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Wrapping up five months in USA, mostly on road zig-zagging from West to East. Friends seen, new friends made; landscapes, cities. Overall a dispiriting time as the winter clouds were not only meteorological but of the spirit. The Trump era has cast its spell, though in my view it only revealed in crude form what was already there: a nation in disarray – self-deluded, half-naked, half-masked in complacency. From the spindly Manhattan billionaire condo spires to the pop-tent homeless encampments, the schizophrenia of America lay like splattered road-kill on the national psyche. The dull drone of corporate big box mall stores floated by like a nightmare of consumer constipation, an endless loop of faux Italianate facades and blocky corporate logo design, regurgitated from coast to coast. Along the arteries of commerce the toxic sprawl of automobile life – Quick Lube, Ford, Toyota, Chevrolet, Auto Zone, Nissan, GM, Firestone, and a thousand other vehicular notices, from lawyer “accident” billboards, to the myriad gas stations peddling our most addictive juice and toxic habit. And there I was running up my mileage, adding to the lethal load of CO2, oil extraction, global warming death-warrant.

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I’d meant to carry on shooting for PLAIN SONGS but shot almost nothing while pondering why the hell? I’d started way back in 2012, and have taken now I think it is three or four stabs at this, but the same thing happened before. For more on that you can see the blog I did for it:

American Plain Songs

As I prepare to leave, the question remains. There seems no breathing space for speaking softly or for thought in this America.  As if we’d run up against a dead end, and in my case, personally, it feels that I have.  As in the old Dylan song, “You go your way and I’ll go mine.”

DSC06136Jim Benning makes a 22 star flag for Alabama DSC06871Native American cemetery outside Espanola NM

I can’t say it was a sudden revelation – frankly I’d seen it coming for decades, this internal fracturing of the national psyche. It was, after all, the subject of most of my film work – essays or documentary or fiction. Once it held a fascination, an interest, and perhaps I had a little hubristic thought that by making works which reflected the State of the Nation, it might have some tiny little positive effect. I long ago gave up on that delusion. So now as this culture I hesitantly call “home” seems to drift to dissolution, and doubtless through many ugly stumbles in so doing, I think it wisest to let it go and turn my attentions elsewhere. Frankly I sincerely feel America will collapse in the next decade or two, splintering much as the USSR did. And this, given our real history, will not be a bad thing at all, for us, or for the world. We have told ourselves lies far too long.

On that note, I’ll go to the airport in a bit, and try to set all these thoughts about America aside and move along to other things.

 

DSC07005smDavid Nelson’s, Shreveport La.DSC06518End of the trail: Tom Mix “monument” outside Tucson AZ

3 Comments

  1. You are correct in your death-knell for a country that has always been too big, too disparate, too uneducated, and far too opportunistic. Just because parts of the country look well does not mean it IS well: the troughs of Trumpism spill over more and more slop, and our repugnant government does nothing to compensate for the mess. Donald Trump IS the United States: stupid, bigoted, and fucking self-satisfied to remain so. No matter how many children are shot, no matter how Black Lives matter, an inert government produces an inert country. We never were a Shining City on a Hill; we’ve been Tara, ready to “string ‘em up” once “they” (women, Jews, Blacks, Native Americans, gays) step out of line!

  2. Hello Jon, This is beautifully written. I so understand your views on America and its toxicity. One thing I would disagree with, however, is your statement that your work won’t have a lasting effect. I think this ‘resistance’ we are seeing is going to have a lasting effect and artists are part of that. In any case, see you on this side of the pond, I hope.

  3. Yes, your descriptions and predictions do convey the miserable reality of this nation’s increasingly dire state of disarray. So as not to leave here entirely dispirited, however, may you take comfort from this Apache blessing for your continuing journey: “May the sun bring you new energy by day,
    May the moon softly restore you by night,
    May the rain wash away your worries,
    May the breeze blow new strength into your being
    May you walk gently through the world and
    Know its beauty all the days of your life.”

    p.s. your WordPress link doesn’t open


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