America The Violent, Home of the Mad
I’ve slowly come to the realization that maybe Richard Slotkin in his trilogy on the violent and atavistic mythologies of American empire and aggression in his notion of “regeneration through violence” have not only resurfaced with a vengeance but seem about to topple the very notion of democracy itself. As I go back through the haunted dreams of violence of my southern gothic forbears: James Fennimore Cooper, Edgar Poe, Mark Twain, William Faulkner, Flannery O’Conner, Carson McCullers, Harry Crews, Walker Percy, Eudora Welty, Truman Capote, Tennessee Williams, James Dickey, William Gay, Wiley Cash, Larry Brown, Joe R. Lansdale, Cormac Mccarthy… and so many others who have dipped into the dark places of the American psyche and landscape mythologies of violence and horror, secular and religious ecstasy and murderous nostalgia, lust, murder, mayhem, racial tensions, homophobia, cannibalism, war, ghosts…. madness… one wonders how we lasted this long. It’s as if this election is bringing it all to the surface, putting it on display for all the world to see: the good, the bad, and the ugly (no pun intended). And, this is not even a spaghetti western, no Clint Eastwood to violently walk off into the sunset, no John Wayne to ride off with the heroine, no Steve McQueen to hop the motorcycle to freedom, no vigilante Charles Bronson to tame the streets of thuggish cops or back alley slimecrawlers… nothing but nothing is our game: a zero sum game into that dark abyss of Chaos and Old Night… who knows what comes next? One wants to say in parody of Yeats: “What beast comes slithering toward Babylon like some nightmare from the Night of the Living Dead?”
The Southern gothics were the inheritors of Melville and Hawthorne rather than Emerson’s Transcendental Sublime: these are those who would see in the world of appearances as neither a hollow world of ‘Good’ beyond, or some darkened version of this one transubstantiated; rather they followed the very force of evil itself, that energetic power of the indifferent and impersonal universe full of great openness and surprise, and unexpected violence and catastrophic happenings: – a counter-sublime at once nihil and full of those black sounds (Lorca) that light up the fires of the Great Abyss. A natural order at once inscrutable and hostile to human motives and purposes, an alien realm of fierce intent, almost alive with ‘diabolical’ charm and fascination; a realm full of deceit in which humanity is neither master nor controller of its own blind destiny; bound by rules, limitations, and ignorance, denizens of a zone of pure error and delusion, a delirious world of human degradation and ruinous waste built on the tokens of subterfuge and imbecilic mindlessness: out of the very stuff of a mucky swamp world where they could hide from themselves the terrible truth of their own ignominy. No longer bound to the mythologies of God and the ancient religions, the New World mythologies were an amalgam of puritanical screeds shaped by the hands of madmen and fearful squanderers of European imagination. Killers, plunderers, terrorists, anarchists, and solitaires; more akin to sorcerers and vagrant hawkers of lies and cons these creatures obliterated the wilderness of its native inhabitants, opened up a world of hate built on the enslavement of people of color, fought each other tooth and nail, and delivered to their descendants a dissident message of unresolved and conflicting memories, desires, and inescapable sins.
Somewhere between Peter Pan and Huckleberry Finn America lost its nostalgia for innocence – for it never was innocent, except maybe for those Aboriginal children who haunt the American landscapes (who now live in the ruins of the present on reservation lands, and seek reparation against our violent ancestors dark deeds). We once had a dream of America, a hoped for City on the Hill, etc…. cloudy fabrications out of homespun dreams and wishful thinking, but now we know these to have been a desperate bargain, a lie against a past that never was, a nostalgic prayer to a world of marginal possibility now gone forever; no, we lost our soul long ago – our hylic bodies, the corporeal flesh of pain and decaying desire lashing this way and that against the coming night of oblivion: it’s a dead history now, one that keeps repeating an endless parody of itself, a farce of one tune: a song of death and violence, endless expansion, exceptionalism, and the lyrical blindness of “redemption through violence;” a painful reminder that we have long been sundered from the charm of our mythic fabrications and the only thing left is the dark abyss of violence, decay, and ruin ahead of us, a world from which we’ve all inherited a self-lacerating loathing for ourselves and the earth upon which we live, breath, and have our sustenance: an earth that in the end we cannot escape nor heal with our broken lives, only suffer from its exacting revenge upon our terrible hubris, our pride in thinking we were the end-all be-all of some cosmic progenitor, some mythical Man-God or Demiurge. No, we’re nothing but the sperm-flecked flagellum floating on the blankness of the ocean of Being; mere flotsam and jetsam in the backwash of galactic time-vectors spiraling out of control and into the black abyss of endless night… stubborn and restless thoughts in a collapsing universe of dead artifacts and infinite dreams of dust…
Walt Whitman sang America into industrial age of empire and manifest destiny, now we must bury this world under the excess of its own illusory lust for gold and power, write the counter-sublimes of the future out of the merciless and eccentric dissent against such capitalist hijinks; and sound the darkest tones of ancient nightmares and vessels of a destruction, and maximalist Menippean derision of the last eclipse of globalist dreams of tyranny and austere enslavement. Ours is the age of emancipation from the reality matrix of the deceivers: media-Moghuls, politicians, and the .01% Club of Oligarchs and Plutocrats that live like vampires off 99% of the world’s peoples. This is the age of the levelers, the equalizers, the uplifters of the excluded, oppressed, and poor of the earth, the bringers of fire and life. This is the age not of escape and exit, but of collaboration and emancipation of all with and for all in building a civilization worth living in in cooperation with the planet and its children. This is the age of purifying the earth of the lies of a corrupt and degrading system of economic slavery that has divided, conquered, and enslaved the earth and her inhabitants for far too long in a realm of delusion and delirium of profit without humanity. This is no longer about a world for-us, no longer a humano-centric world of greed and power, master and slave – it is now the world of coexistence and relations between all non-human beings of the earth and reparations for the harm we’ve done in our Faustian bargain of mastery against the natural order of the indifferent cosmos. The universe owes us nothing, we owe the universe everything. Once again it’s time for a potlatch dream of excess and sacrifice… of those who have enslaved this earth in a false dream of profit.