When I was in my early teens, my dad gave me a copy of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged and told me: “This is just a novel, but it is also the most effective piece of writing against nepotism I have ever read, and that alone makes it a classic”.
I read it –I confess I enjoyed it- and shortly thereafter I was reading other “classics” such as Servan-Schreiber’s “Le Defi Americain” and even Hayek’s Road to Serfdom, in a sequence that took me away from my father’s “anti-nepotism” stance and into the chasm of American “ideology” and what passes for ideological warfare among us today.
Who was Ayn Rand? How could a novelist come to define that American ideological chasm?
Ayn Rand was a Russian born and raised lady novelist, playwright and screenwriter who, in her early twenties, moved to the US. Once there, she realized there was a “yuge” philosophical vacuum among her now fellow Americans, so she “became a philosopher” (inspired by her own novels and characters). She was an atheist, a pro-choice feminist, stood against the Vietnam War even before Jane Fonda did, and everything indicates she did not suffer fools gladly (a problem for the likes of our genial and stable POTUS and his own screenwriter, Sloppy Steve).
It is not my intention to make fun of her –I admire her guts- but of the situation whereby her philosophical musings, when interpreted (mis-interpreted?) and condensed by ultra-individualistic dunces and/or wise guys, were turned into a joke immortalized by another genial POTUS (I am not going to argue with the present one over who was the more stable):
“I am from the government and I am here to help”.
This joke is still used by my neoliberal and conservative friends (one and the same “thing”) to discredit the concept of public good that made America what it was before it was “necessary” to make her “great again”. These feeble minded and very scared (and scary) friends of mine just don’t understand that there is no weakness in acknowledging that we still are what we were.
At a time when America’s defiant posture in the world is defined by an ignorant man-child in the White House who tells his emissary to the United Nations to advise those who oppose him in the General Assembly that “she is taking down names”, those readings from the past, including Hayek’s oeuvre, look more and more like “just a novel”, as my father, almost as unenthusiastic with fiction as he was with nepotism, would certainly describe today’s state of affairs. I call it a fairy tale.
2017 –good riddance- was The Year of the American Fairy Tale. We have become Disney’s version of a reality TV show, with characters that defy even uncle Walt’s “yuge” imagination and knack for fantasy; characters that eventually, I am certain, we will see strolling the streets of the Magic Kingdom.
How about a picture with and an autograph from the Ayn Rand character, parading with Chip & Dale at the entrance to our wondrous national park? Or maybe a hug from her disciple, the Speaker Ryan character –Disney characters seldom speak (thankfully) so you will have to do with just a hug.
Belief, which is not to say faith, is the centerpiece of the American fairy tale we are all living through. Belief in the promises of a semiliterate egocentric and his aiders and abettors, a bunch so disparate that you will hardly ever see them together other than when they periodically gather at the kindergarten (formerly known as the Rose Garden) to celebrate a transient victory over their own legislative incompetence, or even their own legislative impotence more often than not. A bunch that has confused public policy with the goals of the organization known as The Promise Keepers (a good idea with some unfortunate “macho men” -though not necessarily misogynistic- side effects), even if some among the leaders of the bunch fall way short from the organization’s role model.
Who knows, a few years down the road we may even come up with a “Trickle Down Pavilion” in EPCOT –where most Americans get a feel of the rest of the world for the first time-, and we can all experience the effects of the promises that served as the sales pitch for the recent “Tax Reform”. So what me worry? Who needs to see those promises fulfilled?
In that same vein, I can hardly wait for the Roy Moore character to show up at the Magic Kingdom, although maybe not even the Disney crew can work its magic with the judge’s character flaws: I hear he was recently refused a job playing Santa Claus in a shopping mall. We may even get to see a Sheriff Joe Arpaio character, prone to refuse his autograph to any funny looking kid –meaning not blond and blue eyed- unless the kid and his parents first show him their papers.
However, I do worry about how 2018 may turn out.
I do not foresee any move away from fiction, or from the jingoism that informs our tremendous president’s few (very few) ideas. What will happen when those whose names were taken down by the US “ambassadress” to the United Nations realize that our threats are as empty as the promises this bunch makes to its own people? And when the Chinese start calling our “Korean game plan” an “American fire drill”, and openly refuse to put any more pressure on their North Korean neighbor? And when the Russians begin fast-pacing their balalaikas realizing their American partners are just “fake Cossacks” who cannot keep up with the dance?
Maybe then the promoters of our American fiction model will move to a different genre, from the fairy tale to the horror story, from Disney to Edgar Allan Poe.
Here’s hoping I’m wrong and we stick to the present version of the reality show, with the leader of the bunch (I will call him Bunchy from now on, because he resembles the dim-witted younger brother of Ray Donovan a lot) riding high for three more years –or at least not much lower than he’s been riding so far.
“We’ll see what happens…” as Bunchy loves to say.