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Thursday, August 02, 2012

Gore Vidal, 1925 - 2012
Posted by Bob | 4:44 PM
I've read only three novels by Gore Vidal: Burr, Lincoln, Myra Breckenridge,  though I've long  intended  to read the other novels in his "Empire" series. But I've never passed up a Vidal essay or op-ed, or  a TV interview if I could watch it.

Never a doubt in my mind Gore Vidal & I would not have related to each other. (Well, he would've liked me at age 20 with my cute butt.) I'm an intellectual weenie, product of modest public education, not a trace of American aristocracy in my family.   My "extreme" political views were hardly extreme when I first settled on them. There is the first common ground I find with Gore. He admired Franklin D. Roosevelt &, speaking as an aristocrat himself, he considered the great traitors in America to be aristocrats who do not betray their class.  For Gore, George W. Bush & Mitt Romney must have represented  the final death of American noblesse oblige.

Gore Vidal was a curmudgeon.   Back-bitting, name-dropping, verbal bitch slapping, Gore, Norman, Truman & William F, four names always linked together.

Gore was  profoundly conservative in ways that are difficult for us to understand now, with our absurd right wing that believes  we can't obtain  good government without persecuting homosexuals,  rolling back rights for women, denying the scientific method,  repudiating the British Enlightenment, allowing our financial institutions to be run more loosely than a Macau casino,  & waging  endless wars for corporate profit with no benefit to the American people - wars no longer even capable of stimulating  the national economy.   As an American  "aristocrat" - he never tired of reminding us, he believed,  with some justification, he was fully, personally  vested in the sweep of American history, its most important events & people.  For Gore, this was an entitlement. It was his "license" to speak out. He spoke to power past & present.

An ideal America had never existed for Gore, only idiots believe that fallacy,  but the ideals existed. Against these ideals was the impossibility of realizing them in all their glorious idealism..

He was an elegant, patriotic man, & a wonderful writer & speaker.  I shall miss him.
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Blogger pbriggsiam said...
Your post made me think of this great poem which has been on my mind often these past few weeks:

Let America Be America Again
by Langston Hughes
Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.

(America never was America to me.)

Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed--
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.

(It never was America to me.)

O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.

(There's never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this "homeland of the free.")

Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?

I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery's scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek--
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.

I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one's own greed!

I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the Negro, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean--
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today--O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.

Yet I'm the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That's made America the land it has become.
O, I'm the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home--
For I'm the one who left dark Ireland's shore,
And Poland's plain, and England's grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa's strand I came
To build a "homeland of the free."

The free?

Who said the free? Not me?
Surely not me? The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we've dreamed
And all the songs we've sung
And all the hopes we've held
And all the flags we've hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay--
Except the dream that's almost dead today.

O, let America be America again--
The land that never has been yet--
And yet must be--the land where every man is free.
The land that's mine--the poor man's, Indian's, Negro's, ME--
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.

Sure, call me any ugly name you choose--
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people's lives,
We must take back our land again,

O, yes,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath--
America will be!

Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain--
All, all the stretch of these great green states--
And make America again!