The Sunset Boulevard of the American Empire
“I’m ready for my closeup, Mr. Demille,” says Norma Desmond at the end of the 1950 Billy Wilder Hollywood film noir, Sunset Boulevard. This iconic film moment perfectly sums up the ‘character’ of the United States of America: a washed-up has-been with delusions of grandeur. This is the United States’ Norma Desmond moment.
Norma was a big star back in the day of silent movies. By the time we catch up with her decades later, Desmond lives alone in a decaying mansion with a butler who forges her fan mail to give the faded glory of ‘stardom’ some life in the here and now; a now when no one remembers the silent past of the Roaring 20s as future shock has added color, sound, special effects and another World War to the American CinemaScope. Desmond spends her life dreaming about a technicolor comeback in a screenplay she’s written for herself to play the title role of Salome; the young woman who dutifully asks for The Baptist’s head on a platter as reward for her belly dance at a gala event.
The aging film star whose ‘salad days’ were a generation past, still lives in that ‘golden age’ because the admission that stardom is a fleeting moment and not eternal was literally too much for the Hollywood ego to bear.
The United States today lives on the fumes of 1950s — the post-war boom and stability to fall in love, raise families, buy houses, and retire comfortably. The golden age when Father knew best, and the most important thing that Father knew was that Capitalism was Good and Communism was Evil. As long as Elvis Presley wasn’t a commie, he could swivel his hips to his libido’s content.
America was ready for Happily Ever After. We had the bomb to make us safe. We had the flag to make us proud. And we had TV to tell us the difference between right and wrong. But freedom has a way of freeing people, which is perhaps why it never lasts too long before command and control mechanisms are reapplied. The freedom of the 1950s led to the sexual revolution, the Civil Rights and anti-war movements. The Forever Establishment’s power-base was threatened. The CIA was chastened. The FBI was exposed. The Empire struck back. The CIA was unleashed to fight global secret wars. The rich pillaged the nation as the everyday worker’s life was put into stasis. Upward mobility was reserved for the managerial class as ‘labor’ was marginalized and outsourced. The American Industrial regions strong with unions and prosperous towns were abandoned and broken. Progress was glacial. The middle class, the backbone of an advanced Capitalist nation, dwindled as poverty and civil imbalance grew. The population became demoralized, marginalized and angry at the abyss between the propagandized American Dream versus its nightmare reality; a new Gilded Age, profit-based Forever Wars and excuse after excuse why a national healthcare system is UnAmerican and Greed is Good.
Decades of false hopes, broken promises, social decline and egregious economic injustice mixed with malevolent secrets and lies to cover up the true nature of the American Soul — arrogant and clueless — brought to politics the prophecy of H.L. Mencken that eventually the American Psyche would produce a ‘downright moron’ as President. And not only did the United States elect a Moron, but a mean, cruel, venal moron without a shred of decency. And that moron was almost reelected because the seething resentment against Establishment Society is Biblical in nature. But by hook, crook, years of relentless 24/7 anti-Trump media coverage, and a ‘pandemic’ narrative driven to divide and conquer, the Moron was narrowly defeated by our Norma Desmond president; an old faded mediocrity that couldn’t make the transition to talkies. Indeed, the psychic break between what most Americans believe about the USA and the truth of a failed, rogue state living the life of Snow White’s wicked stepmother, gazing into a magic mirror made to soothe vanity and hide reality, is a bridge too far for most people to contemplate. Instead of taking up the mantle of ‘what have you done for me lately’ the USA embarked on a course of ‘do as I say, not as I do.’ Instead of opting for King Arthur at the head of a round table, the United States chose Exceptionalism, Entitlement and Vainglory as its ‘soul’. With all of its imperfections, the USA was born of principles and ideals. But without a People to protect itself from the bitter angels of profit, usury and property, the United States stands in front of flashbulbs, cameras, microphones and delusions of grandeur ready for its return to glory, the ecstasy of celebrity and the sheer talent to captivate, manipulate and control.
But lost to Norma Desmond as she bathes in her dream come true is the harsh reality that the murderess is going to a prison for the criminally insane for the rest of her life.