Las Vegas, High(lands) Rollin...
Out of Colorado, American Expressions rolls on, heading south. As much as I wished to make it all the way across America, budgetary constraints have been reached. With winter coming towards the mountains, it became clear that it was time to plot a course back east. Once upon a time I had visited Las Vegas, New Mexico and remembered some long time friends in the area. Leaving the anglo Colorado populace, now many more brown faces with skeptical expressions look at my flag in tow. Fortunately the family Juarros welcomed me with open arms to their beautiful property, soon to be the site of a handmade home. Many thanks to Aaron and his lovely family for their gracious hospitality.
Las Vegas is a community knitted around the University of New Mexico Highlands and the New Mexico Behavioral Mental Health Institute garnering it a well educated and diverse populace. Good buddy sculptor and burrito master, Isaac Sandoval invited me to post up with the flag at the hippest food wagon in town, The Skillet.
Once getting situated with the trailer framing in the eatery courtyard, almost every patron participated. It was hard to miss and main man Dub pitched everyone when they ordered their lunch. Dub, pictured above left, was really impressed with the project, expressing his gratitude that something provocative had come to town. In talking with him, I learned that he worked for the state of New Mexico under the Gary Johnson administration. Yes, that Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate for the Presidency. Here is someone with direct experience of working in a Johnson administration and I had to ask if he believed that Mr.Johnson's Libertarian platform would work at a national level. "It's a nice idea, but it would really screw poor states, especially New Mexico," Dub admitted. I concurred that most southern states would suffer under a national government that expected each individual state to generate its own revenue to cover all the costs of maintaining our civilized society. I asked, "Why then is he the best candidate in your opinion?" He shrugged and said, "Look at the other two! They have no interest in the well being of anybody else except them and their big money friends." Good point. I found most everyone that participated in Las Vegas had little positive to say about the presidential candidates, but expressed concern about our future.
I watched a couple approach the flag and study it closely. The young lady easily climbed up and wrote "Give this land back to the natives". While she wrote I met her companion, Javier, who was scowling intently as he read the expressions of his compatriots. I asked if he anything he'd like to add, "No, no, nope" I could see that he was really conflicted about choosing to participate and I attempted to get him to verbally express his feelings. He simply shook his head with mild disgust and then looked at me with a quizzical eye. He was about to speak when Dub called out his lunch was ready. I got a sense of cultural differentiation had emerged between us, that Javier wasn't about to share his true feelings with this traveling gringo. I had learned in Las Vegas the community internally debates the value of individual heritage: Native American, Hispanic, Spanish European, and lastly Anglo. I surmised that I wasn't going to get an answer from Javier, but after his lunch I found him again staring at the flag. He asked, "Can I write "America Fucking Sucks" up there?" "Yes you can. Express anything you want" I replied. As I moved to grab him a marker, I continued, "It's a free country." which caused Javier to recoil. I handed him the pen and reassured him that I'm just trying to see if we're coming together or coming apart. He ascended the stairs and slowly looked closely at some of the smaller expressions. I awaited a large scrawling condemnation of our country from a justified perspective, but he moved slowly, not making any marks, simply debating what to write. After a few minutes he quickly scrawled "In God We Trust", much to my amazement. He wasn't joking about his first inspiration, so I could only guess that what he expressed was simply fodder. Coming down the stairs I asked, "Really? what about "America Sucks"? He gave a slight embarrassed smile and said, "Naaaa, not today", took his sweetie by the hand and went on their way. Javier's deliberation seemed to me to be a decision of trust. He doesn't trust America. Even given the opportunity to express freely, without fear of reprisal, he felt most secure in providing a generic slogan, keeping his guaranteed 1st Amendment personal opinion to himself. This is what America is to him: repeat appropriate slogan, stay in your place, keep your opinion to yourself.
As American Expressions trucks closer to the end of the tour, the intensity of our national election can not be ignored. I am noticing less involvement with my project, people upping their guard and simply not willing to engage. We've reached peek saturation with all the howling about who is the worse candidate and constant denigrating of our social manners and mores. We are exhausted from the debilitating experience our democratic process has become. We struggle for our freely thinking minds against our addiction to hyper-factually fabricated "information" from our mass media masters. We cannot stop watching, even though we have stopped caring, relinquishing our better wills away from 'being the change.' Life will go on no matter who is elected, but are the good times really over for good?
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