Gore Vidal, 83, described as America’s greatest essayist and one of its best-selling novelists, says he has in his life “crashed many barriers.” Vidal’s brutal manner of criticism hasn’t waned. The United States of America, he says, is a “madhouse” and its President is “overwhelmed” and “incompetent”.
Last year he famously switched allegiance from Hillary Clinton to Barack Obama during the Democratic nomination process for president. Now, he reveals, he regrets his change of heart, says The Independent.
In Vidal’s words: “I was like everyone else when Obama was elected – optimistic. Everything we had been saying about racial integration was vindicated. But he’s incompetent. He will be defeated for re-election. It’s a pity because he’s the first intellectual president we’ve had in many years, but he can’t hack it. He’s not up to it. He’s overwhelmed.
“And who wouldn’t be? The United States is a madhouse. The country should be put away – and we’re being told to go away. Nothing makes any sense. The President wants to be liked by everybody, and he thought all he had to do was talk reason. But remember – the Republican Party is not a political party. It’s a mindset, like Hitler Youth. It’s full of hatred. You’re not going to get them aboard. Don’t even try. The only way to handle them is to terrify them. He’s too delicate for that.
“Obama is doing dreadfully. I was hopeful. He was the most intelligent person we’ve had in that position for a long time. But he’s inexperienced. He has a total inability to understand military matters. He’s acting as if Afghanistan is the magic talisman: solve that and you solve terrorism.
“America should leave Afghanistan. We’ve failed in every other aspect of our effort of conquering the Middle East or whatever you want to call it. The ‘War on Terror’ was ‘made up’, Vidal says. ‘The whole thing was PR, just like ‘weapons of mass destruction’. It has wrecked the airline business, which my father founded in the 1930s. He’d be cutting his wrists. Now when you fly you’re both scared to death and bored to death, a most disagreeable combination.”
In the 1970s, when I worked as journalist in Saudi Arabia an average person on the street would describe the USA as “Shaitan” (or devil). When asked to explain why so, the Saudis were not quite articulate. But in general terms they described the collapse of family life, basic value system and ruthless materialism as signs when devils take over.
Saudis would have found their thoughts articulated better by Vidal. “Gore Vidal is not only grieving for his own dead circle and his fading life, but for his country. At 83, he has lived through one third of the lifespan of the United States. If anyone incarnates the American century that has ended, it is him. He was America’s greatest essayist, one of its best-selling novelists and the wit at every party.
“He holidayed with the Kennedys, cruised for men with Tennessee Williams, was urged to run for Congress by Eleanor Roosevelt, co-wrote some of the most iconic Hollywood films, damned US foreign policy from within, sued Truman Capote, got fellated by Jack Kerouac, watched his cousin Al Gore get elected President and still lose the White House, and – finally, bizarrely – befriended and championed the Oklahoma bomber, Timothy McVeigh.
“Yet now, he says, it is clear the American experiment has been ‘a failure’. It was all for nothing. Soon the country will be ranked ‘somewhere between Brazil and Argentina, where it belongs.’ The Empire will collapse militarily in Afghanistan; the nation will collapse internally when Obama is broken ‘by the madhouse’ and the Chinese call in the country’s debts.
“A ruined United States will then be ‘the Yellow Man’s Burden’, and ‘they’ll have us running the coolie cars, or whatever it is they have in the way of transport’.”
Swaraaj Chauhan describes his two-decade-long stint as a full-time journalist as eventful, purposeful, and full of joy and excitement. In 1993 he could foresee a different work culture appearing on the horizon, and decided to devote full time to teaching journalism (also, partly, with a desire to give back to the community from where he had enriched himself so much.)
Alongside, he worked for about a year in 1993 for the US State Department’s SPAN magazine, a nearly five-decade-old art and culture monthly magazine promoting US-India relations. It gave him an excellent opportunity to learn about things American, plus the pleasure of playing tennis in the lavish American embassy compound in the heart of New Delhi.
In !995 he joined WWF-India as a full-time media and environment education consultant and worked there for five years travelling a great deal, including to Husum in Germany as a part of the international team to formulate WWF’s Eco-tourism policy.
He taught journalism to honors students in a college affiliated to the University of Delhi, as also at the prestigious Indian Institute of Mass Communication where he lectured on “Development Journalism” to mid-career journalists/Information officers from the SAARC, African, East European and Latin American countries, for eight years.
In 2004 the BBC World Service Trust (BBC WST) selected him as a Trainer/Mentor for India under a European Union project. In 2008/09 He completed another European Union-funded project for the BBC WST related to Disaster Management and media coverage in two eastern States in India — West Bengal and Orissa.
Last year, he spent a couple of months in Australia and enjoyed trekking, and also taught for a while at the University of South Australia.
Recently, he was appointed as a Member of the Board of Studies at Chitkara University in Chandigarh, a beautiful city in North India designed by the famous Swiss/French architect Le Corbusier. He also teaches undergraduate and postgraduate students there.
He loves trekking, especially in the hills, and never misses an opportunity to play a game of tennis. The Western and Indian classical music are always within his reach for instant relaxation.
And last, but not least, is his firm belief in the power of the positive thought to heal oneself and others.