Gore Vidal Writes About Gates Arrest; Lapses Into Incoherence

Perhaps it is time to recall William Shatner to the Tonight Show in order to read aloud, accompanied by bongos,  leftwing novelist Gore Vidal's incoherent screed about the Henry Louis Gates arrest. Even Grampa Abe ranting aloud while spinning around on the church floor in "The Simpsons Movie" made more sense than Vidal. Perhaps it could be explained by one too many Ketel Ones but here is his seemingly endless essay from Truthdig which starts out from a far left position and then quickly plunges into utter incoherence:

For those of us who had hoped that the Obama administration would present us with a rebirth of the old republic that was so rudely erased a few years ago by that team of judicial wreckers, Bush and Gonzales, which led, in turn, to a recent incident in Cambridge, Mass. that inspired a degree of alarm in many Americans. But what was most alarming was the plain fact that neither the president nor a “stupid” local policeman seemed to understand the rules of behavior in a new America, where we find ourselves marooned as well as guarded (is that the verb?) by armed police who have been instructed that they are indeed, once armed, the law and may not be criticized verbally or in any other way and are certainly not subject to any restrictions as to whom they arrest or otherwise torment. 

The above doesn't make all that much sense but it is the height of rationality compared to what is to follow:

This is rather worse than anyone might have predicted, even though the signs have been clear for some years that ours is now a proto-fascist nation and there appears to be no turning back; nor, indeed, much awareness on the part of our ever-alert media. Forgive me if you find my irony heavy, but I too get tired of carrying it about in “the greatest nation in the country,” as Spiro Agnew liked to say. 

Now buckle your seat belts for a bit of time travel ala Vidal:

I was first made aware of this development in 1946 when I was limping around in army uniform in New York City and noticed that the local police (admired by none) were beginning to run wild, possibly because so many of the able-bodied young had, like myself, been serving for some years overseas. I recall that some sort of parade was being held and what looked to be a thousand or two citizens were trying unsuccessfully to cross Fifth Avenue. I waited on a street corner for an hour in my uniform, limping from my disability earned by my service in the war. But after nearly an hour of waiting, I stopped a policeman who was wandering idly around and asked him politely when I’d be able to cross Fifth Avenue. He shrieked at me, “Go call da mayor!” And I said, “Oh I will, I will.” Actually, I did know the mayor at that time, but he was not available on that sacred day. I did make a protest as a veteran who had mustered out with a disability for life, but this seemed to be a cause of great merriment. In any case, that was my first experience of a Nazi-like police force in New York City, a city pretty much home to me from childhood on. 

Horrible! Horrible things are going to happen! And they're going to happen to you, and you, and you!

I also propose this as a solution to the problem that they currently pose us, not only on Fifth Avenue but in Harvard Yard, where a young policeman recently distinguished himself by being rude to the president, complaining with the irresistible policeman’s whine that he and the president were just alike in their problems, only he was being particularly bugged by the press, in effect, said, “join the club.” Now that they were becoming buddies in embarrassment, the little corporal said, characteristically allowing his envy to show, “You’ve got a bigger lawn than mine”—thus, proving how serious daydreaming can place yourself into a position of parity.

Is there a shrink in the house? We need an interpretation of this bit of Vidalian daydreaming:

One interesting fallout from the tragic business in Cambridge – and it is tragic, let me tell you – was that the president was forced to speak suddenly in his own voice, and at his very best, and not swathed in the authority of his great rank, but simply as a citizen making a sensible comment about a nobody policeman. Yes, I mean “nobody” literally – I know all human beings, if they are Americans, are highly valued and worshiped, indeed, for their wonderfulness and their helpfulness to fellow citizens. I state this ironically, as you might suspect. After all, why would the young man be armed unless he was a superior citizen, elected, as it were, by his fellows to ride herd on an unruly mob unless he was demonstrably special by virtue of being legally armed, which is how we are supposed to tell them from us?

Heed this warning. Twisted tail! A thousand eyes! Trapped forever!!

So, we are a weirdly militarized citizenry governed by the worst elements in the United States, and something is bound to blow up, as I have felt for some time now. In my wanderings around the U.S., I talk to people without money, without power, ordinary voters, as well as nowadays, people maimed by war, or time, or life or whatever, and I am convinced more and more that this is a vicious country in which the police are allowed to run amok, absolutely independent of anyone, and that is why from time to time they are allowed to get away with murder. One surprisingly knew that a wrinkle has been discovered in the seamless surface of our troubled state. Policemen are seldom tried for their crimes, or indeed, held responsible for what they do, which disturbs the peace and causes distress among the orderly.

I would suggest that the president, if he wants to be useful—and not many presidents do in my experience—he might as well call together a commission in response to citizens of every major municipality in the United States who are complaining to central authority about police forces out of control. And no one dares do anything because the police will say, “Well, you know they are acting like this because they are bad people who hate us because we are good people, rescuing cats from trees and otherwise loved by every decent person in the land.”

Beware! Beware! Time is short. Eeepa! Eeepa! Eeeeeeepaaaaa! Believe me! Believe me!

What the police in their ignorance have not figured out is that they have lost all credibility since World War II. They are sort of parasites on the fringe of society and do no particular good for anyone except possibly themselves. Certainly to hear them complain—you’ve never heard such whines as from a policeman who feels he’s been wronged! Apparently, all Earth owes him a living, and he’s the bravest man on any block.

...Anyway, the president has not done what he should have done, which is to have reminded us that the United Kingdom—a more livable nation than the United States, let me say with first-hand experience of both—has disarmed its police. There are no angry men wandering around carrying guns over there. This is a lesson to us, but we’ve armed practically every grange house in the United States because our regular guys just want to swagger around.

Incidentally, it was quite funny to hear one of the favorite adjectives that our new masters use to describe vicious civilians who deliberately mock them, like the professor and myself on Fifth Avenue, and I think they would include the president, too, if the Secret Service was not lurking nearby. Their term for any civilian who criticizes them is “arrogant,” but they are themselves far gone in arrogance and spite.

Let us accept the facts staring us in the face—that demonstrably we are no longer a republic. We are no longer governed by laws, only by armed men and force. This is just like the days of Billy the Kid. You have an armed man going down a dusty street and that is authority. And it has come to this for us.

I want bananas on my waffles!

My last view of what looked to me to be parade’s end occurred during a walk in the woods that I took below a Duke University campus building, where I saw a broken bridge over a stream. I turned to what looked to be a local farmer, who realized that I was looking with “suspicious” interest at a vast pile of repair work: bags of cement, etc., and he anticipated my question: “They’re going to rebuild this bridge—it’s something very, very big,” he said. “Why in the middle of the woods?” I asked. “There are no roads here.” He said, “No, there’s a trail, true, it’s not much of a trail.” “So why are they building such a huge bridge,” I wondered, “when they’ve been happy apparently for many years with a very small bridge?” And he said, “Well, we’ve been told by the feds that they fear that there may be civilian insurrections. And they want to be prepared for them, and they need this bridge, no matter how small, to cross the stream in case of an emergency.”

Are you sure that wasn't Lucy In the Sky with Diamonds that you were seeing?

I went back to the lecture hall at Duke where I’d been speaking, and I chatted about the woods, about the bridge. Nobody seemed to have noticed it. I asked a politically minded professor, and he said, “Well, it’s a problem.” He said, “The government’s getting ready for something; we don’t know what it is, but something’s obviously on their minds that’s disturbing them.” And I said, “Revolution?” “Oh,” he laughed, “this is North Carolina, don’t bother about that, but whatever it is, they’re putting a lot of money into this bridge.”

A year or two later, I took the same walk again. There was a very large bridge of solid cement, and it looked entirely finished. I found another gentleman of the forest, and I said, “Well, can you find much use for this huge and expensive bridge?” He said, “It certainly was expensive, I can tell you that.” He had the happy look of someone who had benefited from the expense. We chatted about the government and what they were up to, and a certain wariness could be heard in our dialogue. We were puzzled; something unexpected had happened, something really unimaginable—a vast work had been constructed for imminent horrors, it would have seemed. I did ask here and there about it, but I was given no answer. 

The verdict is in. Grampa Simpson in mid-rant sounds more sane than a Gore Vidal at any time. Now pass me the waffles covered with bananas!

P.J. Gladnick
P.J. Gladnick
P.J. Gladnick is a freelance writer and creator of the DUmmie FUnnies blog.