I'm a WASP. Not a private school, rich-kid, snob WASP. I'm a public school, middle class, open-minded WASP. A social liberal and economic conservative. A believer in the benefits of altered states of consciousness, but not a libertine. I have no prejudices that I can point to and say, damn, I hate those people just because ...
When I hate somebody, it's with good reason. Most times it's because they've tried to do me harm, and even though I have this deal with God that protects me, it still pisses me off to get harmed. Then I am forced to accept the reality that we all do harm. All of us, even the most enlightened, consciously or unconsciously. Part of being alive is harming the environments we live in. We take what we need to survive and in doing so we change the natural order. It harms some. Our steps leave footprints. Our breaths leave essence.
I think at some point in the past I was black, and native American, and Jewish, and Muslim, and Buddhist, and a woman, and a dog ... I do not find it improbable that reincarnation is reality. You go back Jack and do it again, wheel turning round and round, until you get it right. The fact that you're still here means you haven't gotten it right yet, but we keep trying.
My belief in multiple existences in a variety of roles means I give myself license to write characters who are not me now and I know this rubs some people the wrong way, like who the **** are you to assume you understand my situation? And I ask, who are you to assume I don't? But for the sake of this piece I will take the interviews of a few people and let them speak for themselves about their people. These excerpts are taken from Studs Terkel's book, American Dreams: Lost & Found. It is fascinating reading.
S B Fuller, a black businessman in the cosmetics industry. At Studs' first attempt at an interview, S B smelled alcohol on Studs' breath and ended the interview and told Studs to come back when he was sober. Studs had had one scotch and soda with lunch.
When I was nine years old in Monroe, LA, I started selling Cloverine salve. I wanted to be a man. When I became a man, I wanted to produce something similar to what I was sellin'.
I found in America in 1912, there were 4,043 millionaires. Only eighty-nine had high school educations. Some didn't finish grammar school. So I found myself in good company.
I took twenty-five dollars and bought me some soap and started sellin' it from door-to-door. That was during the depression, 1935. Your disadvantage can always be your advantage... The thing that discouraged people out sellin' , they thought people didn't have any money. But soap was sellin' for ten cents a cake and it was hard to find people who didn't have a dime.
The greatest advantage in the world is to be born in America. Only in America, you're free to eat if you can find something to eat and free to starve if you don't. In America, they won't let you starve, but you'd be better off starving than go on relief. You may not be physically dead on relief, but you are spiritually.
What is hurting youth today is pacifiers. Dope. Nature gave you energy and you're not supposed to relax that energy. You're supposed to use that energy to make the world a better place to live because you are here. I know that nature never made a nobody. Everybody was born with some kind of talent.
A dog you feed will not hunt. If you want a dog that hunts, you have to let him get hungry. If you want a man to search, man needs to face the recesses of life.
It's contrary to the law of nature for man to stand still. He either marches forward or the eternal march will force him back. This the negro has failed to understand. He believes that the lack of integration has kept him back. This is not true. The lack of initiative is responsible.
Dr. Martin Luther King thought civil rights legislation gonna solve the black man's dilemma. I knew better. I talked with Dr. King when we boycott the Montgomery bus line. I told him the thing we need to do is go down there and buy the bus line. Then we ride where we choose to because it's our bus line. He didn't want that.
Ignorance is the root of misfortune...You can be an illiterate man and not be ignorant, and you can be ignorant and not illiterate.
My mother, she was born a slave, she knew that and pointed it out to me...She told me that white people feared black folk because they didn't understand them.
Rosalie Sorrells, traveling folk singer.
There's a terrible mobility in this society. It's too easy to run away from things. I do that.
I'm not trying to beat anybody out. I do what I do. It seems awful to me that someone bases their whole life on winning. I always loved that song where Malvina Reynolds says:
I don't mind wearing raggedy britches
because them that succeeds are sons of bitches.
I don't mind failing in this world.
I have no intention of going under. I will play my drum my way.
Jill Robinson, the daughter of a former Hollywood film producer (and writer)
(On movie making) First of all, you invented someone, someone's image of someone. Then you'd infantilize them, keep them at that level of consciousness, so they'd be convinced that this is indeed who they are.
In a sense, it's a Jewish revenge on America. It combines the Puritan ethic-there's no sex, no ultimate satisfaction-with baroque magnificence. The happy ending was the invention of Russian Jews, designed to drive Americans crazy. It was a marvelous idea. What could make them crazy but to throw back at them their small towns? Look how happy it is here. Compare the real small towns with the small town on the MGM back lot. There's no resemblance...The daughter is Judy Garland when she believed in Aunt Em. The boy is Robert Walker before he realized he was gonna drink himself to death. And love and marriage would be innocence and tenderness with no sex.
Sex, when I ran across it, in no way resembled anything I had ever seen in the movies. I didn't know how to respond. I think the reason we're so crazy sexually in America is that all our responses are acting. We don't know how to feel. We know how it looked in the movies. We know that in the movies it's inconceivable that the bad guy will win. Therefore we don't get terribly involved in any cause. The good guy's gonna win anyway. It's a marvelous political weapon.
The Hollywood dream has driven us crazy, but no more than any other mythology. Religious orders that govern whole states and decide what they should believe.
I would add, economic orders too.