We’ve Been on Trump’s Road For a Long Time


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It was summer almost half a century ago when I got into this Volkswagen and began my journey through the country with Peter, a photographer friend of mine. I officially did so as a reporter for a small intelligence agency in San Francisco after being sent out to tap into the mood of the nation at a politically tense moment. The Vietnam War, with all its protests and domestic unrest, was just ending. North Vietnamese troops would invade Saigon, the South Vietnamese capital, soon enough. The President of the United States, Richard Nixon, was then caught in an escalating scandal called “Watergate”.

And here was the strange thing. I felt trapped too. In a way, I felt lost. As I put it at the time (and it should sound familiar, even if I was only referring to the TV version of the news in 1973): “This screen has haunted my life. Somehow I wanted to destroy it and discover new, more human points of reference, a real focus. “I had the urge to break out of my world and do the All-American, that Jack Kerouac thing: Go “on the street”.

So Peter and I made our way to this famous American road, driving from campsites to fast food restaurants, halfway through Carnival to Old Faithful, to find ourselves in the so-called “increasing corporate control not just over the workers, but to be found in the captive society during the holidays, in the free time. “I interviewed and photographed what I considered to be the“ population of disoriented nomads ”- mostly lower-middle-class and working-class Americans, confused and angry,“ pushed aside ”, as I wrote at the time, by“ forces they feel are outside of them Control.” It turned out we were completely on someone else’s street.

In Milwaukee we would be accompanied by Nancy, who later became my wife, and then spend weeks following those overly unromantic highways (with no Jack Kerouac in sight) interviewing anyone who would speak to us. In the end, a 29-year-old attempt to break free from his own life and find out “where (or if) I fit in American society” became my first book. Out of our control: America in the mid-1970s. In retrospect, this book of our strange journey to a land reorganized for the perpetual consumption and welfare of giant corporations became what I would call my own “dream document unearthed from our recent past.”

And yes, so long ago it was a troubled moment in a troubled country. I have to admit, however, that I didn’t look Beyond our influence In years, not until a friend recently found, read, and emailed a copy of it, he quoted my own old text to point out how eerily relevant it still was and how – in a sense – Trumpian parts of this America from 1973 were already.

He particularly highlighted an interview with “Frank Nelson” near the end of this book – I’ve changed all the names, so who knows now which was his real one – what more about in a moment. This letter frightened me. I had forgotten all these Frank Nelsons and maybe also Tom Engelhardt, who interviewed them so long ago.



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