Johann Hari
The Independent
October 7, 2009

[efoods]The current spasming death of America was foretold at its birth, Vidal says, and it can only be understood by whirling back there. It has been his mission to explain the past to the “United States of Amnesia,” through his novels and essays. When he speaks, he sweeps over two millennia of history – from Caesar to Obama – as if he was there, forever spraying one-liners from the back row. Today, he was stopped time in Philadelphia, at the birth of the republic. “Benjamin Franklin saw all this coming,” he says. “I quote him because most Americans don’t even know who he was now. You’ll have to explain to your readers.” Franklin was a writer, scientist and soldier who became one of the founding fathers of the United States. “In Philadelphia in 1781, when the constitution was being put together, he was an observer. He didn’t want to have any part of it, and as he was leaving the Constitution Hall in Philadelphia a couple of old ladies said, ‘Ah, Mr Franklin, what is going to happen?’ He told them: ‘Well, you’re going to get a Republic, if you can keep it. But every constitution of this sort has failed since the beginning of time due to the corruption of the people.'”

So the American people are corrupt? Americans weren’t good enough for America? “Precisely. They were only good enough to be a restive colonial power – or the dregs of one.”

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