Ode to Lono: Open Position, Death of the American Dream Beat
_Author’s Note: You may be wondering to yourself, why now? Alas, I feel a charge to honor the man come hellfire or death blizzard for annihilating my conception of what it means to make a life by writing, and all for the best. It took some time to fully coalesce such feelings, so Editor Grande Dean and I sat on this for a bit while I got other columns together. The time is now to pay a final rant to the man who Paved the Way. _
Interstate 57 is a long road of nothing. The destinations are Chicago and near Memphis, but on the way theres very little to occupy the mind, aside from a skyscraper-tall industrial crucifix marking the city limits of a red neck cave called Effingham. It was on this cop-molested stretch of Midwest bland that I got the call from a fellow Gonzo junkie that Hunter S. Thompson had blown his brains out across his paper and artifact strewn kitchen control room at Owl Farm. After his suicide, we heard widespread feelings of disbelief and, from some rotten psyches, disappointment toward the man who broke many rules for us all. When a man like Hunter S. Thompson dies two questions arise: what shall those of us who agree with his ways do to continue the notion of freedom in our existence, or for others who really could use a few pellets blasted at their craniums, what else is on?
Thompson said his lifetime beat was the Death of the American Dream. To hit puberty in the fifties meant living in a time when people were mostly proud of the countrys rally to war, after being attacked in WWII. As the sixties began, and the Vietnam War shaped into the decades long debacle it ended as, people began questioning. There have been lurking polarizing conflicts since our country was founded on blood and bullets, and the Vietnam War brought it raging out of American minds and into the streets. At the core of this fight, from the Revolutionary War all the way to Iraq in 2005, is the struggle between control and freedom. Freedom is the real American Dream, and Thompson felt just that to the core of his mad heart.
I never met the man, but was latched to his work since the age of 17, when I had the Pandoras pleasure of reading Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas on a long flight to Poland and many times thereafter. Pure awe and surprise drifted from my frontal lobe down to my heart, as I tried to figure out how the fuck he stayed alive and out of jail. Only when the initial shock-high wore off did I understand Thompsons heartache as he watched the freedom energy spike of the sixties plummet and perish at the hands of control, for during the seventies control had two new allies: decadence and convenience. Still, he found the American Dream in Vegas. It was the owner of Circus-Circus, the man who grew up wanting to be the ring leader, and instead bought a circus-themed casino and took a legal license to steal.
In Hells Angels, he explained to all who read that after riding with the gang, they were mutated by a bystander media into minions of Satan far worse than their actions would term. He called out Nixon for his stonefaced criminal feelings and actions toward those voicing freedom for those not Rich and In Charge in the years before Watergate. Thompson saw Tim Leary as an arrogant self serving pig, selling out tons of weak-minded people convinced that they were seeking. His friends were not safe from his brutal honesty. The Doc called Gary Hart a whore monger, after he got busted on his pussy cruise and botched his likely chance for the presidency in 1988, and he liked Gary. He even called his ally at Rolling Stone, publisher Jann Wenner, evil when talk of a format change for the magazine began. Thompson made it his duty to speak his mind freely, no matter the consequence.
Many activists talk more than act, and that does come from personal experience with too many whining bullshitartists who call themselves radical. Thompson took the system over in Aspen with his 1970 Freak Power ticket, and rallied the freedom side of the town to engage politics. He scared the local burghers so much the democrat and republican groups in town had no choice but to rally under the same candidate. Imagine that nationally.
So, why stroke a man remembered for violence and drug use as much as his writing? Because weve all heard what people have to say about how he acted. You might be disgusted by talk of values mixed with depraved fiendish addiction and brutality, but no one can read a piece by Thompson and not feel the knife of his candor slice the belly open with a blunt truth rarely equaled by other voices.
I say this now, because we do live in a time where Thompsons worst fears have become reality. The Avaricious Upper Crust have taken over the White House, congress and are sludging their way to snatching the Supreme Court. We are well on the way to ensuring that we get poorer while they stay rich. Its easy to laugh at Puppet Bush as he blinks, smirks and chuckles away the few rattled brain cells left over from coke binges, while bumbling around balanced by a few guiding hands and arms taking turns up his assbut he became president TWICE. We are at a new dawn of the fight between freedom and control. The lines have been drawn. Forgetting about electoral votes for a second, we must all see that against-Bush voters were only 1 percent shy of half of the country. One of the reasons why it happened that way has something to do with a flaccid press, and an even bigger problem of convenience.
Too many people in this country allow themselves to be blinded and docile at the hands of people stealing their freedom, health and well being in exchange for convenience. Thats why meals are sold with enough chemicals to kill elephants through drive thru windows and mass packaging. The same corporations selling crap food own T.V. stations and newspapers, and our top government representatives have ties to such soulless treachery. The news cant be covered when a story can be axed if it incriminates the people who own the publications. Did you know a broadcast news outlet had to axe a segment on Disney World hiring employees with histories of child molestation? Of course you dont, because Disney owns the outlet! Alas, THE PUBLIC bears the biggest blame for allowing this all to happen. People want information, sustenance and everything else to be simple and easily located. Dont be surprised if electronic sex is on the market soon. You wont even have to jerk yourself off.
You want proof for these words? Find it yourself. Stop depending on screens to tell you whats quality, right and true. Take enough responsibility for your freedom that you prove everything Ive said to yourself. Do your own research without any guidance whatsoever, as if you were a journalist, and then you will freely have taken up the beat of covering the real American Dream.
I decided to become a journalist because in Thompsons work I saw great freedom brings opportunity and responsibility. He was a lot of fun, but always said the truth when it scared the living shit out of people. If you look carefully past the haze of combusted drugs and debauchery you will find how much he cared about being free in a land where you are told freedom instead of living it. In school, I was told journalists are supposed to be free of the devouring business constraints to actually tell the truth, but I dont believe that is the case now. Criticism is not a right. Its a privilege because its only valid if youve done work to provide a solution to the problem you address. Find the facts if you want to be a real American. If you loved Thompson, believe that he would want you to take responsibility for your own liberties, even if they are granted. If you hate Thompson, finding the truth for yourself will actually bring us closer to a better age, and it will cast an air of drug-addled nostalgia from a stone age time long since past on everything the man ever wrote. It would make Doctor Thompson giggle with delight, like the sixteen-year-old girl lurking inside him.
Farewell you insane preacher of life and fun, you taught those who listened well. To those just finding the work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, look for his Tentative Platform for Sheriff, from the 1970 Freak Power effort. Its a piece of what he had in mind for government, and an example of radical constructive criticism. Think of it as your first job on the Beat.