Do you, too, sense the dread abiding in our annual celebration of national wonderfulness? Outside today’s barbeque bubble the dark shapes of wild events loom, exciting primal fears of unresolved woe and travail. Yesterday, I saw a man on a back street of a small town with spider webs tattooed on his elbows and a screaming skull on the back of his neck. America, meet your new normal: a citizenry of exterminating angels. Our political exertions mean nothing to them. They think Ronald Reagan was the offspring of John Wayne and Minnie Mouse and the House of representatives is a reality TV show about home improvement. Once they are on the loose, even Rush Limbaugh and other like-minded jingo creeps of the airwaves will despair.
Old Allen Ginsburg got it right fifty years ago: “America, go fuck yourself with your atom bomb,” he said. Even back then, in the age of purple people eaters and the weird neutered figure of Ozzie Nelson lurking in kitchen with nothing to do but drink endless cups of coffee, all was not so well. Freedom to cruise for burgers turned out to be a pretty trashy thing, considering all the blood and sacrifice that preceded those days of fun in the California sunshine. Look at California now: Nathanial West Meets Aztlan (coming soon on home video). Who put that locust in my burrito?
Do you ever wonder what Mr. Jefferson would think looking around Virginia today? All those farms of his sturdy yeomanry turned to tract McHousing for lobbyists from pharmaceutical industry; the Beltway traffic at Tysons Corner; the Richmond International Speedway. I’d like to take ole Tom to Nascar on the Fourth of July to meet the futurity of 1776, put him on a seat right behind the crash barrier, stick a long-neck in his left hand, a cheese-steak in the other, and one of those hats crafted of flattened beer cans on his philosophy-filled noggin. What would he make of the celebrity drivers in their logo-covered jumpsuits, not to mention the activity to which they dedicate their youthful energies: roaring around an oval circuit in flame-spewing carriages. There was no analog for this is Tom’s time, except perhaps the alter-pieces of Hieronymus Bosch – and there was no color lithography in those days, so he may well never have actually seen that particular depiction of hell. I’m sure the speedway spectacle would drive him batshit. Five minutes into a Sprint Cup heat, Tom runs shrieking to the piers of Norfolk in search of a passage to France….