Wednesday, July 04, 2007

The American Experience

Today we celebrate "Independence Day" here in the States, I don't take part in the celebration myself, for me this is a time to reflect, it always has been. Every year I analyze this thing we call the "American Experience" and what it means to me, personally. I've always had this love/hate relationship with this concept of what it means to be an "American" putting all the hype aside and as much as I'd like to ignore this whole thing, it keeps creeping up in my thoughts from time to time, there are so many things that link me to this land, and to this state of mind which is America, heritage included.

Tons of books and articles have been written about the "American Experience", from every conceivable point of view, with just as many spins, slants and biases. At the core, the experience is the same for immigrants, two stories and nothing more: success and misery, Americans are as romantic as they are cynics and always think in terms of success and failure, (apparent success, usually meaning economic success) whatever lies in between is not as important and certainly not worth thinking or talking about, which is a huge fault of character, because there's a lot we're missing out on, "God is in the details" as they say. Everything here is real big, bombastic, grander than grand, we're fatter, richer, more obnoxious, more powerful than the rest. Over achieving is a way of life here, we lose sight of the big picture while we're busy running this big rat race, we're not happy with just winning, we have to annihilate the opponent and then wave our flag while standing on his chest, success as defined by money and celebrity status must be obtained at all costs even if it means to become miserable in the process. Our athletes and our corporations must dominate, not just compete. Winning is everything, What a bore!

I don't offer anything new but my story is kind of unique in its own "American" way (as in romantic kind of way), for the lack of a more suitable adjective.

I say romantic because it's full of ideals, some of these ideals are perceived and are rooted in folklore and some have been realized fully, not without a hefty deal of suffering. Being an American to me means being a walking contradiction, an oxymoron, a work in progress, a perennial better future waiting to happen or a big disgrace making the 11 o'clock news, a rags to riches story constantly at the verge or something huge to be realized in due time. The rags to riches is folklore horseshit, the contradiction is real. The culture in itself is a paradox, full of inconsistencies and among them, there is this absolute conviction in our righteousness and this ridiculous notion that we're better than everyone else.

God is always on the American side, the wars we wage are just and the havoc we impart is justified. Of course, this is all generalizing, which I've been told it's dangerous, but fuck it, it's true. I saw this right wing talking-shithead named Tucker on TV the other day shaking his shaggy head and asking the same stupid question all the time: "Why does the rest of the world hate us? "Why?" Common sense is something of a luxury with him, as rich as he is, apparently he can buy himself none. The world does not hate America or its people, in fact they love everything American, we lead the world in fashion, pop culture and technological advances. The world lives vicariously through us, the world hangs on our every word, we dictate what the world listens, watches, wears and more. The world hates what the government of this country stands for, what the greedy and careless corporations of this country do in every other nation, they hate American businesses abroad, not Americans, corporate pirates raping and bankrupting nations so we can drive bigger cars and build bigger bellies. They hate what the American government represents and the government doesn't represent us, or rather, it does but makes all of us look bad. Americans are kind people but they do buy into this flag-waving brainwashing rubbish that politicians feed them, therein lies the contradiction.

It is a sad, sad time for America these days, once the champions of freedom, now gluttonous bullies, There is so much goodness in its people and in its values and in the principles of the founding fathers, who themselves were walking contradictions; how can you proclaim "All men are created equal" and own slaves at the same time? . . . Yeah, I know, economics!

Unfortunately what other countries see is this greedy monster, swallowing the world whole, this cancer and its arrogance in the form of its officials. You might say that I'm full of shit but I've been on both sides of this equation, when I was a kid, my friends and I used to skip school to go to the rallies and public demonstrations against the U.S. policies in Latin America, we used to throw rocks at the cops and yell "Yankees go Home" like parrots, I wasn't protesting anything, I just wanted to skip school and have a good time. It was just what we did to have fun, I had no motivation to hate the U.S, but plenty of reasons to love it. once the anti-mutiny trucks made their presence felt we scattered back home like roaches when the lights are turned on.

I couldn't have cared less for politics at that age, but I felt the pain of those who were powerless against an empire of greed, I always wanted to be here because to me this was where rock'n'roll, blues, jazz, animation and comics were born or at least where all these art forms flourished and thrived. This is still "The Place" to be, make no mistake, there is no other country in the world I'd rather be, Canada is nice but this is where everything happens, therein lies the contradiction.

As a young adult I became painfully aware of what was going on around me, how that very thing I loved and yearn for was also the cause of my people's suffering. Things started to affect me personally, people I cared about were directly impacted, I saw people protesting against American intervention in Chile, Nicaragua, El Salvador, Panamá and everywhere else the U.S. held economic "interests", I watched (from the comfort of my own home) how they toppled leaders and placed puppet dictators, bribing and blackmailing governments into submission, flexing their economic and political muscles in behalf of corporate greed. Yet I still wanted nothing else but to come here and live "the American Experience" which is not the same as the so called "American Dream".

My great Grandfather from my mother's side, was a black man born in the South, Georgia to be precise, his name was Rupert Wilson, he left the United States and moved to Jamaica towards the end of the 19th century. His son Rupert Jr. was born in Kingston, he found work as a teenager at the old British Petroleum refineries, Oil was all the rage in those days (and still is) American oil corporations and the British government which owned BP were in a virtual dead heat, competing against each other, fighting tooth and nail to become THE ruler of the world. They understood the significance, he who controls the oil rules the world, they were both deadly accurate, as time would prove. England had an advantage, they had many colonies in Africa, Asia and the Middle East and they had been at it since the days before the Iranian revolution, they were called Anglo-Persian Oil Fields back then. Once they got their asses kicked out of Iran they went to South America to drill for fossil fuel, this is before the Americans entered this deadly game in earnest. They were both piling up countries, buying governments and drilling everywhere there was dirt and even the sea, poking holes in any nation that would allow them to acquire cheap land concessions through palm-greasing and extortion. The competition was so fierce they had to join forces to avoid destroying each other and in doing so they controlled prices and ran amok, no one stood in their way until the arabs got organized, anyways.

Which brings us to Ecuador. Since Venezuela was being exploited by Shell Oil (the Dutch oil company) and the Americans had found plenty of cheap oil in Texas, Anglo (British Petroleum) set up shop in the coastal areas of South America, they found a gold mine in Ecuador (black gold that is) where they had successfully discovered huge deposits of oil and natural gas in the teens and 20's.

Young Rupert came to Ancón de Sardinas with the Anglo corporation (which changed its name of operations in Ecuador to Anglo-Ecuadorian Oil Fields to avoid pissing off the natives I guess) When the concession period ended, Anglo was forced to leave the country but the damaged had been done, they squeezed every last drop of oil out of the ground and left the carcasses of the old and inadequate equipment and refineries to rot, never fulfilling on their obligation to clean up the environment they fucked up, and failed to leave behind the infrastructure they built in sound and workable condition as it was contemplated in their contract. After they bled that country dry, as they did in many other places, where corrupted officials gave them "carta blanca", all there was left was an abandoned, inadequate and obsolete railroad system built exclusively to transport oil from the coast to the interior, which now lays there in shambles as a monument to corporate neglect. When clueless folks in America wonder "why do they hate us so much", this is why. The average American is a thoughtful, compassionate person but he/she has no idea of how this country is viewed outside its borders because of the crap that goes on behind our backs, it puzzles the fuck out of them to know they are the object of such hatred by other countries, politicians keep feeding them the same line: "They hate our freedoms and our way of life" , the reality is no one hates our "freedoms", other people wish they could have the freedoms we enjoy here but they don't hate us for it, they just want to be left alone. For as long as the masses keep swallowing this nonsense, the government keeps getting away with murder (literarily). People in other nations have this distorted view of Americans because of what they've experienced in their own land but as soon as they arrive here they begin to realize just how kind-hearted and decent the real Americans are.

Ruperto as he was then known, married a local woman and settled down in Anconcito, where he sired 4 daughters: Anatolia, Eugenia, Lucia and María — actually, María had a different father but he loved her as his own, nonetheless— The family lived in relative bliss for many years until Rupert retired from working the oil fields, the girls were all grown up, married with children of their own by then, except for Anatolia who was still a young unmarried woman but already had 4 children. He decided to go back to England with his wife to enjoy retirement and a nice pension with medical benefits, which he knew couldn't acquire in his adopted third world home, he intended to take his younger daughter and one of his granddaughters with him to protect young Anatolia from her abusive mate.

Anatolia had Marina, Jenny, Genoveva, Norma and Eduardo and turned down my great Granddaddy's offer to go to London because she couldn't bear being separated from the rest of her children. Rupert could only take two family members with him in addition to his wife, he chose Anatolia and her older daughter Marina. It is also said that her refusal to leave for London broke Rupert's heart in a thousand pieces because he loved Anatolia the most out of all his daughters and he felt terrible for leaving her behind because he knew how miserable she was.

Rupert died a few years later in London, an ocean away from his beloved Ana. My grandmother, Anatolia Wilson died at the tender age of forty, from a bad case of pneumonia soon after I was born. Of the four Wilson sisters, only Lucía remains, I lived with her and her husband Pablo for a couple of years and from her I learned most of what I'm telling you now. My Mom told me grandma Anatolia was living with us at the time and she says my grandmother used to play with me and sing me to sleep. She says I brought a lot of joy to her, as she was always in precarious health, I was too young to remember but I'd like to think I did, somehow I sleep better at night thinking I did.

In the years that followed, our American connection came full circle, my Mom moved to New York in her late twenties looking for a better life she never found, one of those immigrants who come here to work and save enough money to go back home and live the good life but never actually leave, and then I came along for the ride of my life, to the place I've always felt I belonged and at the same time to the most foreign place on this earth, therein lies the contradiction.

Happy 4th of July!


Craig Zablo said...

Happy 4th, my friend!

Process Junkie said...

Hey Zablo! don't play with fireworks.
Happy fourth to you too!


you would have made them happy with your good fortune

happy 4th alberto!

and those firewerkx, too late :)

don't forget that illustrator cd-rom 4 me


-G.D. said...

i truly enjoyed this post and all your writing. very brave and honest.

this image is so, so beautiful. one of my favorites, for it's quiet subtleness.

you're a master, my friend.


Benjamin Hall said...

I've always understood the attraction to the "moral" ideals of the Conservative community for the masses, but I can never figure out why anyone not in the top 10% would be for their "screw the planet, other countries and poor people for big business" stance.

The only thing I can figure is that it comes down to the American Dream and the idea that at any minute the poorest man in America can become the richest man in the world.

Very nice post.

The Original Dangster said...

Blew my pinky finger off with a sparkler this year, so I'm slow on the type.

Love the pic. An American Dream to me would be tapping a Star Spangled Ass!

By the way that dude you saw on TV is my cousin Tucker Carlson..He blows goats...or he had them blow him?..We're cousins through marriage, so I really can't remember.

All the Best my Man! HOLLAH!





Bentos said...

As an English guy with Indian, Irish and Australian friends I know all about feeling guilty about stuff posh people from my country did a hundred years ago and how ultimately futile it is.

Nice post, happy 6th of July

Process Junkie said...

Thanks for the comments!
bentos I don't think the idea here is to make anybody feel guilty about what others before them have or have not done. That's why I don't believe in "reparations" the damage is done, period.

You're not responsible for your ancestors' fucked up behaviour. I certainly don't hold british citizens responsible for something they didn't even have a clue about. The point is to understand why people hate each other, and to make sure we hold those in power accountable for their actions because it reflects upon innocent people. If our governments acted fairly and in a decent way towards other nations, we wouldn't have to endure all the bullshit and suffering we now have to endure, why would anybody hate us if our officials and businesses conducted themselves in a dignified and honorable manner. We, (the people) here in America and the average British citizen have done nothing to deserve such scorn from the rest of the world.

Most people in the US are not aware of what the government and corporations (which are the real government in any capitalist society) do abroad, as they say: "To maintain our way of life"

I agree, it is useless for you or anybody to feel guilty for shit you had no part in. Why should you?

Thanks for your comment.


ian said...

That was a great story. Thanks for sharing it. Looks like great things are happening for Brand Studios, congratulations!

Happy Belated 4th, Alberto.


Ice Red Kid said...

Well written "American Experience", Alberto!

Guilty or not guilty? What do we know about the world we're living in these days? In a certain way we're all still guilty about a lot of mistakes. We don't have to dig up our ancestors to feel guilty, if we want to feel guilty :)
We all have money in the bank. At least that's what we want :)
But the bank invests with our money at the share market. Most banks hold shares, direct or indirect, of corporations which don't have clean hands. For example producing boobytraps!! Which took the lives or parts of millions of innocent childeren.

It's not all fun. I better start filling some paper.... Yeah, unfortunatly a few more trees had to come down..
btw. also a strong piece about trees on the brandstudiopress-site, Alberto! :)

Have a nice day!

spleenal said...

I'm English and have never been to America as a kid watching shows like Knight rider, baywatch and the A Team it always seemed to be the place to be. Full of beautiful women and heroic men.
That's changed now.
The rest of the world see America as the bad guys. Using up all the resources, starting wars and imposing there ways on others.

Not you though. When I saw the way you draw women you became a hero of mine.

Afua Richardson said...

The ambivolence you feel for this country is the same that most of us here who are not the few skirting around tax corners and privatizing what should be public services. there are a great many good hearted people in this country , and its government is not a representation of its intentions. who knows, maybe lil artist like us can change things the more we talk about it. its a big country out there...

Not Don King said...

Berto, you put your heart into this shit, and I appreciate it. We certainly don't agree on everything, but I respect your passion, and your smarts.
We (Americans) live in the most free nation on earth. In free society, freedom will frequently be used badly. By definition, it includes the freedom to do good or evil, to act decently or basely. But if freedom brings out the worst in people, it also brings out the best. If you don't like those who represent you in Washington, you are free vote them out or run yourself. Don't like a corporations actions? Vote with your dollars. Be informed. Learn about our history. Turn off your TVs. Read the constitution. Want to make a difference? Spend time with your kids, love them, discipline them, teach them to be good people.
There's a lot that pisses me off about where our nation is headed. But as they say, "pick a better country". I feel blessed to have the freedoms I enjoy here. Don't take them for granted.

Process Junkie said...

I won't get into a debate here because clearly, we're taking apples and oranges. There is no dispute on whether this is a free society or whether is the most free nation, to me, this nation is as free as we allow ourselves to become, I personally don't think what we're living now is "real" freedom, we live in fear. Never in the history of America as a free nation (save the McCarthy era) have we seen our liberties and privacies trampled by our elected government.

What people fail to understand is that along with paying the price to live free there are also responsibilities. What has gotten us to this point is not that other peoples hate us just for the fuck of it, we can't just hide behind our flag and pretend that our governments and corporations are free therefore they can abuse, alienate and enslave other cultures. Is that the price of freedom?

Yeah, you're absolutely correct, you are free to vote with your dollars and you can choose who you want to lead you, that's great but generally that means domestic policies and internal issues, I'm talking about ignorance. The average American does not know what our government does outside our borders, that stuff is not easily understood because people mistakenly think that as long as we enjoy freedom here, who cares about what our government and businesses do in the rest of the world.

Reality ceck: it does matter! We're all affected here at home by our government's international policies and by our corporations' way to conduct business overseas. Heck, what better example of neglect than Katrina and the countless cases of destruction of the environment by the giant companies right here in the good ol' U. S. of A. We police them here and bring then to justice (when we catch 'em in the act that is) but they run rampant everywhere else, you don't think that affects us here at home? think again, it does!

Beeing free does not mean you could do whatever the fuck you want and not be held accountable for your actions, as someone wiser put it once: "Our freedoms end when the freedoms of our fellow human beings begin"
You are free to pursue happiness and if playing the drums makes you happy, go ahead and knock yourself out, play the drums all day and night but what about my freedom to enjoy a quiet and peaceful evening?.

In every free society there exists a compromise, there are laws to ensure we can ALL enjoy our freedoms, not just a few of us and there are moral codes of behavior towards others, we must have compassion towards those who have less freedoms than we do and we must confront those who think freedom means to impose themselves on others . The rapist is not free to rape, the thief is not free to steal.

I need no lectures on what the prices of enjoying our freedoms are, every time the cops stop me on my way home for no other reason than the color of my skin, I feel it. I'm talking about the reasons why we, as Americans (and I include myself because I feel I am more American than most, at the very least my ancestors came from this continent, fuck the Mayflower) are viewed by other nations as scum for no fault of their own but because of the people we elect into power and what these people do to merit such hatred.

I'm talking about why it is important to let the world know we're not the war-mongering assholes they think we are, you can elect the best president to power but corporate greed and that expansionist mentality without regards for other people's well being rule this nation and as long as we put profit before humanity this country is doomed to repeat the same mistakes, time and time again and to keep amassing enemies the world over.

Ignorance is not bliss.

Not Don King said...

So many points there to address...first, I agree with you in regards to our eroding civil liberties...The Patriot act (to cite an example) was a dangerously flawed piece of legislation, and unfortunately in times of distress, people are willing to trade liberty for "security"...there are many in Washington eager to exploit that fact...what we see today is worse than the 1950's...history has proven (through the Venona intercepts and their release and the collapse of Communism and the opening of Soviet files) Joe McCarthy WAS correct...the files showed hundreds of government employees who were exposed as Communists, security risks, or of questionable loyalty. McCarthy has been smeared by the left for posterity because he had the nerve to expose the dirty secrets of many Eastern elitists.
Second, obviously we have laws as a framework to our freedom. I agree your freedom extends to the point where you start to infringe on the next guys. I am a Libertarian, and belive in limited government interference in our lives though. If a corporation breaks a law here or abroad, prosecute them to full extent of the law. Don't like how they do business? Tell everyone why. Boycott the fuckers. I'm no fan of these mega-corporations who make the world hate us, and then set up offshore offices to avoid paying taxes (let the middle class shoulder that burden). The problem comes when these companies are lining the politicians pockets, which makes dealing with them difficlut.
Anyhow, sorry for turning the blog into an episode of Crossfire. I've typed too much already. Let's get back to badass books, titty girls, and the fact "original Dangster" looks like Mrs. Doubtfire on crack. Love ya Berto. Thanks for the lively discussion.

Daniel fra leg og hobby said...

"McCarthy WAS correct...the files showed hundreds of government employees who were exposed as Communists, security risks, or of questionable loyalty. McCarthy has been smeared by the left for posterity because he had the nerve to expose the dirty secrets of many Eastern elitists."

-Dude! McCarthy was shooting sparrows with machine guns. Know what I mean? So he got a few of them, but what about all the rest in the line of fire?
Above all, McCarthy represents a complete disregard for civil liberties and freedom of expression in America. The House unamerican activities was an institution designed to undermine everything the constiturion stands for.

There is no way, morally, ethically or historically, that you can justify this period in american history.