Published on
Common Dreams

Gore Vidal Dies at 86

Common Dreams staff

Gore Vidal (1925-2012) speaking at the the Guardian Hay Festival on his last visit to the UK. (Photograph: Martin Godwin for the Guardian)

American novelist, playwright, media critic, political historian and pundit Gore Vidal died at his home in Los Angeles on Tuesday following complications with pneumonia. He was 86.

A towering figure in both literary and political circles for most of his life, Vidal leaves a legacy seared with adoration, contempt, and mourning for the country of his birth. Born into power, privilege, and steeped in the elite world of Democratic politics, Vidal -- who resided in self-selected exile in Italy for many years -- became a vocal and unabashed critic of US foreign policy.

In 2001, Vidal denounced the US government for what he called ``a perpetual war for perpetual peace'' and said American aggression was only nurturing fresh hatreds.

TruthDig editor Peter Scheer writes:

I don’t feel sad for Gore Vidal today. He lived to 86 and he had the kind of life people ask Santa Claus for. It was not without hardship, loss or suffering, but he leaves behind great works and a million smiles. If anything, I feel sad for my country, which lost one of its truest patriots.

Gore was a veteran of World War II. He knew war and had to witness too many. A student of history, he struggled to tolerate America’s strange regression in the new millennium. His best work for Truthdig was his recurring condemnation of George W. Bush, whom he referred to as “our weird little emperor.” He wrote in one article that “W.‘s love of torture and the death penalty suggests that this is Caligula Redux, but actually he is a home-grown Romulus Augustulus,” the emperor who presided over the collapse of Rome. In another essay, Gore compared Bush to the biblical Jonah, who brings a storm until he is thrown overboard: “In any case, with one voice let us say, ‘We’ve had enough of you. Go home to Crawford. We’ll help you raise the money for a library, and you won’t ever have to read a book.’”

Gore had to witness a great torrent of hogwash in the last dozen years, but even in his wheelchair, ever the soldier, he faced it, showing up here and there to speak, write and defy.

From The Guardian:

Vidal's politics were always on the left side of the spectrum, and he derided the two-party system in his native land, arguing in the 1970s: "There is only one party in the United States, the Property Party … and it has two right wings: Republican and Democrat. Republicans are a bit stupider, more rigid, more doctrinaire in their laissez-faire capitalism than the Democrats, who are cuter, prettier, a bit more corrupt – until recently … and more willing than the Republicans to make small adjustments when the poor, the black, the anti-imperialists get out of hand. But, essentially, there is no difference between the two parties."

And The Nation's Jon Wiener writes that Gore Vidal "wrote as a citizen of the republic and a critic of the empire. We won’t have another like him."

And here, in Vidal's own words, are some of the more notable quotes by the man (compiled by, via Wikiquote):

"Whenever a friend succeeds, a little something in me dies."

"It is not enough to succeed. Others must fail."

"Never pass up a chance to have sex or appear on television."

"We're supposed to procreate and society, God knows, is ferocious on the subject. Heterosexuality is considered such a great and natural good that you have to execute people and put them in prison if they don't practice this glorious act."

"We should stop going around babbling about how we're the greatest democracy on earth, when we're not even a democracy. We are a sort of militarised republic. The founding fathers hated two things, one was monarchy and the other was democracy, they gave us a constitution that saw to it we will have neither. I don't know how wise they were."

"Everybody likes a bit of gossip to some point, as long as it's gossip with some point to it. That's why I like history. History is nothing but gossip about the past, with the hope that it might be true."

"We must always remember that the police are recruited from the criminal classes."

"As the age of television progresses the Reagans will be the rule, not the exception. To be perfect for television is all a President has to be these days."

"American writers want to be not good but great; and so are neither."

"The more money an American accumulates the less interesting he himself becomes."

"The United States was founded by the brightest people in the country - and we haven't seen them since."

"Television is a great leveller. You always end up sounding like the people who ask the questions."

"Actually, there is no such thing as a homosexual person, any more than there is such a thing as a heterosexual person. The words are adjectives describing sexual acts, not people. The sexual acts are entirely normal; if they were not, no-one would perform them."

"World events are the work of individuals whose motives are often frivolous, even casual."

"You know, I've been around the ruling class all my life, and I've been quite aware of their total contempt for the people of the country."

"I am at heart a propagandist, a tremendous hater, a tiresome nag, complacently positive that there is no human problem which could not be solved if people would simply do as I advise."

#  #  #

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do.

Share This Article

More in: