[Marxism] Gore Vidal, Prophet and Rebel

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Wed Dec 13 11:38:58 MST 2006

(Spanish original follows translation.)

Gore Vidal, Prophet and Rebel

Lisandro Otero - Prensa Latina

ORIGINAL http://www.lajiribilla.co.cu/noticias/n0075.html

A CubaNews Translation by Sue Ashdown

The United States was perhaps the only nation to emerge victorious
from World War I. It entered late and its material costs were far
below those of its allies. It emerged however, as an influential
power on the world stage.

A victorious Wilson took over from the isolationists Harding and
Coolidge, who had assumed the new leadership almost as an
embarrassing and undesirable commitment. Hoover's Republican
government brought the country to the breaking point with its
laissez-faire policies.

Speculators enriched themselves on Wall Street with a spectacular
rise in stock market values. In 1929 the bubble burst. The economic
depression and unemployment cast a shadow over North American life
until Franklin Delano Roosevelt launched the New Deal.

This period produced a generation of intellectuals conscious enough
to ask what kind of country they were living in, and so U.S.
literature has not lacked for writers committed to social criticism
and political analysis.

Edmund Wilson, Susan Sontag, Lionel Trilling, Joan Didion, Arthur
Miller, James Baldwin, Norman Mailer and Liilian Hellman have been
among the most prominent. But perhaps the one who has practiced it
most has been Gore Vidal.

For many years he lived in the Neapolitan coast of Amalfi, in a
beautiful cliffside villa named "La Rondinaia," Swallow's Nest, where
he accumulated page after written page, consolidating his position as
one of the most prestigious intellectuals in his country as well as
the world.

Gore came from a high-society family. His grandfather had been a
Senator, and in her second marriage, his mother married a rich lawyer
and landowner, Hugh D. Auchincloss, who was also Jacqueline Bouvier's
stepfather, which made them step-siblings.

When Jacqueline married John F. Kennedy, who came to be the country's
president, Vidal was a frequent dinner guest at the White House.

His first novel, "Williwaw" (1946) was based on his experiences in
the Second World War, but in the third person. "The City and the
Pillar" (1948) dealt with the taboo subject of homosexuality, in an
era when it was difficult to discuss and the public didn't tolerate
open airing of such thorny subjects.

The rejection provoked by this work forced him to write television
scripts for some time, at which he was quite successful.

Undoubtedly, his historical novels about the evolution of the United
States were what solidified his position: "Washington D.C." (1967);
"Burr" (1974); "1876" (1976) and "Lincoln" (1984) allowed him to
offer his readers a vision of the ins and outs of government of
recent years through independent epic literature.

In those pages there were affirmations such as: "For the average
North American, freedom of expression is simply the freedom to repeat
whatever everyone is going around saying, and that's all."

And, "It's always seemed strange to me that a nation whose prosperity
is based on the cheap labor of immigrants practices such relentless
xenophobia." And more, "There isn't a single mainstream publication
in the entire United States that merits the attention of an
intelligent man."

Gore Vidal wrote several books of essays in which he developed the
thesis that the United States owed its prosperity to the Second World
War, which followed twelve years of recession, after which the arms
industry magnates came to govern the United States - multiplying
their riches through the conflict and deciding that the best way to
maintain their interests was to keep the country functioning as the
world's policeman and whose finances should be written into a
permanent war economy.

John Foster Dulles figured that in a perpetual arms race, the
Russians would bankrupt themselves first. Albert Einstein had already
taken notice, as early as 1950, that the class leading the United
States had no interest in ending the Cold War.

Vidal attributed to Theodore Roosevelt the original thuggish plans to
take over Cuba, the Philippines and Puerto Rico, following Alfred
Thayer Manhan's theories - taken from British history - which
postulate that a country can only be a great power if it has a great
military fleet and acquires overseas possessions.

Gore recalled that at that moment, Mark Twain proposed that a new
banner be substituted for the flag with stars and stripes - that of a
skull and crossbones.

Vidal is one of the United States' most lucid thinkers and his
strategic vision of his country as a shipwreck has granted him a
reputation for fairness and immense influence in the minds of his
fellow citizens.


Lisandro Otero is a writer and journalist, and the Director of the
Cuban Academy of Language.

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