Running on Empty: A Colonized American's Rembrance of Time Past - Part 2
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Running on Empty: A Colonized American's Rembrance of Time Past - Part 2


Part I:


                                                Part II.

                                                  A Tale of Two Cityscapes in America

America’s cities like her people are of two extremes, bourgeois and pertinacious or working class and modest. As I gravitated from the marathon to playing and coaching Football, what is called “soccer” in the United States, it was through these two athletic arts that I also came to observe the cityscapes that molded and defined me as who I was in the most extreme of social circumstances. Here is my own remembrance of things past, and present, from two American cities I have lived in, much more of a basic perhaps even drab daily existence when compared to the vivid literary ambience Proust wrote about so wonderfully from his bed in Paris...

Running on Empty: A Colonized American's Rembrance of Time Past

Ah, Proust. I ate Madeleine cookies even in my youth, long before I ever read a word of Proust, let alone his Remembrance of Things Past. I'd eat them in Kansas sweet shops and bring them home from bakeries. I remember I ate Madeleine cookies after dipping them in hot tea in Montreal. But now my health prevents it. And now they are part of my past as well.

Running on Empty: A Colonized American's Rembrance of Time Past

I still remember the smell of resin from pine cones I picked up as I ran through Linwood Park in Wichita.  I still can feel the soft wind hitting my face as I ran with my neighborhood friends through the streets of Haysville, Kansas during the early days of September.  Although those were different times, and as one should not linger long in nostalgia, it is about the integrity of the cityscapes of America in my youth that I understand now to be honest, as much as it could be before late United Sates imperialism would come full force to Americans in all the enclaves of both small towns and the squalor and decadence of the  USA, where now the working class, the endless poor, the ghettoized African Americans and barrio Latinos and Hispanics live no differently than those who survive by any means possible in Third World countries along with the colonized emerging countries.

Running on Empty: A Colonized American's Rembrance of Time Past

I hear sounds. I hear the Pawnee Indians in my Kansas neighborhood in Plainview, a working class district of Wichita when I was only a boy of five. The Indians played their drums through the night, and it was not only one night, but night after night, and I could not sleep. My mother and father would come into the bedroom where my brother and I slept and attempted to calm me, as I stared out the open bedroom window.  Our living quarters had once been housing projects for NCOs during World War II. I could hear the Indians chanting and the drum beats becoming louder, and I knew that some of the Indians were drunk but that did not scare me. It was very hot in my room on summer nights and the drums pounding only increased my anxiety amid the wonder of thinking what it would be like to be a Pawnee brave. Now, in older age in Burlington, Vermont, I see the rich white male university students wander through the streets drunk and the women students with their arrogant pouts and provocative dresses or shorts, laughing and making their whining slurs about the witless young men encircling them.

Running on Empty: A Colonized American's Rembrance of Time Past

This is the community I live in now. I see how these bourgeois students are more lost and more destructive to themselves and others than the Indians I knew as a young boy, when I heard them play their drums through the night in Wichita, Kansas, the workingman’s city. Then, I dreamt of running on the plains or riding a pinto horse along the Flint Hills in Kansas.  Now in the bourgeois city of Burlington, I do not live or dream, I observe America not as I want the country to be, but as it is in harsh reality. 

Running on Empty: A Colonized American's Rembrance of Time Past

These two tales of observation of two different cities are simply a metaphor of two communities I have lived in, one during my childhood and the other in older age.  America has always been a country of extremes. In Wichita, a deeply creative city in Kansas, I came to know through my own limited experiences the struggles that still take place in a state famous for its historic struggles against slavery of every kind. Bleeding Kansas was demonstrative of the gravity of the pre-civil war’s  most pressing social issues, from the matter of slavery to the class conflicts emerging in that era. On the other hand, in Burlington, Vermont, the ordinary working class Vermonters and their new immigrants are in a profound struggle against stifling politically correct behavior and neo-liberalism with its underhand of fascist provocations and an ultimate agenda of economic servitude of those who live in a state famous for its contradictory, eccentric behavior and its genuine desire for self-determination.

Running on Empty: A Colonized American's Rembrance of Time Past

I intentionally presented these two vignettes to describe the vast differences of two American cities, one a Midwestern city and the other a New England city. It would be easy to express more of the underlying tensions of class and racial enmity in the cities of the United States, but I have never been fortunate enough to create a scene like the French writer Alexis de Tocqueville when he saw a Native American woman with her child by a stream in Alabama, a Black slave woman accompanied by her white, female owner — all three of them as if painted in a naïve Rousseau nature tableau  — and how they were forced to relate to each other. Even there Tocqueville would admit, “I had already recognized the thousand different signs of white supremacy" — but in almost the same breath he would note “… a bond of affection linked in this case the oppressed and the oppressors, and nature’s efforts to draw them close made even more striking the wide gap between them caused by prejudice and law.” 

That phrase of the historian, “prejudice and law,” is only now in the modern epoch  more violent, more vicious and murderous in the United States of America.  Here where I live in New England, with only the memory of the Pawnee Indians of my youth, I see in Vermont that the segregation between Whites, Blacks and the Native Americans who live in Vermont, if not in all of New England, has not slackened but is a microcosm of the rest of the country, and underneath the liberalism is a socially insane mutual odium that exists among the same American people who bogusly profess caring community and extended family.

In the scheme of things, it important that the historian when describing a community he or she lives in, whether it be for good or ill, will create a codex, that is. a modern chronology or record that describes the witnessing of the denigration of  the United States by her tyrants and the American people who in their slavish worship of money and political power, acquiesced to the decline and implosion of a once-respected nation. What must not be lost in describing America and her communities is neither exaggerating her greatness nor lack of greatness. America is not a country of poetry, but a country of perpetual commerce and the hard prose of class and racial/ethnic discrimination in general. The United States, which only a few writers are were willing to admit was only a country that wanted to be great, even as she destroyed the abundant nature around her, condemning the poor to live in hovels among glossy skyscrapers and endless miles of cement rubble.

Running on Empty: A Colonized American's Rembrance of Time Past

Therefore, I must caution the reader to remember these prescient words by the French historian Tocqueville when describing America — “I have often observed that Americans who deal in general with their business in clear, crisp, and unadorned language, whose excessive simplicity is often coarse, easily turn to bombast as soon as they approach a poetic style. From one end to the other of their speech, they indulge in relentless pomposity and you would think, seeing them lavish imagery at every opportunity, that they had never said anything in simple language.” 

I can relate to this passage in a most ironic way, because as a colonized writer, the most sincere American language I ever read in this country of my birth was the letters written by soldiers during the American Civil War. These letters laid bare in the most direct and simple English their crimes, their decent deeds, and their wishes to see other human beings like themselves remain in slavery or be free.  I remain free only within the context of the same language of those soldiers of the American Civil War, the only difference being is that I am part of the ushering in of the Second American Civil War.  My Madeleine crumbs are these words and nothing else.  

                                            Part III.

                                           Two Friends in One Country      

I first read Alberto Moravia when I was a freshman at Kansas State University, and it was through his books I came to understand how the contradictions of country, community and friendships can be many things yet mean nothing at the same time. In essence, after I read Moravia’s book “Two Friends” later in the autumn of my life, I found to my regret that I was both Sergio, the communist who hated oligarchs and fascist tyrants like Mussolini, and at the same time, I was apathetic and boorish like Maurizio who was bourgeois without regrets.  The difference being unlike Maurizio I have never sided with the fascists. In our time, Maurizio would lavish praise on the aspiring dictator named Trump. We should not fool ourselves. There are endless American communities that idolize the maniacal narcissist Trump and his strategies for fomenting a fascist state on the shores of America.  There are also, on the other side, thousands of communities that are astute to the implosion of the United States and stand firm to fight fascism at whatever costs.

Running on Empty: A Colonized American's Rembrance of Time Past

Nevertheless, there are also profound contradictions within the American national character that must be addressed. Americans are a people of extremes, at once silent and complacent to the decadence of their leadership, and then vocal in their protests against all forms of tyranny.  No American hands are clean. For any writer in this epoch claiming their hands are completely clean are deceiving themselves.  To live in a community in any part of the world without having a deep responsibility to criticize the body politic of that community only leads to misery and hypocrisy.

This essay about community is not just for Americans to read, but also for Russians to read as well, for they know more about oppression and the heroic struggle against fascism which is expressed in the great literature of their Russian and Soviet writers. If France is the beacon of the first People’s Revolution, then the Russian October Revolution is the great template for Americans to study, honor, and replicate as only Americans can. If I saw a great Oglala Sioux runner win a race at the Olympic Games at the Tokyo in 1964, I also saw an a great American Indian who was shrewd enough to survive and become successful in a country that bases every form of sport and art on commerce and nothing else. The great Native American runner never had the opportunity to be a Maurizio, while even in my shyness, insolence and arrogance I had the opportunity to be both Sergio and Maurizio, before I slammed the door on the Maurizio profile along with his girlfriend Nella — those fictional literary characters that live among us, whether we admit it or not. I am and always be two friends in one country, wherever I live.


Author: Luis Lázaro Tijerina