America, O Mighty River

One could say that nations are like rivers, all flowing through the eons toward the same dark sea of history. They wend their courses through the landscapes of the world, some rivers sinuous and narrow, some straight and broad. One could also say that nations are like large Epoisses de Burgogne cheeses stored in an unventilated shed, but I prefer the river analogy: it has that pep, that extra zim for which wide-awake consumers yearn. America, it seems to this lowly navigator of the lateen-rigged keyboard, is a broad, mostly straight river, flowing with awesome speed toward that inksome sea. There was an oxbow at the Civil War, and another when the Depression proved that capitalism didn’t work; other than these slight diversions, our way has been a direct one. And now we come to the salty part.

Thirty-nine percent of Americans polled still think erstwhile president Bush is doing a bang-up job. Meanwhile, the man (if man he is) remains in office. He thrust America into World War Three (an asymmetrical struggle involving hegemonic nation-states against stateless doctrinaire warriors, as the kids down at the pool hall say) because terrorists attacked a symbol of American commerce; but confronted with an entire city destroyed by an act of his #1 pal, God, Bush hasn’t expended the restorative energy necessary to put on a bake sale to buy Creationist textbooks for the school library. Why? Because there was a villain in the Manhattan tragedy, and he groks good guys and bad guys, and more to the point, because it was an attack on the dollar. On the other hand (the left hand), New Orleans is a lifestyle proposition. Bush hates lifestyles. He loves money. So no soup for New Orleans, but a thousand years of war for the World Trade Center. Thirty-nine percent of Americans think that’s just dandy.

It’s not Bush or his bunch of bureaucratic bedizened and benighted Belial butt-buddies that are to blame. It’s the rest of us doing nothing to stop them. We are entering that terrifying gulf, that bay of cold waters, Ancient History. The American experiment is over, just as the French and English and Dutch and Spanish experiments are over. We’ll get to keep our bit of land, we’ll have our little corners of industry and tourism and culture to keep the wolf out from under the covers, but the American Age is over. Our glittering river has run its way to the ocean and all the cheering masses picnicking on her banks will pack up and go home while the water recedes and the current slows and the mud and bracken build up turbid-fashion. You can’t drink it now. The flashing salmon are gone. America has come of age and will inherit the very state of swamphood for which Americans have long mocked Europeans.

Right, I think this river thing has run dry, but I’m sure my more alert correspondents get the point. We’re done. From here forward, it’s going to be the usual non-struggle between the governed and the governors. The general outlines of the thing are established. We’ll have corporations living on government money and citizens providing same with same, just like everybody else has done. Old nations like Italy that used to be America didn’t have corporations, they had the Church, but la même différence. The money flows uphill. Thirty-nine percent of Americans are fine with this arrangement. Our attitudes about race and sex and identity have more or less ground to a fermata. Various groups will come in and out of vogue: Okay to be Gay! Black is Back! But these will be variations on a monolithic never-changing culture. We export jobs but we don’t import cultures, not anymore, so the mixture must get more and more homogenized. O Pasteur, what hast thou wrought?

Five hundred years from now, some upstart nation will be mocking America, and America will wink sleepily, stuck in gummy corpulence to the Naugahyde La-Z-Boy of time, and sneer. Just you wait, punk.

That thirty-nine percent of Americans that think it’s all working out just great will swell again and become most Americans, wait and see. Because there aren’t going to be better choices to make next time. The compromises will become more encompassing. The range of possibilities will become narrower and more alike. The American river will back up with silt, and like New Orleans, when the storms come, it will drown. And just like New Orleans, there will be apathy. Because what mattered about America ran into the sea long before.

Write yourself an amusing punch line here, I haven’t got one.

BEN TRIPP is an independent filmmaker and all-around swine. His book, Square In The Nuts, may be purchased here, with other outlets to follow: Swag is available as always from http://www.cafeshops/tarantulabros. And Mr. Tripp may be reached at








We published an article entitled “A Saudiless Arabia” by Wayne Madsen dated October 22, 2002 (the “Article”), on the website of the Institute for the Advancement of Journalistic Clarity, CounterPunch, (the “Website”).

Although it was not our intention, counsel for Mohammed Hussein Al Amoudi has advised us the Article suggests, or could be read as suggesting, that Mr Al Amoudi has funded, supported, or is in some way associated with, the terrorist activities of Osama bin Laden and the Al Qaeda terrorist network.

We do not have any evidence connecting Mr Al Amoudi with terrorism.

As a result of an exchange of communications with Mr Al Amoudi’s lawyers, we have removed the Article from the Website.

We are pleased to clarify the position.

August 17, 2005


Ben Tripp is America’s leading pseudo-intellectual. His most recent book is The Fifth House of the Heart.