Nomatter. Up to that point I had never seen the crystal turquoise waters of an island or other exotic place. Having grown up on the mid-Altantic coast of the USA with its green and sometimes brown waters, turquoise seemed like a distant and desirable experience. To say the least, I was mesmerized. As beautiful as Mauritius is, though, there is one other thing that I will never forget about the island that has nothing to do with its waters. On a day tour around its north-west coast, on a fifty foot sail boat that sails regularly to and from France, the first mate, a Mauritian, turned to me after hearing I was the only American on board and asked most sincerely and inquisitively: what is the matter with you Americans?
What a question, eh? And now for some, and not enough, context. The Iraq quagmire was in full bloom. With my attitude toward that quagmire I’m not sure I’m the one to answer such a great question. Especially not while sailing on the dreamy turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean. But on that day, on that beautiful sail boat, surrounded by Belgians, Frenchman and Germans (allies?), I stood deaf and mute. The mate’s question lingered in my mind (and to this day still does). It was as though I could hear all the destruction at that moment that my beloved country was committing around the world post 2001. Subsequently, after visiting numerous exotic places, mostly enjoying the luxuries of life that I am privileged to afford, I have learned to hide my nationality. Does that mean I am ashamed to be American? Well, maybe. Or let me put it another way. After a while, whether at a hotel in Bangkok or on a dive boat on the red sea, I avoid as best I can being looked down upon as “an American”. I guess learning a second language does have it’s advantages. Even if you can only partly master a second language, it’s enough to hide behind.
With that in mind, now you know, dear worst-reader, why Gore Vidal’s subtitle appeals to me more than the title. First, the title seems to refer to Vidal’s never quenched desire to propel his (or her) reader into realms of history unknown and less understood. Or. Better put. Vidal has the most wondrous knack of making his reader and his listeners feel as though they are kinda stupid. And I don’t mean that in a sly way (like he does). I admire Vidal for his slyness. As I’ve said before, here and here, if you (if anyone) wants to know the history of America because dogma-public schooling taught you snot, read Vidal’s chronicles. And you don’t even have to read them in order. Just pick them out of any second hand book store, like I did, and start reading. (Although now, since I don’t buy physical books unless I have to, I prefer ebook versions which are all reasonably priced.) Things that can be learned from Gore Vidal include but are not limited to our history and our reality and the reason “we” are so hated–even though “Perpetual War For Perpetual Peace” doesn’t quite get to that (musical) note. The book is mostly centered around Timothy McVeigh, Vidal’s correspondence with him and many other quips about (our) empire and those who run it, promote it, spend for it, etc. But you can read all that in the book yourself.
The thing I really want to get at here is, luckily, America’s last great man of letters, who passed in 2012, Gore Vidal, did a lot more writing above and beyond his duty of telling us less mentally endowed (Americans) our own history. If you use the Google you can find a vast amount of all-things-media about Vidal. I especially like the tat-a-tats with his arch enemy William Buckley Jr. Buckley called Vidal a faggot on a televised debate. It was, I think, 1968! Which brings me to my point, what I really want to worst-blog about, and why I picked today’s worst-blog-title.
In all or most of Vidal’s non-fiction that I’ve read so far (which probably isn’t a lot but I’m going with this presumption anyway) there is something that permeates his genius. That something, which Mr. Buckley touched upon in their infamous debate–condescendingly and über-mockingly low-blowing with the utmost choice of descriptors regarding male sexuality–is what Vidal can’t seem to let go. I’m starting to think, since Vidal is of the same pre-war generation as my parents, that America will probably require a lot longer and a lot more than a sexual revolution to get passed what is obviously a symptom to a much larger problem. Obviously sexual repression is rampant in America. But is it part of our DNA? Will we ever be able to breed this thing out! I think Vidal thinks (knows) it is indeed part of us–because it is part of him. According to the work I’ve read so far, it’s most definitely part of him.
The thing is, as we emulate our enemies (and our enemies emulate us) it becomes easier to see the Cain and Abel paradox that is our demise. Something connects us to all that we do to this world–as Americans. One could say that something is religion–and I wouldn’t put up much of a fight to argue it. But there’s one thing that all religion has in common that is both the life and death ticket for us all. Sex. Yeah, baby. Sex. Sex. Sex. Sexuality is something that Vidal–a man who has admitted to being a platonic homosexual–what ever that means–has a serious problem with. Either that or he was completely right when he said that sex was just over-rated.
The chapter “The New Theocrats” begins with the quote at the beginning of this worst-post. SEX. SEX. SEX. Capitalized, baby. Caps because Vidal has something to say, loudly. And then he goes on about a high school girl having a baby during her senior prom and leaving that baby to die in a trash can only to then go about her prom business. This all somehow leads back to Timothy McVeigh who mysteriously hangs out with men-only who all hate the US government and might even be in cohorts with middle eastern terrorists because that was the only way to blow up a federal building in Oklahoma City. Now. Does all that mean that Gore Vidal, again, America’s last man of letters, is sex obsessed–just like the rest of sexually repressed America–or is he sincerely interested in getting to the bottom of McVeigh’s horror or, even, why we are so hated around the world?
For this question I have an answer: dunno.
All worst silly-ness aside, this book is worth the read. But to moi, everything from Vidal is worth the read–even that script he wrote which was subsequently gutted by Penthouse founder Bob Guccione. All things said–or missed–this book provides an interesting look/view at the Oklahoma City bombing, the siege at Waco, TX, both of which, to this day, amaze me because they are practically never spoken of unless someone commits some ghastly act of violence in the name of the 2nd amendment, false patriotism, a tea-party–or because Mama didn’t love enough, etc. I guess by writing, researching, thinking about all that stuff, Vidal knows why we are hated. Full stop.
Vidal does a great job of avoiding all the conspiracy-theory nutbag krapp that is probably the reason so much of what America truly is–is truly never spoken about/of. Or something like that.