The Green Light

The very most interesting thing about the United States is that it died even as it was born.

As expressed in Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, which must serve as the “great American novel,” for there shall never be another:

Most of the big shore places were closed now and there were hardly any lights except the shadowy, moving glow of a ferryboat across the Sound. And as the moon rose higher the inessential houses began to melt away. Until gradually I became aware of the old island here that flowered once for Dutch sailors’ eyes—a fresh, green breast of the new world. Its vanished trees, the trees that had made way for Gatsby’s house, had once pandered in whispers to the last and greatest of all human dreams; for a transitory enchanted moment man must have held his breath in the presence of this continent, compelled into an aesthetic contemplation he neither understood nor desired, face to face for the last time in history with something commensurate to his capacity for wonder.And as I sat there, brooding on the old unknown world, I thought of Gatsby’s wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock. He had come a long way to this blue lawn and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night.

Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgiastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter—tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther . . . . And one fine morning—

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

And we know it was over, even as it began, through Terrence Malick’s film The New World.

At the close of that film, the inconstant adventurer John Smith encounters the Indian woman he used, abused, lied to, and abandoned, after she had merely provided him with everything he might ever want or need.

He had gone off in search of more land, more plunder, more conquest, more glory—the paradise of “the Indies.”

Now he has returned to chat her up.

Malick in his film never names this woman: she is meant to represent America.

She is now tamed and tortured, spirit-stifled, English-corseted, and she is dying.

She has not a word to say to her one-time, would-be beau, until Smith asks:

“Did I make a mistake in coming here?”

To which she witheringly replies: “Did you find your Indies, John?”

“I may,” he admits, “have sailed past them.”

Absolutely goddam right.

I have no intention of making any sense in this piece
. It is intended only for those about to feel.

Americans are in eternal recurrence, at the present. They are at root back in Reconstruction. ‘Cept instead of, as back then, just black legislators, they have, in now, an actual black president.

And so, hear the wind do howl.

For dragging their knuckles across the Confederate States of America, in these days, are spawn of the same folks who would have dragged their knuckles some 145 years ago: rat-bastard racists like Mitch McConnell and John Boehner, rat-bastard racists making sure that no person of the dusky persuasion, can ever experience anything even remotely approaching a success, anywhere.

Some places, evolution, it do not touch.

Rat-bastard racists. In the Confederate States of America. Them: evolution do not touch.

The United States: that was the Green Light for a while.

But that’s over now.

And that’s alright.

For the green light is never still.

Being the green light means always moving on. Forever out of reach. The fresh green breast. Forever never touched.

The green light, as Associate Justice to the United States Supreme Court Ruth Bader Ginsburg recently expressed it, has moved onward to South Africa, Canada, the European Union.

That’s just the way it is.

This is no threat to “Americans.”

For there are, really, no such things as “Americans.”

There are only free human beings, alive on this earth.

Until such time as this is fully understood, there is, thank jeebus, for those who get there early, such things as the cool cool hand on thy head.

So let it be written. So let it be done.

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2 Responses to “The Green Light”


  1. 1 possum July 19, 2012 at 3:13 am

    ‘Always in search of’ is the American way from our earliest beginnings. Today the media drives the idea of ‘grass is greener on the other side’ or ‘keeping up with the Joneses.’ What a shame. We humans doom ourselves by the continued competition and our failure to realize how absolutely correct you are. “There are only free human beings, alive on this earth.”

    Thanks for a fine piece. Made a lot of sense to me. :)

  2. 2 mieprowan July 19, 2012 at 6:44 pm

    I especially like this piece, B.

    “Everybody knows the deal is rotten,
    Old Black Joe still picking cotton
    For your ribbons and bows
    Everybody knows.”
    -Leonard Cohen


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