It’s easy to forget, but America can be a pretty great place sometimes. I mean, it’s the birthplace of skateboarding and rap music. But for all the great things about the United States of America, there are an equal if not extravagant amount of things that make this dear land damn near a hell hole: racism, sexism (and all the other bad -ism’s) are deeply ingrained in our systems, we incarcerate more of our citizens than any other country on Earth, and we have the most uneven distribution of wealth in all the industrialized world. All this coupled with the false assumption of American exceptionalism – that totally unfounded feeling that we’re the best country on Earth – makes for a complicated national identity.
Disillusionment is a natural outcome for the inquisitive American – something Scott Bourne knows all too well. Bourne, the former Consolidated pro that retired from the game in the early aughts, has been living the lifestyle of an expatriate in Paris for the past few years, following in the footsteps of Hemingway and Steinbeck, writing from abroad in the hopes of making some sense out of what he’s left behind. Bourne has a particularly hermetic approach to life, consuming no media and only taking in information from his local community. So how did we get an interview with such a closed-off dude, you ask? Easy, get one of his longtime homies to crack open that shell to reveal the gooey pearls of wisdom within.
Chris Nieratko, primo skate-journalist of “Big Brother” infamy, called up his longtime friend the other day and then sent over this enlightening interview with the mandate that it be published before Election Day. So, here we have it, check out the admirable Scott Bourne’s thoughts on the US presidential election, life in Paris after the recent terrorist attacks, and about what America – and the World – needs to do in order to get their shit together (as well as a personal screed from Nieratko to start it all off)… -Jenkem
I don’t write about politics. I despise politics. Always have. I write about sex and skateboarding. And although my old friend, Scott Bourne, is a skateboarder, this conversation is not about skateboarding at all. It is solely about politics and I kind of hate that I volunteered to have my name attached to a piece having anything to do with the farce that is the 2016 Presidential Election, to be honest. But as a father I have been feeling as if I’m on the verge of an emotional breakdown ever since Trump got the nominee. Coming from the colorblind community of skateboarding the idea of raising children in the hateful world Trump is promoting is giving me panic attacks and I very much needed to speak to a friend about it. Someone with kids, who loves the idea of America as much as I do, but who also realizes our system is broken, possibly irrevocably. I needed, for myself, to speak to Scott who threw his hands up, said, “Enough!” And waved goodbye to the “Land of the free.”
For the past year, I’ve contemplated following him down that road each time I’d hear Trump speak or watch the violence his supporters incited. Finally, on July 20, 2016, the day after he received the GOP nomination, I scheduled an appointment at the Portuguese Consulate in Newark, NJ to file for dual-citizenship for me and my family. I’ve had enough as well. In the next two weeks our I.D. cards will arrive and my family will have a very real escape strategy lined up along with the promise of free universal health care and higher education.
People can say whatever they want about Hillary Clinton, but she’s just another crooked politician like everyone before her. I’m not much of a fan of hers, but Trump is a different breed of evil that can not be allowed to gain control of our nation. My vote for Hillary is a vote against Trump more than anything. But regardless of who wins, the damage has been done. We’ve seen the ugliness of upwards of 43% of our fellow Americans, and that can never be unseen. Perhaps that’s the only good thing, in my eyes, about this election: We are now fully aware who the brazenly racist pieces of shit are. I have an entire file of screen shots of every hate-filled, Pro-Trump post a “friend” on Facebook has made so that I can make sure never forget where they stand. I’ve gone so far as to make a map of my immediate neighborhood with photos detailing which homes were vocal Trump supporters so that my kids can avoid trick-or-treating at their racist homes in the future. (My kids love chocolate and if you’re pro-Trump you’re co-signing on being anti-chocolate. And let’s not bullshit ourselves… white chocolate isn’t really chocolate.)
I pray that Trump doesn’t somehow become the next President of the United States, but at this point, after RE-ELECTING George W. Bush and sandbagging the one person who sounded like a human being in this race (Bernie Sanders), along with all the stupidity we’ve seen over the course of this campaign, nothing would surprise me. And if by some chance the mouth-breathers win then I just want to say it’s been a pleasure. “I haven’t loved you all, but I’ve love as many of you as I could.”
Scott, I believe you to be a patriot. In this video interview by David Couliau you say America has failed. I completely agree and I think many others would as well. But I’d like to know your take on how so. Can you elaborate on how America has failed?
I think it’s crazy how America has the world brainwashed into believing it is the almighty doer of good. When I speak to people around the world about the U.S. government I am immediately called a Conspiracy Theorist and often laughed at. On the flip side when we speak of Russia, China, the Middle East or Korea, it’s basically accepted that their governments are corrupt and controlled by money. What the hell makes people think that the U.S. is any different?
It’s a mindblower to me that the rest of the world is a cheat, but not the good ole U.S. of A, the country with the biggest computers and the biggest military. Most of those flag waving fools have never even left The States. You can’t be an apple patriot if you’ve never had an orange! I mean look at your current candidates for president! Does that look like a working democracy, or am I to believe that, that is exactly what you get when you put the power in the hands of the people? What happened to Abe Lincoln, the Gettysburg Address?
“—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
When I interviewed you three years ago you weren’t ready to discuss your feelings on America’s failings in depth. But now, with the reincarnation of Hitler one day and few percentage points away from possibly becoming the President of the United States, I think it’s time we had this talk. As a patriot watching from Paris, what is your take on the current state of things in America?
It’s hard to say. Part of my commitment to living abroad is that I don’t partake in any media. Which means I don’t have a TV, read magazines, or use the internet for such purposes, and to a large extent, I have held to that. So any and all ideas I now have about the coming presidential elections in the U.S. are completely based on what I get from friends and people directly around me.
With that said, I can tell you that most of what people here feel they are seeing is just a show for ratings. No one really thinks these characters are real, they just can’t and America has become one big joke to them. To most of France and Europe, the election is a reality TV show and everyone knows reality shows are rigged. But as we have neared the countdown all that laughter has turned to fear. No one wants Trump and most don’t want Clinton either, and there is your great flaw in the system. Somehow there is no candidate that the people want but evidently they chose these candidates.
”To most of France and Europe, the election is a reality TV show and everyone knows reality shows are rigged.”
How does staying disconnected from media in general affect your life?
It puts me in direct contact with my community. I have no phone, no Internet in my pocket. When I need directions I ask a guy sitting at a café or someone I pass on the street. When I need help of any sort I ask someone around me, and this lets him or her know they can ask me as well. The simple act of engaging people breaks down a wall.
As a result, I know everyone in our neighborhood and many people all over Paris. I am not asking a community in the distance, I am asking the one I live in. I am not staring into a gadget I am staring into the faces of human beings. I am not feeding the statistical discharge of Google. I am feeding the community I live in. I am participating in a real exchange. People know me, stop me on the street, say hi or simply wave from a café window. I am engaged. I walk with my head up so that I can see the people I share my community with and they respond to that. I am not constantly obsessed with something in the distance. The think globally, act locally mentality.
You moved to Paris in January of 2014, what prompted that move and how has your life/beliefs changed since the relocation?
I would like to hit you with some grand political manifesto but I just don’t have one. Yeah I was sick of a lot of things I was seeing and feeling in the U.S. and more so fed up with not being able to express them to people around me that had never left The States and had the experiences I was having, but in all honesty I really wanted to try to live somewhere else and I had the means to attempt that at the time. Now the reality is that there is no way I could actually live there again, but I didn’t know that would happen to me and happen in a relatively short period of time.
You were well traveled throughout your skate career but what did your first days living in a foreign place feel like?
I kept very much to myself. I was actually pretty worn out on being recognized and always having people think that they knew me or what I was about. It took me a long time to become part of a community again, but that’s what I wanted at the time and Paris is a city where anyone can hide in plain sight. I wrote tons of letters, I worked on my novel. It was a really great time in my life. A sort of shedding of skin was happening and I just let it.
What are the pros and cons of living in Europe vs. America?
It’s like this: I lived in America for 30 years, so of course I know all the backward, fucked-up shit about the country, and in 30 years I will probably be able to identify the problems with France, but for now I do not care. I say give me my 30 years of ignorance and then let’s talk.
What were the things you hated most about America when you lived here?
It’s just the idea that the majority of Americans are raised believing that they are number one and the rest of the world is somehow a lesser place to be, which is plain and simply ignorant elitism. I very much had the same perspective and I grew up in a predominately poor mill/farming community in the South and was sure that I lived in the best country in the world! It was travel and experience that gave me my worldview, but growing up with this sort of perception of self doesn’t make you want to travel!
Many people are threatening to leave America if Trump wins. Myself included. Most are empty threats. But I have gone ahead and gotten my Portuguese dual-citizenship set up for my family. So for those that will actually pack up and leave what advice would you give them?
The horrible truth is that it’s almost impossible to do what I have done without a lot of money, citizenship to another country, or a job that will pay your way in, and who throws their entire life and work away because of a guy like Trump? The only thing I see as a possibility is a real revolution, but I am not so sure America is capable of that anymore.
Why do you think America isn’t capable of a revolution anymore?
There is this Machiavellian theory that basically says that countries that go through bad dictators, which create horrible times, basically need to go through such things in order to incite revolution. Without such things, revolution is not possible. Many countries live on the fringe never crossing that line, so of course revolution never happens. Maybe America needs a Trump to push them over that line. In some strange subconscious way maybe that is what the people are enacting?
What was your reaction to the terrorist attacks in Paris last year and how do you view the French handling of the situation?
We live directly behind the Bataclan. Everyone that actually escaped the initial shooting came out of the alleyway that runs beside the club and exits just below our kitchen window. An emergency hospital was set up in the cafe across the street from our living room windows. When we went to bed the entire neighborhood had come to a complete stop and the boulevards that surround us were lined by men with machine guns. If you know where I live, this is an incredible scenario.
I got up at 3 in the morning and they were hauling bodies in and out of that cafe. In the morning when it was all over, the boulevard below the window was literally scattered with bloody rags, medical debris and there were several military stretchers left on the sidewalk and not a soul on the streets. We saw the events first hand, but didn’t know what had actually happened until the morning. Unlike the rest of the world that seemed to know before us, we were not on the internet, we were looking out our windows. When I opened our computer in the morning I literally had hundreds of emails from people the world over. That’s how I found out what had happened.
How has the political climate shifted in France since the attacks? Are French people becoming as/more xenophobic than Americans post-9/11? What do you think can be done to ease these situations?
It has definitely changed Paris, but the French do not care. You go to any one of those cafes today, where people were executed, and they are full to the brim, people on the terraces with wine or coffee consciously saying to the world “Fuck Terrorism!” You will not take their tiny pleasures away. And I admire that! But for me, life has changed in a way I never thought possible. I cannot cross the street without viewing every car as a battering ram. In the parks my son is never so far away from me that I cannot grab him and his sister and run like hell.
Do you have any solutions for America?
Yes, I do! But it’s not America’s answer it’s one for the world-over, and it’s simple. The answer is community and community is not The World. Cut off your gadgets. Cellphones and the Internet have stolen your community, the bonds with your neighbors and the people you pass everyday on the street or the bus. You no longer greet, meet or discuss anything with the people directly around you. Stop looking to people in the distance, for answers in your immediate world.
The information age has taken your community and your ability to think for yourself and exchange ideas with real people. The information age is merely that, a time of available information, which lacks the journey, which is essential to knowledge. We no longer learn things, we merely access them — skip directly to the destination — always accepting the answer, never questioning the computers, never questioning Google. We have lost the desire and ability to think. We have lost our community!
People are so addicted to our phones/technology, do you actually think your solution is realistic?
Everyone knows addictions make us into slaves, and as long as you give your every statistic to the corporations and governments you claim to want independence from, they will keep you strung out—enslaved. You want to know how to bake cookies? Don’t ask Google, ask your grandmother, go spend the afternoon with her. There ya have it—community.
Any last words?
Now more than ever, Follow No One!