Thursday, February 24, 2011
Colonel Gaddafi and the American Dream
I seldom plucked up the courage to talk to Lisa who acted like she was 10 years older than me. She probably wouldn’t have noticed me had I lay twitching on her desk at the start of Geography.
I was a bit of a nerd whereas she seemed so self confident and composed. No matter that she wouldn’t know who Marcel Proust was if he slapped her in the face. Given that Proust died in 1922 it wasn’t a likely scenario.
Lisa didn’t even seem to notice when our English teacher set us a poetry challenge; it was the whole class against myself and Stuart White, the dumbest kid in the class, who wouldn’t know who the Prime Minister was if she slapped him in the face; a more likely scenario than a Proust slap. Despite my Stuart White handicap Team Us won, defeating the rest of the class.
At my moment of triumph I squinted in Lisa’s direction through my murky National Health Service glasses; only to see her digging for gum in her designer handbag.
Time went by and I forgot about Lisa. And Morrissey made my glasses trendy, although I had invested in some less obtrusive ones by then anyhow to avoid the Proclaimers jokes when I was out with my brother.
Some years later I was visiting home and boarded a bus when I saw a woman struggling up the stairs with a couple of kids, probably because you could smoke upstairs in those days.
There was something vaguely familiar about those dark eyes surrounded by even darker rings. Shocked, I realized it was Lisa. Her eyes were the only familiar feature. My school crush was wearing shapeless clothes, stained with baby formula and her hair that used to be so carefully coiffured was stringy and bedraggled. But most shockingly, her perfect white teeth were stained yellow.
I muttered something at her and she muttered back. I was rather keen to get back to the Stone Roses on my Walkman.
I only say this because Lisa reminds me a bit of the American Dream.
When we were kids we used to listen wide eyed to tales of the Land of the Free where the trees dipped with dollars (and I don’t mean Dollar Tree) and people owned refrigerators big enough to house a family of four.
When we were kids our parents used to also tell us to beware the Bogey Man and Colonel Muammar Gaddafi.
Because, let’s face it, Gaddafi was running Libya when we were kids.
So when Gaddafi tells us Osama Bin Laden is behind the revolt in Libya, we have to take these comments and shove a mountain of salt over them.
That would be why the protestors are writing signs in English and hoisting the flag of the old monarchy.
Most of the protesters don’t want to hang out in a cave and plan jihad. They want nice cars and big fridges. They want a big juicy slice of the American dream. I can't actually believe they want to go to Wal-Mart, but maybe they do.
They certainly want the democracy that many nations in the west have had in some form or another since the 19th Century.
I hope they get it but there’s no guarantee that democracy will bring wealth and an end to corruption, although anything is better than the likes of Gaddafi, Saddam Hussein and Hosni Mubarak.
They can dream but I wonder if they are too late for the American dream. I have a colleague who’s from Michigan. Apparently they’re pulling down large parts of Detroit because it doesn’t work anymore.
And that big Cadillac might not run for much longer if the Libyan crisis continues to push up the cost of gas.
Maybe even Colonel Gaddaffi wants a slice of the American dream. Why else would he dress up in brown robes like one of the most seedy of Liberty Tax wavers who are appearing beside the highway at this time of year?