I returned to America from Korea after almost four years’ absence, in mid-March. Taking a whirl-wind tour from Los Angeles, to Portland (Or.), to Nashville and Knoxville, then on to Tampa, Chicago, Kansas City, and then to Minneapolis, Northfield, St. Cloud and Mankato, Minn., and finally down to Lincoln, Ne. and Stanberry, Mo. where I shot a film for my friend, Blake Eckard. I acted in it as well. The journey was prompted by a wish to get a quick over-all sense of the state of the Union, which I’d tracked somewhat obsessively from my distant perch in Seoul. From that remove I’d read the statistics on unemployment, the grim news of the economy. From the glancing view I got on this trip, it was frankly difficult to perceive this, but then I was traveling for the most part in the economic cocoon of academia, a firmly middle-class realm in which $4 for a cup of coffee is taken without a comment. It was only on an Amtrak ride from LA to Portland, and a few bus rides I took – Nashville to Knoxville, and Mankato to Lincoln – where I was afforded a glimpse of the other America. The fiscal chasm which divides America is deep, and seems carefully constructed to hide from both sides the reality which unites them. I found myself wondering how many of those people who filled the restaurants and cafes and bars I was taken to as a guest – often places which on my own I’d never entertain – were living on credit.
It’s an election year, and the divisiveness of the last years is being amplified in our four-year cycle of political combat. In the last few years the Supreme Court has issued rulings which effectually make our supposed democracy a system formally for sale to the highest bidder. Asserting that corporations are de facto “persons” and that money is speech, the Court has openly condoned what is now legalized corruption, evident in the avalanche of super PACs flushing millions of dollars into the political process, whether for advertising blitzes or into the pockets of “lobbyists” who in turn slip it into the pockets of our revolving door politicians. As in the classic American axiom “Money Talks and Bullshit Walks” the massive flow of funds from Wall Street through the halls of Congress is now transparent, and in the form of ALEC has shown up in every State House as well, ready to bend the “law” to favor still more the interests of “business.” America is busy fracking itself to pieces, all in the name of patriotism, profits, and the God Almighty Buck. American as Apple Pie.
On my arrival back in Los Angeles, as I left the plane, an airline stewardess asked me if I was glad to be back. I answered her, “I don’t know yet.” It remains my view.