The Patriot

Edward Abbey used to say that he took great pride in getting more radical as he got older—no easy task for the anarchist son of a communist father, but an impeccably American maturation just the same.  As the American Empire staggers into senseless senescence, what patriot, whether populist, reactionary, or just cantankerously American, isn’t being radicalized by a Cheney-Bush state that bids to make FDR’s reign look like an edenic age of flower-power pacifism and carefree liberty?

Our greatest living man of letters, 78-year-old Gore Vidal, has grown into our greatest living dissident.  If his latest work, Dreaming War, does not pass muster with the literary critics of the Department of Homeland Security, so much the better.  For patriotic Gore Vidal is fighting a last valiant battle to preserve—no, to reclaim—the American republic that once was.

Vidal as pamphleteering elder is in the mold of his forebear Edmund Wilson, who contributed the corrosive classic The Cold War and the Income Tax (1963), in which the absent-minded Sage of Talcottville explained his guileless failure to pay the publicans from 1946 to 1955.  Wilson concluded in this strange and prophetic little book that the United States had become “self-intoxicated, homicidal and menacing”—this before LBJ had fulfilled his promise to bring the Great Society to Vietnam,...

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