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Tom Robbins on America

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My first work toward social justice, sports equality, was completely self-centered: this girl was going to be allowed to play sports with the boys. I succeeded by being good at combat.  This worked for several years until sexual dimorphism convinced me my personal safety was better protected if I competed intellectually, rather than physically.  

In my 20s I began formal training as an activist working with 9-5: National Association of Women Office Workers.  I tried to understand the larger social context in which we worked (and in which we were discriminated against) by reading leftist publications.  I was completely put off by the anger, cynicism and hopelessness of writers I encountered in the ’70s and early ’80s.  Alcoholism demanded my attention, so social justice causes outside 12-Step work were then relegated to the “academic left” Tom Robbins mentions below. 

The 2000 coup d’êtat, sealed with ‘legitimized’ secret vote counts, refocused my priorities, and I began plying my skills as a writer.  Though not always successful, and ever-mindful of my early readings, it is usually my aim to deliver the truth with humor.  Robbins is a writer who achieves this without parallel, and one of my favorite sources of comfort.   

When I came upon his compilation of nonfiction short pieces, I was delighted to find an essay entitled, How Do You Feel About America? In its entirety, from the original seriocomic response to his sober 2005 postscript, I am again enamored of this writer’s wisdom and style. 

From Wild Ducks Flying Backward: The Short Writings of Tom Robbins, Bantam, 2005 (sampling of travel articles, speeches, essays, and tributes to actors published in various magazines and books) How Do You Feel About America? (Anthem, Avon Books, 1997): 

America is a nation of 270 million people. 100 million of them are gangsters, another 100 million are hustlers, 50 million are complete lunatics, and every single one is secretly in show business. Isn’t that fabulous? I mean, how could you fail to have a good time in a country like that?   

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I could live literally anywhere in the world and do what I do, so, obviously, I live in America by choice – not for any patriotic or financial reasons necessarily, but because it’s so interesting there. America may be the least boring country on earth, and this despite the fact that the dullards on the religious right and the dullards on the academic left (the two faces of Yankee patriotism) seem to be in competition to see who can do the most to promote homogenization and institutionalized mediocrity.   

It won’t work. In America, the chronically wild, persistently haywire, strongly individualistic, surprisingly good-humored, flamboyant con-man hoopla is simply bigger than all of them. 

(2005) NOTE:  The preceding was written several years before the military-industrial complex first seized and then cemented total control of the U.S. government, a coup d’êtat that would have failed without the active assistance of a rapidly growing population of fearful, non-thinking dupes: ‘true believers’ dumbed down and almost comically manipulated by their media, their church, and their state.  So be it.  Freedom has long proved too heady an elixir for America’s masses, weakened and confused as they are by conflicting commitments to puritanical morality and salacious greed. 

In the wake of the recent takeover, our prevailing national madness has been ratcheting steadily skyward: the pious semi-literates in the conservative camp tremble and crow, the educated martyrs in the progressive sector writhe and fume. It’s a grand show, from a cosmic perspective, though enjoyment of the spectacle is blunted by the havoc being wreaked on nature and by the developmental abuse inflicted on children.  

We must bear in mind, however, that the central dynamic of our race has never been a conflict between good and evil but rather between enlightenment and ignorance.  Ignorance makes the headlines, wins the medals, doles out the punishment, jingles the coin, yet in its clandestine cubbyholes (and occasionally on the public stage) enlightenment continues to quietly sparkle, its radiance outshining the entire disco ball of history. Its day may or may not come, but no matter. The world as it is!  Life as it is!  Enlightenment is its own reward. 

pp. 228-229  

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In 2004, Rady Ananda joined the growing community of citizen journalists. Initially focused on elections, she investigated the 2004 Ohio election, organizing, training and leading several forays into counties to photograph the 2004 ballots. She officially served at three recounts, including the 2004 recount. She also organized and led the team that audited Franklin County Ohio's 2006 election, proving the number of voter signatures did not match official results. Her work appears in three books.

Her blogs also address religious, gender, sexual and racial equality, as well as environmental issues; and are sprinkled with book and film reviews on various topics. She spent most of her working life as a researcher or investigator for private lawyers, and five years as an editor.

She graduated from The Ohio State University's School of Agriculture in December 2003 with a B.S. in Natural Resources.

All material offered here is the property of Rady Ananda, copyright 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009. Permission is granted to repost, with proper attribution including the original link.

"In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act." Tell the truth anyway.

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