Friday, September 05, 2008

What Republicans Don't Understand

Here's a snapshot of a worldview that I'm not exposed to very much because I live in the reddest county in the state, if not the country. Paul Auster on his new novel:

AVC: This book is already being branded as a "post-9/11" novel. Did this story take shape because of September 11?

PA: No, I think one of the burning issues that helped me think about this book—or made me think about it, I should say—was the 2000 elections, which were a source of such frustration and outrage. To see Al Gore elected president, and then for the Republicans, through political and legal manipulations, steal it from him. So, I've had this eerie sense for the last eight years that we've been living in a parallel world, a shadow world. And the reality is that Al Gore is finishing his second term as president, there's no war in Iraq, and there might never have been 9/11. When one considers how thoroughly the Clinton administration was tracking these people, it's possible it would have been blocked. I think that sense of unreality inspired me to write the story within the book that [August] Brill tells himself, one of the stories he tells himself.

AVC: We tell ourselves stories to fend off reality, like Brill does when he says, "Give me my story… to keep the ghosts away." On the other hand, some argue that Bush told us a story so he could involve us in the actuality of the war in Iraq.

PA: Yes, that's a good example. You're right: a fiction creating reality.

AVC: Is that something that's going on in this novel?

PA: No, because that fiction is propaganda. That fiction is just lies. The kind of fiction I'm trying to write is about telling the truth.

Propaganda is the lie we tell to keep the ghosts away. Propaganda is the government's version of conspiracy and paranoid reasoning. It is also our way of rationalizing away the inequity of a stolen election and the national psychic wound of the events of 9/11. What Auster is interested in is the truth, which is not necessarily the truth, but a search for healing and transformation that goes beyond ego-based thinking.

While Republicans are very good at nursing these pains, turning them into dysfunctional grudges, they are very bad at understanding how blue state people seek out resolution through the larger culture: art, cosmopolitanism, and activism. Y'know, all those hateful interest groups and wimpy liberal arts elites who want to make the world better, boo hoo.