Reclaiming America

I guess most of us have an America inside our head. Actually it’s probably it’s more complicated than that. Most of us have several contradictory Americas in our heads struggling for supremacy at any particular moment in time. The America that has often inspired me was summoned up in an entry in Bruce Sterling’s blog a few days ago. Taking a quote from Kurt Andersen, in an essay about Pentagram partner Michael Bierut, Sterling writes:
“It goes like this:
‘But when I look at the body of Michael’s work — and for that matter, at Michael himself — the common threads I see are most of the admirable American virtues. By which I mean, not to put too fine a point on it, the virtues embodied by (for instance) Benjamin Franklin and Mark Twain and Charles and Ray Eames: industry, populism, pragmatism, playfulness, honesty, unpretentiousness, a sense of humor, a light touch, an appreciation of pleasure, a basic frugality, a rejection of cant, a cheerful magpie mongrelism, a balance between city-on-a-hill conviction and big-tent laissez-faire tolerance.’
There’s a lot to what Andersen says here. That’s precisely the kind of virtuous America that I want to be American in. What a great place. I wonder what happened to it, and what one has to do to get it back.”

Curiously, I rediscovered someone who seems to have the answer to Sterling’s questions yesterday. Michael Moorcock, a legendary Notting Hill figure in the Sixties, is now living in Austin, Texas – Stirling’s home time. In a very long interview, as an activist taxpayer without a vote, Moorcock does a brilliant dissection of the American psyche – well worth putting aside some time to read.