On the Ironic Prescience of Gore Vidal’s Narratives of Empire

Gore Vidal

Gore Vidal, … again.

Prescient, perhaps omniscient, at least as seen from our side of the veil.  I´m rereading the fifth volume of his Narratives of Empire historical novels, works of art but predicated on a much more realistic reading of American and world history than that which almost all of us have been taught.  All of the volumes in this series seem to share a strange affinity with both history and current affairs.  Kind of like the Christian Bible does (at least, according to its more fanatical adherents, and there are a lot of them), or perhaps, Nostradamus, but Vidal’s novels are a much easier read and much easier to understand, as if they were filled with living echoes of reality seeking to escape from the deep, dark dungeons into which it has been cast by politicized pseudo-historians (at best).

The title in this particular case seems misleading, Hollywood, but it deals with how we were manipulated into the “War to End All War” during the strangely aberrant Wilson presidency (think Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria, Iran, Venezuela, China, Russia, etc., etc., etc.) and, at the same time, deals with the Spanish Flu as we face the Covid 19 (formerly coronavirus) pandemic, and even deals with America’s perpetual original sin, racism, as we face the apparently orchestrated and politicized response to apparently racist police criminality, in a traditionally racist and xenophobic society.

It’s as if Vidal wrote these “novels” just for me.  Okay, more realistically, for people like me, people who despair, not of how stupid most of us are but at how stupidly we act and how even more stupidly we react.  It’s as if he knew I’d be rereading Hollywood now (Vidal’s works seem meant to be read, reread and reread again).  How would he know that or why would he care you might ask (indeed, unless you are hopelessly gullible, should ask)?  No answer.  Still, it seems as though, somewhere, he just subtly smiles, perhaps the way he did when he and Bill Buckley had-at-it from a distance and Vidal knew that in the long term, he’d win, that, as Sigmund Freud once posited “there was someone in darker times who thought the same as you”.  Hmm, … I wonder if, … in the great beyond, … after a satisfying “fight” with Bill Buckley, Gore Vidal has run into Sigmund.

Anyway, ….

All the causes so many are marching in favor of (as well as against) today (or rioting or looting or burning which somehow is expected to resolve issues involving violence and sexism and racism and inequality, etc.) are clear, at least the ones dealing with equity and justice, as are the many options for resolving them and for reconciling our differences as we strive to become those we’d like to see smiling at ourselves from the reflections in our mirrors, but instead, we are Hell bent on ridiculing and humiliating those we ought to be trying to convince and thus, we are instead assuring that victories, if any, will only be Pyrrhic and short lived and illusory, and that the underlying issues and problems and injustices will remain smoldering until distractions (like another existential election in four years with greater and lesser evils striving against each other) permit them to reignite in all their fury.  And that those who manipulate us, not like pieces on a chess board but more like checkers on a checkerboard, will continue to accumulate more and more wealth, more wealth than they and their descendants can ever use, and to pay for it through more lives broken, destroyed and wasted than we could ever afford.  And that all too many of our brightest, if not our best, will continue to play their sycophantic roles in order to keep us entertained while, lemming-like, we roar off shouting and screaming and cursing at each other, to our predetermined dooms.

The saying that “one must learn from history in order not to repeat it” was a cunning fellow, crafty, sly, sneaky, perhaps, through sleight of hand, making fortunes with the old pea in a shell game.  For some reason a picture Sméagol, aka Gollum, in his deep, dank, dark cavern muttering about his precious while eating blind, raw fish with his fingers.  The truth is that, in order to learn anything meaningful from history, one must first have access to real history, not to the collection of self-serving, delusive propaganda we are all “nurtured” on, and that is not really available except, ironically enough, in historical novels like those written by Mr. Vidal and a few others; certainly not from purported journalists in the mold of Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst, or their precursors, founding-father-muckrakers like Thomas Jefferson and James Madison and the now popular via Broadway, Alexander Hamilton.  As they say in the computer business, “garbage in garbage out” and it’s garbage we have.  Lots and lots of garbage, a seemingly endless supply, both physically and metaphorically

Black lives matter.  They always have.  Students’ lives matter.  They always have.  Children’s lives matter.  They always have.  Elderly lives matter.  They always have.  The lives of the poor and downtrodden matter.  They always have.  Immigrants’ lives matter.  They always have.  All lives matter, they always have (although, apparently, today, saying the latter is anathema).  But today, as always, they only matter as chips in a perpetual game of fools’ poker with purported leaders selling out their causes to clever, well-funded political operatives too quickly for the human eye to follow.  The old shell game, again and again and again and again.

Fool me once, well Hell, if it works, do it again and again and again and again.  But then again, .…

From beyond the veil, ….

Gore Vidal seems to be casting us a very long life rope.

© Guillermo Calvo Mahé; Manizales, 2020; all rights reserved.  Please feel free to share with appropriate attribution.

Guillermo Calvo Mahé (a sometime poet) is a writer, political commentator and academic currently residing in the Republic of Colombia (although he has primarily lived in the United States of America of which he is also a citizen).  Until 2017 he chaired the political science, government and international relations programs at the Universidad Autónoma de Manizales.  He has academic degrees in political science (the Citadel), law (St. John’s University), international legal studies (New York University) and translation and linguistic studies (the University of Florida’s Center for Latin American Studies).  He can be contacted at guillermo.calvo.mahe@gmail.com and much of his writing is available through his blog at http://www.guillermocalvo.com.

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