by Megan Volpert
My mother turned eighteen years old on the same Monday Pol Pot presided over the ratification of Democratic Kampuchea’s new Constitution. She was one year short of drinking age, with no other legal freedoms worth claiming except the delayed gratification of a right to vote against Ford that following winter. Cambodia’s new regime had little to say about the right to vote, except in Article Six, where the distribution of representation among members of the legislative body is outlined as 150 for the peasants, 50 for other working people, and 50 for the revolutionary army. Those 250 people get to elect the administration, as long as they elect Pol Pot. This was Year Zero, where everybody not eligible to vote was eligible to assist the Khmer Rouge in its grand new vision of communism by marching off to dig themselves a slice of mass grave. This is because, as Article Twelve explains, there is absolutely no unemployment in Democratic Kampuchea.
The same day mom is eating birthday cake and a million Cambodian undesirables are starving to death, Dylan launches his new album, Desire. Ours is a nation founded upon the stubborn flipping of the bird, the right of dissension, the pride of independent thinking. There’s nothing neutral about it. The Prince of Cambodia said his country was neutral, and Nixon secretly bombed the hell out of it. Excuse me, sir, we’re just rooting out your communists. Too bad they’re not as easy to spot as black people. Despite the wave of publicity from Dylan’s number one single, Hurricane Carter’s re-trial ended in a guilty verdict. A federal judge finally let him go ten years later, and ten years after that, Carter was briefly arrested for dealing drugs when he was mistaken for some other black guy.
What’s coming out of England at this point is David Bowie. There was that whole photo-op thing where he appeared to be giving a Nazi salute and endless speculation about was he or wasn’t he doing that. Who cares if he really meant to do that move instead of a proper waving—the issue is that people’s judgement of The Thin White Duke was that he plausibly could have been a Nazi. Bowie himself says that when he listens to Station to Station, it sounds like it was made by somebody else. Is the other guy a Nazi? It sucks that your Golden Years are sprung from the mind of a persona so far gone that it might as well not even be you at all.
Meanwhile, in the parking spot adjacent to Naziism, these United States are vetoing a United Nations resolution calling for Palestinian statehood. A couple countries abstained, but we were the only ones who voted it down. Now that’s independence. Everybody gets a vote, as long as you vote with us. If you don’t vote with us, our vote means everything and all of yours mean nothing. But on the upside, please do keep going about your international business because we’re not interested in doing the mass grave thing right now, and that’s what makes us a morally superior form of governance when measured against the rising star of Pol Pot.
Megan Volpert is the author of five books on communication and popular culture, most notably about Andy Warhol. She has been teaching high school English in Atlanta for the better part of a decade, is currently serving as her school’s Teacher of the Year, and edited the American Library Association-honored anthology This assignment is so gay: LGBTIQ Poets on the Art of Teaching. Predictably, www.meganvolpert.com is her website.