Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Fall of America

A funny thing just happened as I was eating my reheated spaghetti lunch. I glanced over at my bookshelf and noticed "The Fall of America" a collection of poems written by Allen Ginsberg. Since I have been contemplating the fall of civilization, it felt rather appropriate to pick it up. As I closed my eyes and opened the book to a random page, two $20 dollar bills fell out from between pages 90 and 91. This satisfying surprise made the reading of the poem "Crossing Nation" that much more significant. The end of the poem reads:

"Vietnam War flesh-heap grows higher,
blood splashing down the mountains of bodies
on Cholon's sidewalks --
Blood boys in airplane seats fed technicolor
Murderers advance w/ Death-chords
thru photo basement,
Earplugs in, steak on plastic
served--Eyes up to the Image--

What do I have to lose if America falls?
my body? my neck? my personality?" June 19, 1968

Ginsberg was not talking about the fall of civilization, but he was speaking to the atrocities caused by a war that was both pointless and unsuccessful. I did not live through the Vietnam War, but I feel similar resenting undertones of the War in Iraq. With the American economy in upheaval and a future of deep recession, America is falling; The U.S. is falling hard and fast to its knees. What would Ginsberg write if he was here right now?

My speculative version:

Falling Economy

Economic crisis! Quick, hurry! Bail-us-out!
150 billion from tax pockets to AGI.
Help us! S.O.S. Economy wounded,
CEO men down --
Car industry dying --
Cries for blood money
from plush exec chairs
Bank predators biting
easy loans their sharp-teeth
Americans their prey

What do I have to lose
if the American economy falls?
my money? my job? my civilization?

The fall of civilization seems to be following me around wherever I go these days. Guy's latest blog entry was particularly snarly this week. He used the "change" theme of the Obama campaign to highlight the change America will likely face in future months and years with grand old inflation, a deep nasty recession, and the eventual fall of civilization. Everytime I was in pain, my mom said, "It feels really good when the pain stops!" So, part of me, the part that cherishes innocence and childhood, wants to feel hopeful that we will eventually pull through the hard times and everything will be okay. I have no way of knowing when the economic pain is bound to stop, since the real economic pain hasn't actually begun.
Part of me, the part that is drawn to the ideas of Ginsberg and other "gloomy guys", is prone to think that we are all royally fucked. But if civilization is going to collapse in my lifetime, why would I want to spend my precious time glooming it up?

Now I have a bucket-head conundrum: Do I take my bucket off and align myself with the national gloomiads over the current economic situation or do I keep my bucket on and live like the national ignoramuses?
At least for the time being I have a little extra unexpected cash to save up just in case I have to move to Canada. In that event, I will have to lign my bucket with protective thermal insulation.

2 comments:

Guy said...

Excellent revision of the poem, Emma. And I enjoy any comment that refers to me as "snarly." The permalink to my post is here: http://blog.ltc.arizona.edu/naturebatslast/2008/11/more_of_the_same_from_the_chee.html

Essential Dissent said...

I confess...those were MY $20 bills in that book. Please return them to me.