OUT ON THE BAYOU
JANUARY 14, 2000 • HOUSTON VOICE
> Continued from page 17
was conducted via fax from his hotel in
Houston Voice: Where did the inspiration to
write "The Smithsonian Institution" come from?
Gore Vidal: 1 enjoy inventing alternative
universes like Myra, Breckinridge and
Duluth and now Smithsonian. There are
intricate structures and you must never
cheat the reader. I started out with a premise: how could World War II have been
avoided? Well, eliminate World War One
and there would be no vengeful Germany
falling for a psychopath like Hitler. So how
to stop the First World War? Eliminate
Woodrow Wilson as president. So my 13-
year old prodigy hero, installed as of 1939
in the Smithsonian to work on the atomic
bomb, does just that. But things go wrong.
... That's the plot.
HV: h the novel a metaphorical approach to
any modern issues?
CV: This is not 1939. No collision of great
powers is in the offing despite what the mil-
itarv and their friendly politicians have to
say at appropriations time. But it is clear
that our military industrial political complex is longing for a major war with China.
This will probablv kill us all but not before
the few have made a great deal of money,
HV: If you, like your citaracter T from your
book, could set a view screen to lookfonoard in
time, what might you expect to see as the most
important event of the next century or two?
GV: In a pessimistic mood, the end—
either gradual or colorfullv nuclear. In an
optimistic mood, our departure from a
planet that we are using up like a frayed
piece of Kleenex to yet more pristine
Kleenex in the heavens.
HV: At the end of diapterfour, the living display dummy, Tom, indicates tliat more than one
of the former Presidents made use of an all male
escort service "pretty regularly." Who might
those Presidents \iave been?
GV: You are prurient. It was said of lifelong diplomat bachelor Buchanan and of
Franklin Pierce in whose arms, in
Plymouth, New Hampshire, Nathaniel
HV: You have described sexual orientation
labels as adject izvs describing acts rattier than
nouns describing people, do you still feel this way?
GV: It seems so obvious that I no longer
repeat myself other than to add that only in
a so weirdly superstitious and sectarian a
country as the U.S. could a personal identity be forged out of sexual desire, the most
fluctuating of all transient emotion.
HV: Both presidential candidates Bill Bradley
and Al Gore have shown support for domestic
partnerships but have opposed outright gay
marriage. What are your feelings on their
stances and this issue in general?
GV: Monogamy is hardly normative in
the male, particularly in youth. The marriage issue, however, is a great boon for
homophobes because it lets them sidestep
all the things that should be set right, from
sodomy laws in various states, to discrimination in the work place.
Also marriage makes people think of
God, who is so very important to our poor,
bamboozled folks. The founders (and I)
wanted God thrown out the window at
Philadelphia, but the crazies breed like
chiggers and he keeps slithering back in. He
now dominates so much of radio and TV.
Until a stake has been driven through the
heart of monotheism, the U.S. will never
come within a continuum of civilization.
That suits them chiggers real fine.
HV: Do you liave a stance on the topic of gay
GV: For most Americans, rather than
expose the young to love and, in due course
perhaps, desire, it is far better to lock them up
in prisons, subject them to torture, sexual
abuse and execution.
That is the American way. We are famed in
the civilized world as the most barbarous of
nations in the treatment of our citizens. But I
reckon God wants us like that, doing his work.
4.9 million Americans are in prisons, under
detention, under surveillance, on parole. Now
the privatization of prisons is proving a bonanza for some of our crooked citizens.
George W. Bush exults in the fact that as
governor of Texas, he has barbequed I (X) people. Good American George, God loves him.
HV: You once wrote (in 1966) that "in a civilized society, hue should not function at all in the
area of sex, except to protect people from bang
interfered with against their will," and said tiuit
''sex lives are of no consequence in civilized countries." What influences continue to make sex and
-exual orientations such a controversy in America
ami does this mean we are not civilized?
GV: As you may by now suspect, 1 don't
think we are civilized. The media is
obsessed with sex, particularly in the private lives of politicians, due to the fact that
as we do not have a representative government (offices are bought and paid for by
corporate America), we are not allowed to
discuss real politics.
This leaves us with nothing but private
lives. What is politics? Who collects what
money to pay for whom to buy what. That's
it. In one handy phrase. But corporate
America observes omerta [code of silence]
on this delicate issue so we never know
what goes on in the Senate Finance
Committee. And never will now. The corporate owned media is happy to go along,
smearing politicians who are, admittedly, of
no great use to anyone in any case.
by Gore Vidal
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