“And that, I think, was the handle—that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of Old and Evil. Not in any mean or military sense; we didn’t need that. Our energy would simply prevail. There was no point in fighting—on our side or theirs. We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave. . . .
So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark—that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.” – Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas
Following up on your citizenship trip last week, I wanted to add a little bit to that idea. Citizenship in terms of ‘belonging’ to a nation, is a struggle for me: Born in Guernsey which already has a strange are they or aren’t they part of Britain thing going on. And even my Guernsey passport was a pain to get after moving back, despite being Guernsey born and inbred all the way up one branch of my family tree.
Then there is the other branch – Anglo-Scotch mongrel, thanks for asking – and being raised on three continents, and sent to boarding school in a fourth. It all adds up to a sense that belonging to a specific place is not something that has ever really felt worth fussing over.
Not that I am unsympathetic to the patriotic satisfaction of being from the nation of Shakespeare, Churchill, and Cliff Richard. I do feel a certain amount of pride, for example, in knowing that the tube reopened the morning after 7/7. Just British people getting on with being British – the old Blitz spirit and all that.
But very little that has happened in the last year has done much to make me proud of my connections with a nation wetting itself with fear of ‘Islamism’. Our local MP voted not to save the lives of children who are sleeping rough in a French November chill, prey to sadistic police-officers who have proved capable of cheerfully breaking a kids fingers if they look a bit foreign. Our government – we, because that is how democracy works – refused to save these children lest they turn out to be spies of ISIS.
I’m also unimpressed by a nation who have so completely given up on the sense of nobility that we like to think is inherently ours: that sense of playing fair, and doing our best. Instead the Brexit campaign has licensed liars every bit as much as it did racists. They pushed the bounds of what could be considered truth and no one pushed back. So that is now our norm.
Watching #StopFundingHate trending after those Mail and Sun headlines last week had me thinking of the ‘Mad as Hell’ scene from Network (1976). Rousing and inspiring, but in the end. It changed nothing. Retitle that movie The Social Network and the film switches from satire to allegory.
Remember back when you hated George Bush, Tony Blair, David Cameron? How naive do you feel now with a government hanging over you run by Theresa May, Liam Fox, Jeremy Hunt, and Boris Johnson. An unelected crew, at the head of a party voted into power in the least democratic election in UK history. People who already have already massively increased homelessness, made disabilities harder to live with, and set out openly to make the NHS less safe.
I do not feel proud of Britain. Not anymore. I escaped my claustrophobic Island home just in time to see the UK turn into the same sort of plague ship Island of small-mindedness. Insular in every sense. I am sick of feeling like apologising to the world for the 52%.
Which is lucky – because the US election has made me want to apologise for the whole damn species. The idea of being a citizen of nowhere actually sounds pretty appealing when you look at what is going on everywhere.
Trump won. That happened. It’s like all the clocks rolled back fifty years. But I am sick of him, and of the election, and of people. So forget polititian, let’s talk about writers:
I wish Hunter Thompson had lived to see Trump run. …On The Campaign Trail ’72 is alright, but I would have loved to read his take on the shit show this time around.
Without Nixon, Thompson seemed to go into hibernation mode. Even the idiocy of Bush was too little too late to stop him from that fatal self-medication with a copper-jacketed .357 cartridge. Thompson ran on hate, every bit as much as the Mail or the Sun. But he always hated upwards, his loathing was pitched at those in power, the corrupt and the hypocritical. Never at the vulnerable or marginalised. Because bullies like Donald Trump, like Theresa May, like Jonathan Rothermere always kick downwards.
Or – more likely – they get other people to do the kicking for them.
In 1970 Thompson ran for Sheriff in the affluent and conservative Aspen. He almost won, just by drawing about him all those people who never normally voted. He called it the ‘freak power ticket’.
He was a real political geek but engaged. There was action behind his ranting. He wasn’t just mad as hell, he genuinely wasn’t going to take it.
At the end of his obituary for Nixon, Thompson writes:
“Nixon’s spirit will be with us for the rest of our lives — whether you’re me or Bill Clinton or you or Kurt Cobain or Bishop Tutu or Keith Richards or Amy Fisher or Boris Yeltsin’s daughter or your fiancee’s 16-year-old beer-drunk brother with his braided goatee and his whole life like a thundercloud out in front of him. This is not a generational thing. You don’t even have to know who Richard Nixon was to be a victim of his ugly, Nazi spirit.
He has poisoned our water forever. […]By disgracing and degrading the Presidency of the United States, by fleeing the White House like a diseased cur, Richard Nixon broke the heart of the American Dream.”
This year, kind of feels like an epilogue to Thompson’s life, that final shot when the villain’s eye snaps open and the soundtrack spikes. Trump is definitely not the calculating psychopath that Nixon was. He’s a shallow narcissist, a villain for our times. Just as Nixon was for the Vietnam-era. I’ve never looked forward to a political assassination more.
But even if Hillary had won it would have been a small victory, at this point it feels like a single finger in the dyke. It’s only a matter of time before the raw untreated sewage bursts through and swallows us all up.
So if Mrs. May is still offering, I’d quite like my passport to Nowhere, please.
P.S. I look forward to reading your letter next week on the more cheery subject of FGM.