Thoughts on On The Road, pt. 1: The American Way
I'm reading On the Road for the first time in acknowledgement of its great American, racing, literary heartbeat. I thought it would be fun to post some of my thoughts as I go.
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What a mad, lusty adventure Jack Kerouac went on – I see how the generations of the young in our country have read him with a fire in their breasts too – how they, too, wanted to course along the wide beautiful land of America and find their meaning and joy and purpose in its freedoms and its open roads, its great big stars and lonely cold nights.
But I cant help but wonder at the men who built those roads. The immigrants who laid the railroad. What did they dream about? What hope did they have?
In the commercial light of pluralistic freedom and democratic dreams, we look back with joy and warmth at that America, nostalgia-driven steam-powered dreams of altruism and slave-free historiography. We can sleep comfortably with that history and tread those roads with a deserving joy. But the very asphalt upon which we drive in our excesses and wide-eyes was laid with labor and sweat. Thankless, breakless labor done by nameless masses of lean, hungry men toiling across the native soils of other peoples, poring over their labors for meager pay and a mouthful of food. Did they envision the commerce of a future America rumbling ceaseless across the works of their hands? Did they see full families headed to the coast? Laden with skis? Truck after truck full of commodities and lettuces, refrigerated stuffs and limitless sundry wastes?
Their bones are the ribs of the roads and their sweat mingled with the soils of the American dream weaving and marauding Westward.
Love and country, origin and future they sacrificed for entitled us to sojourn out into the stars to see what’s in our own flimsy souls under the sky, before the great crashing ocean. We both dream – ours a luxury, theirs a necessity.