'What Needs Doing'

Interview With Gore Vidal

By Christine Smith

"I have no priorities. I simply go on," Gore Vidal said in a Dec. 21, 2005, interview. "I do what I think needs doing."

His "doing" has resulted in a remarkable prolific career as a novelist, essayist, playwright, historian, and bold defender of the American Constitution and our republic. From this man, whom I have read and admired for many years, I sought an interview that would, to some degree, delve into personal thoughts, as well as touch on political matters. As he told me at the end when I asked for three nouns and three adjectives describing himself, "As you must guess by now I am not my subject. I write and think about others."

Yet Vidal graciously answered my questions, including the one I most wanted to ask: his definition of "love" and of "wisdom." It is with appreciation and deep respect for my favorite author I share his opinions and thoughts:

A preferred writing environment? "I don't think place has much to do with what I write. I need space for several thousand books of reference or history."

His remarkable ability to so effectively communicate depth of human emotion/personality/experiences as appears even in his earliest novels? "Instead of going to college I enlisted in the army during World War Two. That was educational."

Courage and boldness his life has evinced? "I think I have a good ear for the false note and feel obliged to draw attention to it. It also helps never having wanted to be popular."

Religion/monotheism? "Bertrand Russell as a child questioned the notion of a God-Creator. The argument he was given was proto-creationism: nothing can be created out of nothing except by an all-powerful God. So, asked Master Russell: who created God out of nothing? ..."

Any beliefs he became disillusioned with? "Since I'm not much of a believer I'm seldom disappointed by or disillusioned at what others do or don't do."

Avocations such as chess, music, film: "I play chess badly but often. When we lived in Rome there was a golden age at the Rome Opera House, and so we got to hear the first revivals of Donizetti and Rossini, a golden age indeed." Inquiring about what has elicited tears when viewing film, "Generally one wept with Bette Davis who starred in the first movie I wrote for MGM."

Vidal's opinion on the outlook for 2008 election (re: voting irregularities, What Went Wrong in Ohio: The Conyers Report on the 2004 Presidential Election, to which Vidal wrote an introduction, etc.)? "Our political system is now thoroughly corrupt. Since the educational system for most people is inadequate they begin their lives as citizens with no knowledge of our republic and its history while the media is in the hands of a very few people who have much to hide from us. Conyer's book on Ohio was never mentioned in the New York Times, Washington Post, et cetera. We are not meant to know that our elections are often rigged and that many of the candidates are bought. There was serious talk in the Bush administration about not holding the 2004 election for fear of a terrorist attack. In 2008 they will do anything to hold on to power."

What could concerned Americans opposing the Bush administration do to have a chance of affecting the deplorable path our country is on currently? "What to do? The international monetary fund has said that we are 'careening toward insolvency.' Economic disaster might at least slow down the police state that looms up ahead."

How can Americans be so gullible, apathetic, ignorant when the information is out there -- via Internet -- but many ignore it? "The problem with the Internet is that, yes, everything seems to be out there but how much is reliable? Americans don't know how to find out what is going on in the world when the media is largely propaganda for the regime and the lies told us are unremitting."

US-Cuban relations? "We should have normalized relations with Cuba after the missile crisis." It is Vidal's opinion that, "Instead, the Kennedy brothers persuaded mobsters to kill Castro, unaware that the mobsters intended to kill JFK first and did. Read Ultimate Sacrifice by Waldron and Hartmann."

An American prison should be? "Not what it is today, a vengeful system of torture and worse in which over two million people are trapped, making us number one at something, finally."

His rejection of capital punishment? "The death penalty does not deter, as is well known. Why should we all be marked like Cain with the barbarism of a few of our death-loving citizens?"

America could/should be? "A majority of citizens should be able to read which they cannot do now. They should be able to do simple sums, too. And history should be the backbone of the public school system."

I wondered if he would offer any advice based on his life experiences to others who seek truth and understanding? To which he replied, "It is pointless to give advice and sometimes dangerous to take it."

Was there anything I had not asked that he would like to share with my readers? "You've asked good questions," he answered. With that, my interview with the man who has been my mentor for many years through his books and his passion for truth, concluded.

As to the question I most hoped for an answer from my interview, since it would be meaningful due to my high regard for Gore Vidal: what is Vidal's definitions of the words wisdom and love? His reply, as I speculated it would be, is a definition the world has unfortunately yet to grasp: "Both Wisdom and Love can be defined by the same word: 'acceptance.'" Indeed.

Christine Smith (christinesmith.us) is a writer, author of A Mountain In The Wind: An Exploration of the Spirituality of John Denver [2001], actress, model and social justice activist. She was recipient of The Institute for Human Potential's Outstanding American Award in 2002 and the Peace Power Foundation's Amigas Peace Prize in 2000. Copyright 2005 C. Smith.

From The Progressive Populist, March 1, 2006

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