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Thursday, February 1, 2018

Postcard from the End of America: Palmyra, NJ

As published at Unz Review, OpEd News, TruthSeeker, LewRockwell and Intrepid Report, 2/1/18:

When out-of-town friends visit, I like to take them to Camden. With its high crime, horrible government and general wretchedness, it’s the worst of America’s present and, if all goes according to plans, our stereotypical future. Soon as you cross into Collingswood or Gloucester, however, the graffiti, trash, abandoned houses, sagging pants and neck tattoos disappear. In fact, South Jersey is dotted with quaint boroughs featuring relatively active Main Streets.

Just three miles from Camden, Palmyra has two old timey barber shops, a homey Sicilian restaurant, a spacious, porch-fronted bar surrounded by grass, and a most creative donut shop that dreams up treats resembling a Thanksgiving turkey, a mound of dirt with a glow worm or a shark fin sticking out of blue water, etc. With one tenth the population of Camden, Palmyra has a much better stocked supermarket. Outside a hardware store, a horse statue stands in front of a buggy. As is common to any blue-collar town, the Stars Spangled Banner is found all over, including at the Mexican-owned garage and Indian-owned convenience store. A small artillery piece sits on Broadway.

Unlike in Camden, no Palmyra store owner needs to stare at customers from behind bullet-proof plexiglass. Last year, there was no murder or rape. Filthy junkies with rotting teeth don’t prostitute themselves even in the afternoon.

Predominantly white, Palmyra has the distinction of appointing in 1959 the first black police chief in the entire country, and its high school library is named after Clarence B. Jones, an alumnus who became Martin Luther King’s principal lawyer and the co-writer of his most famous speech, “I Have a Dream.” Making up 14% of Palmyra’s population, blacks coexist without tension with whites.

The town is also known for a mud used to rub down baseballs to give pitchers a better grip. A two-pound jar costs $100.

Just north of Palmyra, Riverton is even whiter and much more affluent. It has a yacht club founded in 1865. Almost no house resembles another. Many are huge. Some are Victorian, with elaborate woodwork that’s well maintained and freshly painted. About the only crime anyone can cite dates back to 1906, when Joshua Slocum, the first man to sail solo around the globe, was convicted of exposing himself to a 12-year-old girl. The great man claimed to have no memory of it. Slocum was jailed for 42 days and told to never show up again. Nearly broke and no longer feted, Slocum sailed into the sunset three years later.

Although Rivertonians display almost no American flags, much less military ones, how many have enriched themselves by investing in war profiteers?

With no minorities to speak of, Riverton has dozens of signs proclaiming, “HATE HAS NO HOME HERE.” One trumpets, “ALL ARE WELCOME.” Surely you’ve noticed that those who are most ostentatious about their racial tolerance tend to stay clear of all “people of color,” which is a most racist term, for it lumps all non-whites together, assumes a solidarity among them that simply doesn’t exist and posits whites as a race apart. Fleeing blacks, they voted for a black president and despise whites who actually know how to live and work with blacks, browns and yellows. Standoffish and unsociable, Riverton is a dry town, thus has no bars.

Unable to hobnob with Rivertonians, I trekked to Palmyra’s Park Tavern. Filled with light from its many windows, it’s unusually cheery for a working-class joint. Only four drinkers, all middle-aged white men, were present. Later, more white men plus one woman would enter. They all knew each other by name. The horse races and a college basketball game were on. Feeling entitled suddenly, I ordered a Guinness for five bucks.

Behind the bar, there’s a framed, folded flag, with a certificate:

The Flag of the United States of America
Is Presented to
The Park Tavern
John Gerew for being a Great Friend

This certifies that the accompanying flag was flown at the Headquarters of the Multi National Corps-Iraq in your honor during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

It’s signed by John R. Allen, a black sergeant major, and Lloyd J. Austin, a black lieutenant general. Allen is quoted in several online articles. Duty is stressed, “If you ask any Soldier out there, they’ll probably tell you they expect their noncommissioned officers to get them to the right place at the right time, with the right equipment to do whatever mission they're given.” In Iraq, Allen’s duty was to destroy, then rebuild, “The reason that it’s so important for us to grow the Iraqi Army, and that’s our primary mission right now, is to train the Iraqi security force, mainly because we destroyed the Iraqi Army.” Allen did his duties then retired, but Iraq remains shattered. The man did his job well.

Still mostly segregated after centuries, black and white Americans can unite in fattening the military banking complex and killing, and getting killed by, Israel’s enemies. Founded on noble ideals, this country has been reduced to saluting mercenaries and worshipping pieces of cloth or plastic.

The town’s name was the idea of Isaiah Toy, a Swede who greatly admired that ancient city. Blindly patriotic, contemporary Palmyrans won’t hesitate to destroy all of Syria if ordered.

The guy on my right wore a Riverton Yacht Club knit hat, and it turned out he had been a boat builder, then crew member on many a rich man’s vessel, a job that took him to many island nations and even Europe, to compete in regattas. “Some of these people owned their own 747’s, man. We have to share it with two hundred people. They flew by themselves!” He recounted spending three weeks in Grenada, right after its brief civil war and America’s invasion. “People were dismantling the docks to use as firewood.” The flying fish sold at roadside stalls were delicious, though. His sailing day over, he became a machinist and made pretty good money, so it’s rather odd the 58-year-old had only one front tooth left.

I remarked to the man on my left, “This is one of the most pleasant bars I’ve ever been to,” and Phil responded that it’s practically the only tavern he’d ever known, “I came here on my 21st birthday.” The undersized man chuckled.

“So you’ve lived here your whole life?”

“Yes, and I remember when it was mostly dirt roads around here. I was born in 1956.” Back then, even Camden was pleasant, then came the race riots, white flight, industries moving out and the introduction of crack cocaine, meth and synthetic heroin.

Speaking of drugs, Phil confided, “I’ve tried nothing, not even pot.” His only vice and comfort was Budweiser, it seemed. “I never made enough money to get married,” he stated without bitterness.

Buoyed by its rich neighbor, Riverton, and protected, for now, from the madness and squalor of nearby Camden, Palmyra evokes a simpler and healthier America. Selling services, mud and discount hoagies, it gets by. Not all is well, however, for there are several dead stores on its main drag. As I examined one, a woman in her 40’s handed me a business card, “It’s my husband. He’s the electrician. I handle public relations.”

With record debts and no manufacturing competitiveness, our economy is a sick illusion, sustained only by our empire status, with guns and threats pointing in all directions, but this farce will blow up soon. With the next market crash, even Rivertonians will be drowning in panic and grief.

I finish this piece at 40,000 feet above Nagoshima. Yes, I’m returning to Asia, and in fact, my wife and I are preparing to move back to Vietnam permanently. When you reject the system, it will gladly return the favor, thus my two new books have only gotten one nasty review, from that pompous font of endless bullshit, the Washington Post. When once I could expect regular reading invitations from universities, absolutely nothing is forthcoming. Last year, Asali Solomon of Haverford College emailed to say she was a fan of my fiction, so would I like to teach two classes? When I agreed, however, Solomon said there had been a misunderstanding, so no courses. Someone above Solomon must have told her I was a pariah, for why else would she act so unprofessionally? It’s all for the better, actually, since I was never a good fit in academia. With its increasingly hysterical agenda of cranking out right thinking drones, intellectual freedom is extinct at American universities.

Google lists me assbackwardly as an “American-Vietnamese poet,” and on my Wikipedia entry, someone has seen fit to state that I’m a “regular commentator on Russia Today,” not that I would mind. For the record, I’ve appeared maybe five times on RT in seven years, all as an unpaid guest. Whatever. In Orwellian America, Russia personifies evil, Israel is eternally sacred, America is already fantastic or will soon be great again, unemployment is negligible, the economy is asskicking, as proven by the dizzying Dow, and all those who question these fables should be banished to the other side of the universe or the Unz Review.



Austin Granger said...

Linh, I have long loved and respected your work. You will always have a viewer with me. Will try to get a donation to you soon or purchase some of your published works. Heading home before the metaphysical storm hits gathering off the American coast is double-good then. I hope you continue your project when you get there. Best wishes!

Remonster said...

Shit! Now who is going to cover the flabby underbelly of this decaying zombie armed to the teeth and wobbling toward Armageddon? I miss you already.

Please keep your posts coming, they are needed now more than ever.


Linh Dinh said...

Hi all,

The below passage may have hit too close to home, for Rob Kall has removed my article from the front page of OpEd News:

"Surely you’ve noticed that those who are most ostentatious about their racial tolerance tend to stay clear of all “people of color,” which is a most racist term, for it lumps all non-whites together, assumes a solidarity among them that simply doesn’t exist and posits whites as a race apart."

That's "progressive" America for you!


João José Horta Nobre said...

Just found your blog and loved it!

You got some pretty cool stuff going on here Linh Dinh, keep up the good work because I sure will keep an eye on this blog from now on.

Best regards from Portugal ;)

destroytheuniverse said...

thanks for your work exposing the true Murky - Linh Dinh you'll be missed
I'll continue to follow your work
OpEd's rejection of your latest essay is too sad
my rich white liberal friends have always rolled their eyes whenever I pleaded with them to check your blog out
Fuck 'em all

grimychaz said...

Linh you're a beast. Keep up the good work. If I had a home country to flee to, I would. America will be a shit show soon. Philly will be one of the most chaotic places come crash time. Wise move on your part. Funny thing is, my ancestral lands of Europe might be in worse shape than the USA. But riding out the crash in rural Italy or Germany seems more meaningful than trying to protect USA, which has essentially become the dumping ground of the world's worst least European nations have a semblance of culture left. USA is a sad, cruel and violent joke of a culture.

Linh Dinh said...

Hi all,

My article is now back on the OpEd News main page, and I received an email from Rob Kall:

Your article was flagged by google

This is totally outrageous and just plain stupid. Whenever something like this happens I assume some idiot whizkid they've hired right out of college has done it to meet a quota.

Here's a link to the article. It's a great article.

Fuck Google. The google ads have been removed. The article stays.

I've included Google's rules on Dangerous and Derogatory below

Rob Kall,

Dangerous or derogatory content

We believe strongly in freedom of expression, but we don't permit monetization of dangerous or derogatory content. For this reason, Google ads may not be placed on pages containing content that:

Threatens or advocates for harm on oneself or others;
Harasses, intimidates or bullies an individual or group of individuals;
Incites hatred against, promotes discrimination of, or disparages an individual or group on the basis of their race or ethnic origin, religion, disability, age, nationality, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or other characteristic that is associated with systemic discrimination or marginalization.

Examples include:

Threatening someone with real-life harm or calling for the attack of another person

Advocating suicide, anorexia, or other self-harm

Content that singles out someone for abuse or harassment

Content promoting, glorifying, or condoning violence against others on the basis of their race or ethnic origin, religion, disability, age, nationality, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or other characteristic that is associated with systemic discrimination or marginalization

Content that encourages others to believe that a person or group is inhuman, inferior, or worthy of being hated on the basis of their race or ethnic origin, religion, disability, age, nationality, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or other characteristic that is associated with systemic discrimination or marginalization

Content promoting hate groups or hate group paraphernalia.


Linh Dinh said...

So Google flagged another of my articles. I don't know why my latest disappeared for a few hours, but it's clear I'm ruffling feathers.

Ksou said...


I still recall finding you via Common Dreams, and having you mail a book to me( not sure what happened to my Bsou username) and having to resend it with my real name on the front.

I do wish you'd write another book similar to Love Like Hate- in the midst of moving numerous times, I lost my first copy. But I'll happily buy it again. Night , Again exposed me to an entire world of stories we usually don't see in the west. Somewhere in this , I ended up reading Memories of a Pure Spring , and it's one of the rawest human stories I've read.

This is the age of the glass house , we all WANT to think life is great, the economy is fine, and as if Reagan came back, everyone homeless wants to sleep outside. That's not reality. Chomsky said something to the effect of we can have lively discussion within a limited scope.

Your piece , Welcome to the Collapse described the current status of this nation. We're all living on the edge, but as long as we haven't completely fallen off we can rant on Facebook about which phone is the best , etc.

"The collapse will not be televised. Ignored and alone, each of us will experience it singly. As blemish and accusation, you will be photoshopped from the American Dream group portrait. The lower you slip, the more invisible you will be. The disconnect between what's real and what's broadcast will become even more obscene by the day."

That said, it's much easier to do what's best for yourself and your family , instead of hoping to change the world.

Honestly , if you could meek out a few thousand a year from writing , while living in Vietnam , that sounds like a much better life than trying to live off that same bit of money in America. Witting has been devalued anyway, writers are expected to work for free, while what's left of the newspaper industry leaches what they can off ads.

Looking forward to reading more of your writing.


Linh Dinh said...

Thanks to all for your good wishes. I will continue to write, of course. And thanks to Ksou for remembering my "Welcome to the Collapse." I myself have forgotten it! Early senility...

Franz said...

Late comment here.

Just got the wife to read Postcards from the End of America, not an easy trick. See, English is not her first language, Polish is, although she was born here in the Satanic States of America, she's an Outlander in her own land like me.

First thing she said: "I wait on these people every day!" Yup. She's been a clerk/cashier for over 50 years. Originally for small town shops, now for a Big Chain global pharmacy dump. Normal people have become Zomdroids, it's incredible.

Our little town (Ohio) went from 2 fresh green grocery stores to total abandonment, dollar stores and corporate cut-outs. People who do not see what happened to small town America cannot/neverwill believe it.

Getting more copies of your book to pass about. I've done this before, years ago when Barbara Erhenriech wrote "Nickled and Dimed" about the collapsing wage structure in the States. Sometimes it takes a short, well-written book aimed right at the heart of the matter to pour the reality gnosis into people's thick heads. Then, only then, do they Get It.

But is it too late? My guess is yes, but it's still only a guess.

Hope you do well away from the Empire of Snarl, wring the shit out of your head. Hope the lady and I find a place to do the same, but we're sort of stuck. We know the ship's hit the iceberg but we know nothing else. (I really WAS in the navy, 50 years ago this year I joined, patriotic moron of 17 that I was.)

Here's the scoop on the "drug" issue: The DEA and CDC cut off all LEGAL pain patients to fight the "opoid epidemic" because the Secret State is short on hard cash. The idea that veterans, industrial pain patients and so on will now have to buy overpriced and crappy Afgan heroin from "dealers" vetted by the CIA is the reality weve got to put up with till... the end of the line, maybe.

If there is a silver lining, it's that pain patients are PISSED royal. Any many are perfectly aware of why it's happening. People in pain don't get "high" on painkillers, we get normal.

The USA just did something very, very stupid, which might be good. They picked a fight with lots of old bears with thorns in their paws. Gonna get fun, I think!

Michael Duffy said...

Re: "Surely you’ve noticed that those who are most ostentatious about their racial tolerance tend to stay clear of all “people of color,” which is a most racist term, for it lumps all non-whites together, assumes a solidarity among them that simply doesn’t exist and posits whites as a race apart. Fleeing blacks, they voted for a black president and despise whites who actually know how to live and work with blacks, browns and yellows. Standoffish and unsociable, Riverton is a dry town, thus has no bars."

You put into words my deepest observation in the hypocrisy of the American media. I see them as "Rivertonians" and hate them like no others. They work for chaos and are happiest when people are divided, confused, and lonely. I see Trump as fool but even a fool can sometimes speak wise words. The term "Fake Media" will follow that group long after he is gone. God bless you for the work you do. I see you as a modern Mark Twain. Who would have guessed he would be reincarnated in Vietnam. I don't know if you have read Twain's observations regarding the U.S.involvement in the Philippines but for me it was an eye opener on a subject not seriously discussed in U.S. history classes. Thank you for great reading material.


About Me

Born in Vietnam in 1963, I lived mostly in the US from 1975 until 2018, but have returned to Vietnam, where I live in remote Ea Kly. I've also lived in Italy, England and Germany. I'm the author of a non-fiction book, Postcards from the End of America (2017), a novel, Love Like Hate (2010), two books of stories, Fake House (2000) and Blood and Soap (2004), and six collections of poems, with a Collected Poems apparently cancelled by Chax Press from external pressure. I've been anthologized in Best American Poetry 2000, 2004, 2007, Great American Prose Poems from Poe to the Present, Postmodern American Poetry: a Norton Anthology (vol. 2) and Flash Fiction International: Very Short Stories From Around the World, etc. I'm also editor of Night, Again: Contemporary Fiction from Vietnam (1996) and The Deluge: New Vietnamese Poetry (2013). My writing has been translated into Japanese, Italian, Spanish, French, Dutch, German, Portuguese, Korean, Arabic, Icelandic and Finnish, and I've been invited to read in Tokyo, London, Cambridge, Brighton, Paris, Berlin, Leipzig, Halle, Reykjavik, Toronto, Singapore and all over the US. I've also published widely in Vietnamese.