Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Notes before finally blacking out. Part One.

I was born five weeks before Pearl Harbor. That means I have lived during the terms of twelve U.S. Presidents, from FDR onwards. I guess I'll make it to No.13.

It also means that I have seen the death of Empire as a concept, & its replacement by Superpower. The latter is not be confused with Superbowl, although the underlying principle of a pissing contest is common to both.

Truman was the first President I was conscious of, though only vaguely, & perhaps only through later imposition of perceived memory. I was definitely aware of Eisenhower.

I was aware of the Cold War. My sister's boyfriend went off to fight in Korea. I knew of the Berlin Airlift. The Russian Embassy was across the road from where we lived in Wellington; I saw the protests about the quelling of the Hungarian Uprising.

My perceptions of the U.S. were colored by comics, Hollywood, jazz, the crime novels of Chandler & Hammett, science fiction, rock, a composite milieu that, in the main, contrasted with the glaze of Norman Rockwell on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post, the spin-doctoring of the Luce publishing empire & its Time & Life figureheads.

Somwhere in all this, I read dos Passos' USA trilogy, Steinbeck. I still haven't worked out why my brother had them.

I was vaguely aware of Joe McCarthy & his witch-hunts. Spying was big, Communism the spawn of the AntiChrist. We'll get back to that a little later on.

Dienbienphu & Algeria brought down the French empire but they still continued nuclear testing in the Pacific, not so far away from little old New Zealand. The U.S. refused to support the Vietnamese nationalist leader who drove the French out, Ho Chi Minh, because he had communist tendencies. Look how that ended up.

The U.S. didn't learn. They refused to support the Cuban nationalist leader, Fidel Castro, because he had communist tendencies. They preferred the Mafia. Crime was something they understood.

The U.S. came to believe they owned most of the world, & what they didn't own would be overcome by Captalism, the U.S. answer to the other big C. Anybody who spoke out against them was punished.

China didn't exist. It's the political version of the ostrich principle—don't recognize them & maybe they'll go away. Look how that turned out.

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