The Great American Novel

Ah, how many times I have seen those words in print … so and so wished to write the “Great American Novel”…Mr. X has effectively given us the “Great American Novel”. And yet, how many times have I wondered exactly what that meant. Perhaps the GAN represents capturing the essence of American life, providing a Petri dish full of Americanisms (whatever those may truly be) or placing under the microscope some fragment of nostalgia on the one hand, or a slice of dystopia on the other. It seems to me that the GAN often is used to refer to something that captures the essence of what America has been, or is now. But just like so many modern rock bands, that notion while eloquently describing what is wrong and bewailing the negative, fractioning aspects of “American” society does so very little to suggest any kind of solution. America, they say, is a dream. America is fucked up. The American dream? What does that mean? Ask a Choctaw-Kiowa-Apache, or a practitioner of Vodoun. They will not have the same answer as the descendent of a Puritan — at least, not likely.

America, it seems to me, is a victim of its own conceit — much like so many of the monotheistic religions of the world. Both would do their damnedest to deny the theory of evolution. But a species, a culture, a nation MUST evolve in order to survive. And evolution implies CHANGE. Radical change. So by extension it appears to me that a truly American novel must address what America SHOULD be, what it COULD be. And of course, that’s not just a novel. It’s a revolution. As George Bernard Shaw once said, democracy is the only form of government where revolution is against the law — simply because the constituents of a democracy are in theory the government itself, making revolution a kind of self-abasement or self-immolation. But it is very easy to point out, particularly considering the rapidly decaying civil liberties of this country, the increasingly important role played by big money in the control and destiny of politicians, the absence of any kind of radical left, the dumbing down of educative systems so as to eliminate the role of intelligent dissent, the jingoistic emphasis on “our way or the highway”, the Hitleresque masquerade of national security threat prevention and monstrous incorporation of the philosophy of Christian Fascism into the micro-management of personal lives in service to the greater Church-State, that any nation whose president is determined by the Supreme Court in opposition to the popular vote is NOT strictly speaking a democracy. In that case, or to paraphrase slightly, when in that course of human events, it becomes necessary to stage at least some kind of revolt. Revolution, in that instance, becomes not only a right, a necessity, but also a kind of “sacred” duty.

And of course, the solution is not, as many neo-pagan organizations might lead you to believe, to establish a church of your own in every city in America. Nor is it to find some kind of “perfect” candidate who can somehow single-handedly reverse the tide of bullshit that fills the streets of Washington DC, the foxholes in Afghanistan or the trenches in Iraq. The answer, I’m ashamed to admit, can succintly be found in the Hollywood adaptation of the Gospel. That one line where Jesus screams out (and perhaps you like Ted Neeley in Norman Jewison’s film adaption, but nothing compares to Ian Gillan when it comes to screaming out) — “Heal yourselves!”

That, however, is unlikely to sell ANY copies whatsoever as a NY Times Bestseller. Because Americans are not, and probably truly have never been, that kind of people as a whole. The masses, to coin a phrase, are asses. And America never has really been about individual freedom. It’s been about conformity. Sure, the Pilgrims shuffled off to Massachusetts Bay to ensure that they could practice religion as they saw fit, without the deterrents of thumbscrews, stake burnings and other establishment cures. But they turned around and did the same to those who disagreed with them. And so on and so forth. The problem with America is that whether you call it a melting pot, or a salad bowl, people like their own fondue, their particular style of Waldorf, and think that anyone else is wrong. Which is not so bad, except that they want to picket any restaurant that serves non-standard meals, despite the fact that EVERY culture that has come to this country has been persecuted to some degree once they arrived. And then turned around and picked on someone who arrived a day later. The sad part is that this culture is about five minutes ago and the history thereof. So learning from history is fortunately an easy A.

What’s that boil down to in the long run? Who knows? But the human beings that think they run this show ought to stop and think about this: IF evolution is more than a theory, if it is the way it is, then where are we going, as a people, species, planet, etc.? IF evolution is FALSE, and the self-determination of the planet simply STOPPED when homo erectus erectus appeared on the scene, then why did we learn to swim? To play tennis? To sell junk bonds? To deal smack?

Bah. Enough ranting.

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