I have been wanting to write this for a few weeks now but I haven’t, for two reasons. First of all, I haven’t had the time. I finally found a job. It’s a freelance writing gig; I contracted with a company to provide them with five blog posts a day, six days a week. Can you imagine coming up with thirty ideas a week? Determined not to fall behind, I have been writing from early morning sometimes until nine at night. They don’t pay me enough to compensate for the mental fatigue, the physical exhaustion, the time it takes away from anything else I need to do; I agreed to it anyway, however, because we desperately need the money and it’s the only solid offer I received. I already wrote about my humiliating, demeaning job search. For now I am content, but I have to forsake much else.
The other reason I haven’t written this until now is the fact that I couldn’t really put my finger on what exactly I wanted to say. Usually when I sit down to write an essay I have the theme, the core of it firmly in my mind, though I may not have all of the details or organization. This time, it has been more of a nagging uncertainty, an impression – almost like spots on the eye that disappear if you try to look directly at them.
So last night one of my sons and I were watching a movie on Netflix direct viewing. For those who need all the details, it was “Enter the Dragon”, one of Bruce Lee’s last flicks. As we relaxed I was sipping tequila. One of the things I appreciate in the US, I might add, is the ready availability of affordable tequila, though I only allow myself a glass or two on the weekends. Anyway, the movie being over, my son off to bed, and I sat down at my computer. I was not drunk by any means, or even excessively buzzed, but had a pleasant feeling of release, of flow, of lack of inhibition. I opened my mind and began to type whatever would come to me of what I wanted to say about my misgivings and apprehensions about the United States after being here for about four and a half months. This is what I wrote:
How do I start this? What do I say? I don’t even understand it myself. If I said I did I would be a liar, just as I sense lies around every corner. But no. It is more subtle than that.
I started off with high expectations, and even grandiose pronouncements. I said in print that America had changed, that I was walking into a new land from that which I had left thirty-five years or so ago. But things have happened which make me give pause. Nothing I can put my finger on, mind you. Subtle things. Hints, suggestions. The United States I knew back then, the violent, corrupt, crazed entity that I sought to escape, still exists. It has only taken on another form. It is not more subtle, only different. It still leers out of the corners, out of the shadows. It still pretends to be comprehensible, while at the same time it is of hopeless complexity. It pretends to be the best when it is in some ways the worst.
In short, it is… There we go again. It defies explanation, but it befuddles the brain, it fogs the mind, it perverts the spirit, it defies any attempt to simplify it or explain it or put it in a box. What is it? I only know that if I could attain to the highlands again, if I could get outside the country and look down into the smoggy mess I would once more have clarity of focus, of perspective, of vision. I might even be able to prognosticate, although I wouldn’t count on it. I might be able to say all that I am beating around the bush about. Something here defies analysis, that’s for sure. And despite all the conspirators that I am sure lurk out there in the wings, nobody really has got to the crux of the situation.
That’s the problem, see? Everything is askew, but nobody knows that it is. Everyone thinks that all is just fine, thank you, and will continue so indefinitely. Sure, there might be the odd financial crisis or international incident. No matter. Things will get back on course, set themselves right. Things are never off course, as a matter of fact. All proceeds as it should. Everything is under control. At least, as much as it can be in control as perceived through the reflection of a funhouse mirror.
Yes, disillusionment has set in. Ennui has set in. It hasn’t yet got to the point of despair, but not because I think that redemption is imminent. I will never despair, no matter in what far corner I might find myself.
It reminds me of dreams I have had in the past, in which I find myself in the place I would least want to be in the entire universe or cosmos. I realize I am there, and fight to get out, but in the end I wake up and rejoice that I was never really there in the first place. So it is with the United States of America. I am really here. I will not wake up as if in a bad dream. But what I will wake up from is the illusion that it is hell, or heaven. It is, in fact, just a place on Earth like any other place. A point of geography with distinct and marked and measured borders. The borders are arbitrary, of course. The land will live on long after the borders are gone. Consider the Mesozoic Era. Borders? None.
I feel I must explain myself, what I mean by all this, but no, I can’t.
What I need to explain is my position in the flux of things. Nothing is stationary, nothing is static. Nothing remains the same. But at this point of time I find myself in the United States, bursting with the revelation that it has not improved as I thought it had when I first came here several months ago. If anything it has got worst. It has got more introverted, more self-assured, more pompous, more oblivious to the rest of the world. It lives here in the grand delusion that all is well. Maybe not perfectly well. There are, of course, homeless, and helpless, and heartless – but, let’s face it, there always are – and the American dream is still alive, right?
That’s the crunch. In the face of all evidence, most of the United States still lives under the grand illusion, the grand delusion, that the American dream still exists. But then we dissect it. What exactly is the American dream? It is, basically, prosperity at the expense of others. I have fallen for it too, sad to say. I dream of getting rich quick. I dream of great prosperity. I dream of some sort of idyllic life that can never be, because that life would have to be lived on the backs of others.
Something is askew. Something is badly askew. Everyone and everything is off-balance, dizzy, confused.
I have no idea what will put things right. I don’t know what to do. I just wanted to revise my earlier statement that all is well.
There it is. That’s what I wrote last night in my tequila haze, and I will let it stand. In the coming weeks, months, years, clarification may emerge.