copyright © 2007 Betsy L. Angert. BeThink.org
May I introduce Gore Vidal. You may be familiar with the work of this "novelist, essayist, playwright, and provocateur whose career has spanned six decades," or you may only recognize the name.
I invite you sit down for a moment, make yourself comfortable and absorb the words of this master. Perhaps his words will inspire you, inflame your sensibility, or spur an interest. It is unlikely the statement Gore Vidal shares will merely wash over you. Mister Vidal speaks of the life we live as citizens of the United States of America. He addresses our freedoms or lack of these and he question what we the people accept as our truth.
In recent years, he [Gore Vidal] has waged a continual war on those who would attempt to diminish freedom. In "Shredding the Bill of Rights," for example, he says: "It has always been a mark of American freedom that unlike countries under constant Napoleonic surveillance, we are not obliged to carry identification to show to curious officials and pushy police. But now, due to Terrorism, every one of us is stopped at airports and obliged to show an ID which must include a mug shot (something, as Allah knows, no terrorist would ever dare fake)." As usual, his ability to say what everyone secretly knows and to make it unsettling without worrying about the implications, for himself or his reputation, is a particular gift. This habit has won him many admirers and numerous enemies over the years.In this two part interview with Henry Rollins of the Independent Film Channel, you will hear of a bit of the Vidal flare. Author and visionary, Gore Vidal expresses his concerns for the state of the union. He muses the republic is lost. Writer Vidal warns us there is a price to pay for the actions of George W. Bush. Perchance, America understands this now. The cost of a Bush Presidency is and has been quite high.
Some may say Mister Vidal is more cynical now than he was in an earlier dialogue in March 2003. Others think for decades, Vidal has been a prophet. It seems for years, he was certain, there was trouble in paradise. Four years earlier, when Journalist Mark Davis asked the author to reflect on the foundations of freedom and liberty Mister Vidal offered a tale of woe.
Mark Davis: Over the past 40 years or so, you've written about the undermining of the foundations of the constitution --liberty, human rights, free speech. Indeed, you've probably damned every administration throughout that period on that score. Is George Bush really any worse?In August 2007, Gore Vidal will do as he has always done; he will try to enlighten an expectant or perhaps, more accurately, an apathetic public. As novelist, playwright, and essayist, Vidal does this in his writing, he speaks to us, or attempts to.
Gore Vidal: No, he certainly is worse. We've never had a kind of reckless one who may believe --and there's a whole theory now that he's inspired by love of Our Lord --that he is an apocalyptic Christian who'll be going to Heaven while the rest of us go to blazes. I hope that isn't the case. I hope that's exaggeration. No. We've had...the problem began when we got the empire, which was brilliantly done, in the most Machiavellian --and I mean that in the best sense of the word --way by Franklin Roosevelt.
With the winning of World War II, we were everywhere on Earth our troops and our economy was number one. Europe was ruined. And from that, then in 1950, the great problem began when Harry Truman decided to militarise the economy, maintain a vast military establishment in every corner of the Earth.
Meanwhile, denying money to schools but really to the infrastructure of the nation. So, we have been at war steadily since 1950. I did a...one of my little pamphlets was 'A Perpetual War for Perpetual Peace' --how that worked. I mean, we've gone everywhere --we have the Enemy of the Month Club. One month, it's Noriega --king of drugs. Another one, it's Gaddafi. We hated his eyeliner or something and killed his daughter. We moved from one enemy to another and the press, the media, has never been more disgusting. I don't know why, but there are very few voices that are speaking out publicly.
The censorship here is so tight in all of the newspapers and particularly in network television. So, nobody's getting the facts. I mean, I spend part of the year in Italy and really, basically, what I find out I find out from European journalists who actually will go to Iraq, which our people cannot do or will not do, and are certainly not admired for doing so. We are in a kind of bubble of ignorance about what is really going on.
Throughout Vidal's novels, certain themes recur: His belief that America is an imperial nation run by a small group of powerful corporate and political insiders; the loss of our ideal of a democratic Republic where the people actually have some influence on their government; his assertion that "homosexual" is an adjective that describes behavior and not a noun that describes a type of person because there is "no such thing as a homosexual," the notion having been created by psychiatrists who wanted to demonize the naturalness of same-sex relations; and his virulent atheism and perpetual scorning of the "Sky God" of organized religions, which has led some to believe that Vidal is anti-Semitic. His rhetoric may sound that way if taken out of context, but his criticism of Christianity can often be just as harsh.Gore Vidal may not be your chosen source for enlightenment; nonetheless, I think this man, a fellow some title "American's last small-r republican" has much to say of import on many topics. I offer these presentations for your review and thoughtful consideration. I invite your analysis. Please share what you believe and experience.
A narcissist is someone better looking than you are.
~ Gore Vidal
Decades ago, Vidal asserted that "the novel is dead," meaning that the audience for the novel as a serious, influential art form is dead, replaced in post-war America by movies, television and the whole of popular culture. That's why he seems to have no interest in writing contemporary novels of introspection like so many of his peers whose works generally receive higher praise from the liteary establishment (which Vidal has called "the hacks of Academe"). He prefers instead to explore history in his novels or to invent worlds of his own delight.
It is not enough to succeed. Others must fail.
~ Gore Vidal
But perhaps the most Vidalian assertion that one can cite is a statement he made in a 1972 magazine interview. "There is not one human problem that could not be solved," said Vidal, "if people would simply do as I advise." So for more than 50 years now, he has advised us about politics, history, culture and the importance of separating the public from the private, leaving to Caesar what is Caesar's and to freedom what is rightfully ours.
The Henry Rollins Show and the Independent Film Channel make this copyrighted material available in an efforts to advance understanding of environmental, political, human rights, economic, democracy, scientific, and social justice issues, as well as all else that concerns Americans and other inhabitants of this planet.
Gore Vidal and His Visions . . .
- Gore Vidal. By Jay Parini. Public Broadcasting Services.
- The Erosion of the American Dream, It's Time to Take Action Against Our Wars on the Rest of the World. By Gore Vidal. Transcript of Gore Vidal, March 12 interview on Dateline, SBS TV Australia. Counter Punch. March 14, 2003
- Gore Vidal Index.
- Gore (Eugene Luther) Vidal (1925-) Book and Writers.
- The Last defender of the American Republic. LA Weekly. July 3, 2002
- The Henry Rollins Show.
- Independent Film Channel