The loneliness of Al Gore: Love is never having to say you’re sorry

Al wanted you to know certain things. He wanted you to know that he invented the Internet. He would want you to pretend you believed it in his presence. But nobody really did. And he wanted you to know, strangely enough, that the pop novel Love Story was written about him when he was in college in the ’60s. Love Story, like Transcendental Meditation and the Bee Gees, was a gate-closer: a rite of exit from the ’60s. (So is Al Gore.) Secondary figures follow the Titans like those little fish that latch onto sharks for the ride, and strangely enough, Al wanted us to know he was in that book. The book and movie had the tag line, “Love is never having to say you’re sorry.” It was on billboards and everywhere. It so nauseated John Lennon, in love again with Yoko Ono, that he tagged on in small print to the bottom of his “Double Fantasy” album, “Love is always having to say you’re sorry.”

Al Gore, like the character in Love Story, never seemed to fit into the self-invention that he perceived to be himself. It seemed odd when Bill Clinton picked him for VP because they were both from the South. But neither related to the region. It would be a purely generational team, but Al Gore would always be Bill’s side meat. Then when he struck out on his own and the vote went wanky in Florida, John E. Mack, head of psychiatry at Harvard, wrote an op-ed for The New York Times saying the Trickster was at hand.

Apparently it still is.

It was awkward watching him try to kiss his wife. And I got the chills — in a bad way — during his campaign against Bush when he started giving rousing speeches in a “Negro dialect” like a black Baptist preacher. White farm people don’t talk like that in Carthage, Tenn. Or in The Fairfax Hotel on Embassy Row in Washington where Gore grew up. My mother-in-law has a deep Georgia accent like Rosalynn Carter’s. People in those parts and on into Texas have accents as varied as florae and faunae. It may have sounded interesting to his generation — Al reinventing himself again, this time as a “Negro field hand” from Mississippi in the mid-1930s — but it was no end of strangeness to Southern people.

Gore, that is, in the past tense. That he is still reinventing himself is and has been unsettling. Like the Clintons, they have found the presidency and vice presidency somehow unfulfilling and see it only as a steppingstone to something greater. World conquest of some ephemeral sort. The kind Elvis, Michael Jackson and the actual sharks had. But these people are purely generational and now they are old. They have no place to go, no piece of earth of their own that they belong to. They, like the Bhagwan, seem slightly to be not from this earth. They have only their generation to go to and memories of themselves together in college. And if you are not that same age, and even so, they just start at one point to seem strange.

Jerry Rubin, one of the essential leaders of their day, said never to trust anyone over 30. Maybe that is why they have seemed so untrustworthy these past several decades.


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