January 24, 2011
The more cut off you are from culture and society, the more likely you are to believe that it is falling down around you. To stop making change and to be afraid. The Unabomber is an extreme case in point. Living for years in Montana without water and electricity, cut off from society, he was not affecting the world in any positive way, he was an island unto himself, he began to make up his own laws. Killing people in various parts of the U.S. began to seem morally right. He was afraid that the U.S was becoming a country with the wrong kind of values so he started killing people.
Gandhi on the other hand, was fully engaged in the struggle for India’s independence in the first half of the twentieth century and did not have time to think about himself all the time, his own needs, his own naval gazing as many Americans do. Gandhi was making change happen.
At the Farm where I grew up, people were terrified of revolution. We were told we were about to have a revolution at any time. You were told you could just read the paper and any time, you could see we were going to have one. So you were supposed to prepare by having a place in Canada. So we had a place in Canada on Vancouver Island and another place that was just for the leadership of the Farm on Bermuda. I never got to go there, but I bet it was cool. The Farm people weren’t changing the country, they weren’t making a difference, they weren’t even helping the town where the cult was, they were hiding.
My friend Blasé Bonpane is my Gandhi. He isn’t hiding. He doesn’t have a place in Canada. Blasé is changing the world, working for peace, Blasé isn’t paranoid about the revolution, he is the revolution.
One of my favorite T. C. Boyle stories is called “On for the Long Haul” and it’s about this couple living in Los Angeles and they meet this guy Arkson who convinces them to sell everything and move to Montana onto 35 acres. They buy everything from him from Arkson Motors, Arkson Munitions, Arkson Supplies, you get it–to supply them to live on the land indefinitely. But they are at heart, Los Angeles urbanites, used to sending their little daughters to ballet, driving Mercedes, going to parties, the husband to power, the wife to tanning and yoga. In Montana, they are lost. And their next door neighbor is Rambo. He knows how to use his gun. He starts shooting their rabbits. He terrorizes their girls and there isn’t a thing Mr. Wussy can do, because in the end, the strong survive in the out of doors. In the end, fear has a smell.
Where am I going with all of this? When people tell me that they heard something on the news and they’re scared for America, I think yeah I’m scared for America too, one of the things I really like is being able to criticize this country. But, I’m not moving anywhere else just yet. I think that America still has a lot to be proud of. I am doing something for this country. We have a writing in the schools program. We publish books. We give grants. Running a press isn’t easy, so I am not sitting around on the sidelines, collecting paychecks, watching the news and criticizing things.
That’s like criticizing America’s teenagers when you don’t have any children. There are some people I know who like to criticize how people raise their children, but don’t still have their kids. Unless you actively kept raising your children all the way through college and that includes having them keep come visit your for holidays (I’m not going to say paying for college, you might not be able to afford it, that’s cool.) but they were still part of your life and you still see them at least once a year, then shut it. This is just my opinion, I got ditched by my family, so I love my kids.
Same thing with the U.S., stop it already on getting all paranoid on the U.S. Unless you are actively involved in solving America’s problems, zip it. All right, we have freedom of speech, go to a bar, yam it up, but don’t expect me to listen. And seriously, hear me now, some Americans are simply paranoid, because they are way too much on the fringe.
The more involved you are, the less it feels like America is a goner. I think it’s better to be involved than to be paranoid. But then I guess I can’t afford the medication that I would need to do paranoid right.