Traveling US interstate highways one suffers a confluence of so much contemporary madness and tragedy extant in the land " so much suppressed fear and aggression. Yet, through it all, the heart still yearns to see what lies over the next horizon.
Although, lamentably, what is revealed, all to often, proves to be as sterile, inhospitable, ugly, and inhuman as what was beheld at the last.
"Who has twisted us around like this, so that no matter what we do, we are in the posture of someone going away?" Rainer Maria Rilke
The apologists of the present system tell us ad nauseam, and have convinced most, that a similar disastrous fate will befall the nation if the engines of global capitalism were to slow down even a bit. Interstate travel is emblematic of the manner a system based on ceaseless production and manic consumption degrades the senses and inflicts a dehumanizing assault upon the psyche.
When stopped at an anonymous interstate service island or some off-the-exit-ramp retail strip -- those inhospitable nether regions evincing a paradoxical mix of sterility and toxicity -- the permeating odor of exhaust fumes and processed food makes us woozy. These places, only distinct for their ugliness, reek of how soul-numbing and joyless travel has become . . . now a task nearly devoid of any sense of the mystery, the option of exploration, or the possibility of serendipity travel once offered.
Travel has been reduced to a tedious ordeal, whereby our inchoate longings to escape the quotidian prison of our economically circumscribed existence are mangled and suppressed, only to rise as the hollow appetite of reflexive consumerism and the ineffable sense of unease, so evident in the troubled American psyche.
Enclosed in our vehicles, we hurdle from one sterile, impersonal location to the next sterile, impersonal location, and then on to the next. As forbiddingly huge trucks, loaded with the cargo of extinction, bear down on us, we grip the steering wheel -- we know to stop is to risk death therefore we continue onward, believing we must drive and consume and drive and consume in order to survive. Yet the knowledge nettles, just below the surface of our harried minds, that to continue down this road will, in turn, cause the world to die.
Even the landscape itself of the US is stretched to the breaking point: Cluttered upon it are gigantic islands of garish light that torment the night "scouring away the stars. As, all the while, SUVs and oversized pickup trucks -- the overgrown clown cars of the demented circus of decaying empire trundle past -- the extravagant size of the vehicles vainly compensating for how diminished and powerless those within feel in relationship to the course of their fates.
The corporate empire is imprinted in us. If one listens one can hear arias of decay -- a death-swoon operatic in scale. Manifested before us, it is as visible as the noxious vapors of pollutants veiling the horizon line at sunset; it shimmers like heat spires above traffic-stalled interstates; it reeks like the endless archipelagos of overflowing landfills spanning the length of the land. Yet, as mortifying as it is, the vales and vistas of the US spread before us " are as horrible and beautiful as a great cry of grief.
Feeling the full implications of this, how does one make it through the day and sleep throughout the night?
Following their defeat at the Battle of Shiloh, the shattered Confederate ranks fled for their lives. General A.S. Johnston, desperate to restore order and rally his men to return to battle, commanded a fleeing soldier to stop, demanding, "Private, why are you running?" The soldier replied, "General, I'm running 'cause I can't fly."