Listen my children and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five;
Hardly a man is now alive
Who remembers that famous day and year..
Some time after the Revolutionary War, it was forgotten. Longfellow wrote this poem to memorialize the ride; it was little-known and generally not remembered as anything notable.
The Constitution, a warship which had fought to glory in the War of 1812, was mouldering at dock in Boston Harbor, forgotten. De Tocqueville had written Democracy in America, an intuitive and prophetic work that is far clearer and far more ominous than Nostradamus, on the failure of the American Revolution and its spirit.
Hardly a man is now alive who remembers that famous day and year… I saw the Revolution, at another time, another time forgotten. I must imitate de Toqueville, as the New Revolution – the Jihad of Jefferson – took place in my lifetime, and is similarly forgotten, perhaps for similar reasons.
My story also began in Boston, although it did not continue through there all the way. I have been on the trail to Lexington and Concord. The soldiers marched through the mud flats where my college was built. Ironically, the Marathon Bombers went along that pathway, on the Eighteenth of April in Twenty Thirteen. It was no coincidence, as the race is run on the holiday of Lexington & Concord, Patriot’s Day.
But we start the story earlier, at the Bicentennial. I still have a tie from back then. I got it at Building Nineteen for about a dime or so, overstock. The Bicentennial was an embarrassing and horrible year in Boston-town. The American culture had nearly died in Vietnam, and with the fascism of Tricky Dick and our unelected president, Gerald Ford, there was no joy in Mudville.
The mood hearkened back to the Boston Massacre, but again, like Longfellow’s words, was experienced at the time to be different than what it was in history. There were no “British Soldiers,” back then in 1770 or even in 1776. They were “our soldiers,” and they were firing on us, in the same way that the Ohio National Guard fired on its own citizenry in Kent, Ohio. We were killing each other. There was certainly more identification with the British Redcoats then, than there was during the bicentennial with the Vietnam Vets, who were generally despised by the population as baby-killers. If your hair was too short back then, you could be spat at. By Americans.
The Marathon Bombers, cast as the Evil Enemy, were really two of us, two men from Cambridge, virulent idiots but that did not set them aside, egregio, from ours. [That word in English is handed down whole from a work, second-declension Latin, meaning “set apart from the crowd.” It’s a neologism from the third declension grex, gregis etc.] They were ours. They were swarthy and spoke with an accent, but Waltham and Watertown have been crammed to the gills with such folk. There is no better testimony to their belonging to the Commonwealth than the instinctive road habits of Djokar Tsernaev:
Q: What does a Boston Driver do when he runs over and kills his brother?
A: Back up, go around.
It is a long time since I got my learner’s permit from the Registry. I am certain that question was on the test.
They were no less “ours” than the Redcoats were ours, than the Ohio National Guard were “ours.” We have the habit of killing ourselves now and again, and it is no coincidence that many of the small arms purchased by Homeland Security are deployed and warehoused in safe places in the US of A. We tend to tear off and slaughter our own, officially and unofficially, now and again. It appears to be a ritual of cleansing like the human sacrifices of so many countries.
The mood of the Bicentennial was surly, detached. A musical was touted as the patriotic inspiration for the country. I’m sure that the Liberty Bell rang. There was no thrill at home. As much as we tried to displace the blame on the drafted killers, My Lai was our blame, laid at our doorstep, and the Bell did not toll for Bill Calley, it tolled for thee and me. Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin, script the hand, and we read it – uncomprehending to the mind, wrenching to the gut.
I don’t know if The Master ever translated the Book of Daniel, but he might have put it this way:
It is Last Call for America, and the Day of Wrath is upon us.
We have failed by any measure of decency or justice.
We shall be dismembered.
The Master wrote during the Days of Wrath, and was never one to mince his words, speaking:
Journalism is not a profession or a trade. It is a cheap catch-all for fuckoffs and misfits—a false doorway to the backside of life, a filthy piss-ridden little hole nailed off by the building inspector, but just deep enough for a wino to curl up from the sidewalk and masturbate like a chimp in a zoo-cage.”
Somewhat evocative of Kahlil Gibran, but more punchy.
But I digress. The world of the Bicentennial was miserable, and overthrown by the button-eyed Reagan boosters who carry much of the doom of the End of America, but that’s much later. Thompson was a poet of his day, never learning that he was an optimist.
I should pause there, because it’s a cheap hack job to publish a column while it’s being written, and I don’t reach to that solution unless I’ve been lazy and incompetent for the last several days. Look for more later, people.