jeudi 6 novembre 2008

"Farewell, (which is to say) Hello, America."

Paris, France: November 6. Now after a champagne filled trip on Air France back to ma belle, ma France I sit, an immobilized European and contemplate the Japanese farewell that is also hello, sayonara, and feel in me all that American activity that is still in me (I hear America (still) singing!) and though it is in me, it is what I somehow, now, lack (America) here in the preserved handsomeness of my silent Paris apartment. So I ask, What is it to change? A change, that is a substitution, change jobs [un changement de travail], or perhaps a change by mere substitution of X for Y, as in to change one's mind [changer d'avis]. Then change that is not change, which is to say, a currency ex-change, one for one, place for place, coins for paper; then we often think the most im-pact-full change as in to transform, as when she is changed by her success, [la réussite l'a complètement transformée]. And yet that transform-change has only a metaphorical flourish, a temporariness. No. The change is the one that is impossible to define, and it is this change we must attend, change as in "to become different," as when a friend who has not seen you for some time declares with a rude verdict and almost chauvanistic authority, "you have changed a lot!" [tu as beaucoup changé!]. This is the unnerving change; unnverving because the measure of change is incalculable and in the end, not a change in the simpler sense. For when my friend declares that I have "changed a lot," his "a lot" places a finger on what eludes naming and indeed what was always there: he names a difference that is not new but only now re-cognized. For at the heart of what he think is "the same" there lurks a difference. A difference suppressed, ignored, eschewed, avoided, denied. And yet. And yet the difference will never stay suppressed and emerges, suddenly to our attention, and we real-ize that what we pretended to be a cohesive same-ness was never so. There was, inside the alleged sameness, a fertile unspeakable difference. Always. The so-called same is never so. Is always different. "You have changed a lot!" people (now, cheering, crying with joy) say of America. "No!" America must answer. "No, my friend, I have not changed. What was in me that you did not see has emerged only because it has become visible (to you). "I am a black person," America says, "and I was so, all this. America was a black nation, is a black nation, will be a black nation. All this while when it was thought the 'same' white. This was just a lie of your mind's eye." Is. "Oh but surely this is a crazy French game of post-structuralist mumbo-jumbo, c'mon, America, look, look, look at President-Elect Barack Obama ---you have changed!" "No," America answers, [or, now, after a year in its bras ouverts, I can speak, as if I am America (which perhaps, indeed, by now, I see that I am)]: I have not changed. You have recognized a once unbelievable difference inside my 'sameness.' In that recognition, it is you, my friend, not I, that is utterly changed."

mardi 4 novembre 2008

New York: "Il va falloir attendre..."

New York, New York: November 4: Meet my beloved Yvonne de Languedoc, née Yvonne Saint-Michel, Professor of Child Psychology at the University of Lyon who arrived in the United States this afternoon to join me, not only for late lunch at Le Pain Quotidien near Central Park South [where le pain is decidedly unGallic] but to revel (while shopping) in the jouissance at being beyond America while immersed in America, witnesses to the Change while unable to faire said Change. Et puis it is enough to be in the Hegelian Begriff, indeed the Heidegerrian Dasein of a new nation birthing itself. Let us retreat now into silence and see-without-speaking as America decides what it will be(come).

Sioux Falls: Indécis

Sioux Falls: South Dakota: November 4 One final stop(over) on this trip of dis(persal) into the single entity of fifty (united<>states) brings me to a pre-dawn hike in Sioux Falls Park, where stopping under a tree, I sat and contemplated the weight of The Decision facing America this morning. And yet there are these alleged "Undecideds. But what is it to be "Undecided," that impossible/paradox? For to be Undecided is to have already participated in the looming Choice, to have stepped into/across the threshold of thought and the immanence of one's cognitive force to/against options made available. The identification of one as Undecided signals an awareness that a Decision must be made, to recognize one(self) as standing before [avant] moving toward [s'avancer vers], being within [dedans], and party to a Deciding [être complice d'un choix]. One's frame of reference cannot be outside the options --the deciding--once one recognizes them/it as such. Indeed to be Undecided is to be, perhaps more involved in Choice than one who has already Decided, for being Undecided suspends and valorizes the moment of Decision: it is a fixation and a regression to a time that does not truly yield, demanding to remain in Choice when Choice is only a fleeting instance of yes/no, so on it goes, even this morning, perhaps, a straining toward ex-temporal being (an Imaginary past of No Choice undone by the pressure of the Present demand to make a choice) and which (when the time of deciding has come and gone) renders one banished from oneself, ahistorical, out of the place of Indecision which constituted oneself, like the citizen exile who returns "home" after war to a country renamed in his absence: his time is past without his knowing: in the country of the Decided his passport no longer (under)signs his (Undecided) being.

lundi 3 novembre 2008

Montana: Wells Fargo: Blindés & Big Sky

Billings, Montana: November 3 2008: Up Interstate 80 to arrive in Billings, its name suggesting Billy and cash (bills), eggs and bacon under Big Sky, and a waitress who expressed disdain for Senator Max Bacchus ("and he got hit with the ugly stick no less") while the local paper predicts his demise ("no Bacchanal for Bacchus come tomorrow") I did get a few moments with a team of off duty security guards for Wells Fargo, that name associated with armored cars, armed cash carriers, Wild West wagons, safe deposit boxes and these days, a major bank and financial player in an unstable American market. These men were cowboy hatted Montanans, fans of firearms and fishing the Missouri River, reading Cormac McCarthy and working on new roofing on their weekends: Henry Cavanugh, 40; John Patrick Huxley, 39 (not relation to Aldous) and Travis Granger, 37.

Guy: Are you all voting tomorrow? And if this is so, for who?

Travis: For the only American in this race, McCain. Think I'm going to vote for somebody who wants to surrender to Al Queda Muslims?

Guy: Are all of you, two, as well, John McCain-ers? [they nod assent]

Travis: But if you talk politics, Sir, you won't get much from those two.

Guy: And why is this so?

Travis: They think politicians are part of the problem. Libertarians them. But I say don't forget the occasional greats. George Washington. Teddy Roosevelt. Though I do agree with these two that if people could take care of their own, they wouldn't need to suckle on the government teat.

Henry: Mister Langgerdoc, can I ask you a question?

Guy: Yes, this is surely why I would like to talk. Do, ask, as you please.

Henry: Well, I noticed you had eggs sunny side up. Do you Frenchies not like omelets anymore? Dennys here serve up some mean omelets, you know.

Guy: What do you think of Joe the Plumber? Is this man a fiction? And Palin?

Travis: Guy when your pipes burst and you're taking water in your bathroom like the engine room of the Titanic, you think Joe the Plumber is going to seem a made up character?

Henry: As for Palin, let me tell you something Guy, she talks the small town talk but she doesn't walk the small town walk. I knew her type in high school. They were the ones snitching to the deans of discipline while running for homecoming queen.

Guy: And what of you, John Patrick are you a pro-Republican?

Travis: John here isn't "pro" anyone, Sir. He's bitterly clinging to his guns. That is, if his wife don't get those too what with the lawyer she got.

John Patrick: Mister Langerhanguage, you married?

Guy: Indeed, yes, I am to leave for my plane as my wife is coming to New York.

John Patrick: Well....that's great, for the record, I'm Canadian. Originally. Calgary. You do me a favor Mister Langerhanguage, when you get back to France, don't talk up the American Rockies for whitewater rafting. In four months, I'm disappearing myself from this country before it goes belly up into the Great Depression Two and takes these Travis and Henrys and Wells Fargoes with them. You just make sure to tell your French friends at home look me up in Calgary, okay? I'll fix them up with French speaking camp guides. You hear me?

dimanche 2 novembre 2008

Wyoming, The Range, Par-delà

Cheyenne, Wyoming: November 1 & Jackson, Wyoming: November 2 I arrived (a long way indeed from the digital-electric postindustrial metropolitan simulacra, with its postmodern fetishizing of Logos and Dialogue, Information and Attachments, speed and hyper-speed, all that merely cycles and recycles back, those towns and cities, their mediated manic faiths in dvd and dvr and satellite dish, dialogue and argument, Voice and Counter-Voice) to finally find my-self in Silence, and of a Silence, American Silence that expanded with every step I took, even on the cowboy-humble wide strutted streets of Cheyenne, even at ease in the Range Rover, where the radio's local coverage of Wyoming's native son Dick Cheney endorsing of McCain, were lost, hours later, by the time we exited the truck, took to the rocky edges near the torrential currents of the North Platte River, wind over sage, caws of hovering crows lost in the thin evening air -- the "Range," that evocative locus that is no locus, Range, synonymous with sphere of being and sphere of knowledge, space suggestive of endless motion, un-rooted Range, and this un-moored Ranging, views, not just of mountain peaks and valleys, but far-off cattle herders, horse ranchers, antique wagon wheels in the middle of no-where, seen through binoculars, "Dead Indian Pass," American earth haunted by pioneer ghosts, on their way to long since depleted gold rushes, to 2008, here, where now the only trace of the election was on the "trail" of one John Barrasso, a Republican running for Senate, who was good enough to host a brief coffee ("Just remember, Guy, that the myth of the stone-faced Marlboro Man wasn't just a myth. In this age of pundits and experts, us Wyomans know that a silent glance is often more eloquent than a hundred Gettysburg Addresses") before I took off on a private plane, northwest, for another Wyoming day in Yellowstone National Park, hiking along stony paths, along gorges and pine, boots on underbrush, spying bison crossing prairie and, further on, crossing before geysers, Ranging, I looked upward, struck by the coasting wingspan of a bald eagle against blue and white nimbus sky, and, downward, over my shoulder, I spied a wildcat peeping at me from behind an outcropping, and then on and on we Ranged, to that famous geyser, and further on, into further "Passes," absorbed by a wandering which makes of Space No-Space, and even when I spoke to my guides, I heard my Voice fall into the Silence: that Silence endless as the unheard infinite pause in a Mozart overture, Silence, loud as a single rock that falls, that we know falls now, somewhere hundreds of miles from this spot on these park roads, I stop to listen to the stone falling unheard by human ears: and, listening to Silence, I can hear America breathing.

vendredi 31 octobre 2008

McCain 2: Anti-Heroes

Dayton, Ohio: October 31: The American super-hero, Batman of Gotham City (Giuliani) and The Terminator (Schwarzenegger) of California, join forces here in "undecided" Ohio to support the "war hero" John McCain. Listening to the shouted litany of cliches about "John McCain's proven leadership" and "real American fighter" one feels a very long way indeed from classical heroism, with its requirements of irreparable tragic loss, its stoic stern eloquence of humility and control and its dark almost nihilistic charisma which would have no traffic with sugary "stump" speeches. And watching these two rouse McCain's rally, Arnold with his warnings against the evils of European socialism and Rudy about the Satanic villians of the Middle East, one envisions the vacuous East Coast and West Coast loci once dominated by these two alleged "superheroes": Batman-Giuliani's New York City and muscular Arnold's Calee-forn-ya, Arnold's state mired in environmental nightmares, popular rage against immigration and a current bankruptcy, and Rudy's city well on its way in a dangerous recession, still stifled in 25 years of a real-estate squeeze that has left the city's core a homogenous blur commercial franchises and corporate condos-and-lofts. And yet the prevailing myths of these superheroes' "conquests," that they have "cleaned up" their respective "planets" and brought "law and order" ring hollow in this mostly landlocked manufacture-less mid-America of the Information Age, undecided Ohio which has long since recessed into weary yet angry resignation about the postmodern, postindustrial, post-heroic age of America.

McCain 1: Malaise of Reflexivity

November 1: Newport News Virginia: One reaches the end of McCain's campaign weary of its insistent re-beginnings, its open-ended endings, the pundits parsing of the "real" McCain vs the presumably false version, the campaign's constant attempts to identify itself with its own non-existent "my friends" (small businesspeople, hockey moms, Joe the Plumber, et al), its anchored-in-place inaugural refrains ("we're mavericks" "we're going to Washington" "we're going to fight earmarks, etc"), its backfiring strategies against Obama, its boxing ring bravado to being behind in the polls ("we have them right where we want them"),
its "fundamentals are sound" and "serious financial crisis" reversals on the financial recession, its "surge is working" and "mistakes were made" metaphysics about the finished-yet-ongoing US occupation of Iraq, McCain's meandering, convoluted "straight talk" about the Presidency of George W Bush, his compulsive thumbs-up and pointing into his inattentive audiences, his phony rally cry that "Mack is back" their own faces and bodies concealed behind red, white and blue face paint, over-sized floppy hats and race-baiting placards about "real Americans", McCain squinting from the stage as if unsure that any outside is truly out there: he is, alas a malfunctioning robot yet an all-too-human Narcissus blinded by the light as he faces the darkness of his vanishing (Presidential) mirage.