May 19, 2011 – Summer is just around the corner in Montreal; springtime is here, and with it the annual literary gathering known as the Blue Metropolis Festival, which last week welcomed to its stage renowned author, essayist and liberal activist Gore Vidal to set the tone for the literary happenings to come.
Before the night was over he was labelled as “cantankerous” by one young student, held up as the greatest U.S. president they never had by another, and would thoroughly entertain, if not enlighten, the congregated mass, though a dozen or so walked out before his talk had concluded.
In an intimate setting, Vidal opened by telling the audience that he “travels under the guise of a Canadian, which is still better internationally then the failed U.S. republic”.
“Americans are the dumbest people on earth, and I only want them to get better. Canadians are catching up (or down, depending on how you look at it),” he said.
Vidal spared no lash of the tongue for the United States and declared, “The American narrative that the U.S. gives aid through support and money to the nations of the world has been a lie since World War II.”
On the extent of the American Empire, Vidal declared, “the world should be grateful we ran out of gas; the American Empire will be little more than a footnote of history.” Then, in his best Texas-drawl, the 85-year-old Vidal paunched his jaw and explained “I’m a war-time president,” in tribute to George Bush, whose Republican Party Vidal proclaims has become an “openly fascist party.”
The political spectrum, internationally and domestically, was not the only target for this piquant, jovial public voice. Vidal had some harsh criticisms of today’s notions of journalism as well.
“The American and Canadian media are lacking, completely lacking in thought or original perspective. I prefer European sources for my information, not just for the events, but for the various perspectives presented.”
A lifelong historian and student of human experience as the nature that makes the world tick; Gore Vidal gave Montrealers a much-needed lesson in the history of their own media for the majority that had no clue about its origins.
Montreal’s English-language daily, The Gazette, has a history embedded with the evolution of the United States and its very creation can be identified as a turning-point in the role of the media as a tool for public relations spin.
“In 1776, Ben Franklin came to this city and helped to found and establish the Montreal Gazette, not to spread freedom of information to the free world as he saw it, but as a propaganda tool to monger up support in Canada for the American Revolution and to influence public perception.”
There were about a dozen or so attendees who walked out within the first 15 minutes. Some prepared for neither the direct, straight-talking honesty of Mr.Vidal nor the target of this honesty being so unabashedly the American Empire and what he considers the devolution of the global community as a result of the way that the United States conducts itself in international affairs.
Once the crowd got settled in, however, those who approached the evening with an openly academic mind were rewarded with an educating session of shared experiences, leaving the hall with more knowledge then when they arrived.
The second half of the programme had Vidal taking open questions from the floor, which became a learning experience for those listening, despite thestrangely entertaining fact that Vidal prefaced his responses to each with either a “what did he say?” or “what a ridiculous question!”
We learned that his favourite books were Thieves Fall Out, A Star’s Progress and Creation. We learned that he has a play re-opening on Broadway for its third run. Interestingly enough, Vidal’s attestation that he cannot live without anaesthetic, however jovial, did conjure up images of Brave New World’s soma dependency and prompted further the author to announce his position when asked about the de-criminalization of drugs.
“I don’t care what you do as long as you don’t do it around me!”
The most revealing moment arose when Vidal told the audience how he sees himself and his life when he pauses to reflect. Quite simply, Vidal told the hushed crowd he has dedicated his life to the study of history.
“My life has been a study of history. How we screwed up the United States step-by-step from the Revolution in 1776 to President Obama today. We were borne out of an uprising of tax offenders whose attitudes can be summed up by Ben Franklin’s belief that ‘Good ideas fail because of the corruption of the people’ and it doesn’t get any better from there.”
Gore Vidal impressed all in attendance — and, thankfully, all bodes well for the future of tell-it-like-it-is truisms in the literary world. As Gore Vidal has spent his life proving that the truth will come out even if not everyone likes to hear it.
Tariq Jeeroburkhan is a Freelance Journalist and an Independent Content Enhancer and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org – His blog is at www.jeeroburkhan.wordpress.com and a 24 hour video stream featuring events and interviews from Montreal is available at www.livestream.com/montrealwhat .