Book 13, pages 226-227
In Columbia, Maryland, I got to live with a white woman who had in every single
respect copied a playboy millionaire's life-style.
She drove me around in her
Jaguar, had mink furs in her wardrobe and a big fur-covered bed that I once
fell out of, as it was completely round in the best Hollywood style. She
reminded me of a black ghetto superfly-Cadillac type, with a wild imagined sex
drive which was so evidently only an expression of something she had to live up
to that it made me, at least, completely impotent. Having been in America only
four months, I was still very prudish. One of the things Europeans are
alienated by in America is the perpetual talk about money, power, and sex,
three words used comparatively little in language and mentality in Denmark.
Especially sex seems to preoccupy Americans, and their language is studded with
words like "fuck."
One evening when I went for a walk with the woman along the lake, three cars
suddenly pulled up. In the first sat some drunken people. From the next, two
men with guns jumped out. I got so scared that I tried to slink away, but my
friend recognized her neighbor in the first car, the composer Burt Bacharach.
He was so drunk he couldn't find his way home, so we were asked to show the way
and got in the car. The only one of them who was sober enough to talk began
asking me questions. He seemed very young, and as I was a bit gloomy that
night because of my despairing relationship with this woman, I didn't feel like
answering him. Then he explained that he was Senator Tunney from California,
the woman next to him was Ethel Kennedy, and the man with a glass of whisky in
his hand was Ted Kennedy. That changed my mood and my friend suddenly became
all enthusiasm and whispered in my ear something about how fantastic the
Kennedys were and that we should stay with them. Burt Bacharach had fallen
asleep, so we kept circling around the lake with the Secret Service right
behind us in the worst drunk-driving spree I had been on in a long time. Ted
had his shirt open and was in a sad state. Ethel looked even more miserable,
and I could find no resemblance to news pictures I had seen of her. Since I'm
not writing for the National Enquirer I leave out some details, but when we
finally arrived at Burt Bacharach's house we stayed onto drink with them.
Kennedy had just introduced his national Health Insurance Plan, which would bring health care up to the level of Scandinavia. He had made shocking speeches in Congress about how the U.S.A. "trails 17 other nations in life expectancy, 15 other nations in death rates for middle-aged males, 12 others for infant mortality. If infant mortality was as low in America as it is in Sweden, 50,000 fewer American babies would have died last year." Even Europe's poorest country, Albania, had more hospital beds per capita, and the Washington Post had announced that more than two million unnecessary operations were done entirely for profit in the U.S.A., killing as many as 24,000 annually.
So I knew I was sitting with a pioneer (or even a missionary) who could save thousands of American lives if he could get his law passed. I asked him what the opposition's arguments could possibly be. He answered: "... hic... hic" Then I asked what the position of American doctors was. He answered in a bit more detail: "... mumble... hic... hic..." Then I was satisfied, With such feeble opposition, it seemed the bill would be passed. The next day, after the hangover had passed, my friend, who had flirted unsuccessfully with Ted, suddenly surprised me by muttering something very negative about him with a reference to Chappaquiddick.
The Kennedy incident has since brought me into
more homes than anything else. When I am interested in staying with someone I
am hitching with, I usually tell them about this and similar experiences. And
the reaction is almost always the same: "Oh, so you know Kennedy? Don't you
feel like coming home to stay with us to night?" Everybody wants to get closer
to the Kennedys. For the Kennedys are the personification of the American
trinity of money, power, and sex. Having "worked their way up" to enormous
wealth, they have in addition reached the pinnacle of political power and -
handsome and young - have used it to date women like Marilyn Monroe. They have
reached the stars. But they have made one mistake. They have betrayed the
American creed of success by - within the very limited American framework -
working for the poor and the blacks. You don't get hung on the wall of every
black home without having betrayed master-slave society at least to some
extent. Thus, it becomes more imperative to vote against a man, not for his
drinking, which is fairly accepted, but for the accidental death it caused,
than to vote for a brilliant politician whose bills could save thousands of
lives. Or even more sickening: to vote for a "sober, God-fearing" president
responsible for killing and maiming millions of Vietnamese.
The only one in America my Kennedy experience
apparently didn't make an impression on was Ted Kennedy. When I saw him at a
meeting in New York this fall I went right past the bodyguards and said
something like "Hey, you remember me from that night...?" But Ted just stared
at me like he didn't know what I was talking about.
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