Sun, 20 Feb 2005

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I can't remember the first time I ran into Hunter S. Thompson's work, but it was relatively recent, and it all started with "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas." I think it might have been in the awful aftermath of the 2000 election which destroyed the American Republic. On first glance, the movie is incomprehensible, almost literally so. The lines are half-muttered, the characters addled on drugs, and insanity is the only logic to the course of events. Which, if you think about it, is really what the world is like. And in time I realized what "Fear and Loathing" was: a requiem for the American Dream. Not just the end of the freedom of the '60's, but a generalized regression. The loss of potentiality. The Republic finally failing against the forces of history and entropy, and decaying into Empire.

But HST led me down a path of self-discovery. If I had read The Rum Diary before I ended up going to med school, I might have just said "Fuck it" and pursued my dream of becoming a writer, locked in a rat hole of an apartment, staring at my keyboard, smoking a cigarette. Trying to make the words come together and to tell a story. (I dream hazily of that time in college, amidst what I now understand to be a prolonged major depressive episode. The few bits of happiness I remember were when I was working on a campus-based literary magazine, creativity locked up against the four walls of time and other obligations. The cigarette smoking, the booze, the weed, the camraderie, the trauma and the pain of lives intertwined, however briefly. As usual, I wax over-romantic. But, seriously, those were good times.)

HST was my John the Baptist, a voice of the generation past, crying out in the wilderness. In these bleak times, I wonder if there might still be hope for a Messiah to wrest us free from the shackles of Empire, but, despite what you read, HST was always about hope. How in a dark, filthy bathroom amidst the vomit and the shit, there was still some glimmer of humanity. Despite the dessicated structure and form of our now-imperial society, run by the suits, the point-haired bosses and other idiots with no souls, there are sparks of authenticity. Real people. People who yearn for more than that 3 bedroom house in the suburbs with the 2 car garage and the 2.5 children and keeping up with the Joneses and all the other acts of idiocy represented by a wasteful capitalistic machine society. People who truly desire freedom, who are channels of inspiration, who actually do make a difference without having to say so. Truly actors on the stage, not just the background scenery that most of us are.

In his writing, and in his friendship with Oscar Zeta Acosta, I found my way to the histories of the city of my birth that they tend to omit from the history books, the City of Angels, an occupied city, the indigenous designated as non-persons, and the invaders trying to rule the masses despite being the minority. In those seething '70's, the struggles of the Chicanos, as pervasive and soul-wrenching as the struggles of the Blacks in the '60's. The murder of Ruben Salazar. As I cruised down streets with names like Santa Monica and La Cienega, Figueroa and Sepulveda, and even older names like Cahuenga and Tujunga, it all made sense. The ebb and flow of Empires and Republics, of freedom and totalitarianism. Of conquest and of being colonized. It contextualized for me what was probably the most traumatic event of my adolescence, the L.A. Riots. It made me realize that this wasn't some one-off event, that this was part of the on-going struggle of freedom versus oppression.

It was HST who introduced me to the abomination that was Richard Nixon, the man who sought to rule the world, who perverted the laws of the land to achieve his goals. A harbinger of the things to come, I suppose. Although the neocons make Nixon look like a saint.

But there is just too much bile and ichor. Too many tears shed, too much blood shed, and in too many ways, it's like we haven't learned a god damned thing, determined to drive off that imperial cliff just like the British and the Romans before us.

A part of me is reluctant to believe that this was just suicide, or the result of some tragically bizarre accident.

One only needs think of Gary Webb to wonder about things to come and of things that might be. (And to juxtapose these real journalists with scum like Jeff Gannon. Fuck.)

But, whereever you are Dr. Thompson, know that there are still people fighting the good fight, mostly because we don't have any choice. Like the doomed Anglo-Saxons at the Battle of Maldon, we will fight to the death rather than live in a world run by treacherous thugs and men of no honor, people who want to bring a deadening homogeneity to the world. Not because of some hopeless deathwish, but because it'll be the only way to make sure that life is still one hell of a ride.

23:06:09 20 Feb 2005 > /soul > permalink > 0 comments

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