The American Book of the Dead: 08.04

Friday, August 20

The Diplomat from Utopia

On the eve of the inauguration, Benjamin Winchell, diplomat, had a talk with his son. The talk both depressed the President-elect and filled him with a childlike glee. It depressed him because the diplomat told him that everything that he thought he knew--everything that he had campaigned on--turned out to be a lie. It filled him with glee because he was let in on a massive secret. As he stood there on the podium taking his oath, millions of eyes were on him, thinking that they knew his motivation. But there was so much more on his mind than the Presidency. The Presidency was merely a vessel, like the body. What his father told him was the meaning of life.

"Son, I have news for you," the diplomat had begun. They sat in the library of his father’s house on the bank of the St. Louis river. A fire played in the fireplace. Benjamin Winchell drank brandy, warmed, out of snifter, leaning back in a thronelike chair which towered two feet over his head. There may as well have been a dog named Scruff lying at his feet to match the look of comfort in his eyes, as if living a powerful cliché. Young Charles Winchell sat across from his father in--of course--a smaller chair with a lower back. A mightily expensive chair to be sure--brought over after the French revolution--but small. Charles Winchell had no problem feeling like a strong man: a feeling sometimes as if he’d bed every single woman on planet earth. But in front of his father he was more than just diminutive: the President-elect was awed. It was the combination of the hell-like light of the flickering fire, the swirling of the brandy in the wide-bodied snifter as if he was Atlas turning the globe, the look of both amusement and brutality in the man’s eyes, which you could never read correctly and so always put you on edge, and, Jesus, just the sheer knowledge the man possessed. He was the only politician Charles had ever known who read everything: alternate histories, true histories, classic and contemporary fiction, biographies of Jazz men, quantum physics, on and on. It made Charles revere his father with fear, respect, and regret for his own inadequacy. The son was astute enough to realize that this was how you were taught to regard God.

"The main thing I have to tell you is this, Charles. Death is not a punishment. It is a release. There are many things that have been hidden from people over the centuries but this is the main one. I have been to the other side, Charles, and it is beyond majesty. Imagine all the sex and knowledge and art ever created in this world felt in one moment, compressed to the head of a pin. Words can’t touch it, so I won’t even bother. Do you know what it means if death is not to be feared but to be sought after?"

"Not entirely," Charles said, which he regretted because it was a rhetorical question.

The diplomat sneered. "Of course not," he said. "Not yet. Imagine if people were to know that death was not the end, but a pathway to bliss. The next day this word got out, there would be mass suicides. People would drop out of work and search for ways to die. In short, it would be the apocalypse. Do you see? Look at the death penalty. We put people to death as the ultimate punishment, not realizing that we are giving them a gift. Meanwhile life is suffering for the rest of us. It would mean the end of war. What would war be if we knew that we were helping somebody by killing them?"

"You could have a war of torture," Charles said. "You could bring people to the brink of death, instead of killing them."

"The prospect has crossed our minds. Some of the biological weapons being created these days are meant to do just that--disable people without killing them."

"That was just an idea, Benjamin. Why not just put an end to war. War’s a bad thing, right?"

"In theory," Benjamin replied. "It is also necessary. Human beings are a warlike species. A war is merely an extension of a schoolyard fight. Humans like to fuck, fight, love, and hate. All of these things need to exist--and screw the Buddhists--to try and ignore these instincts is just a form of repression. But I’m getting off the subject. We need war for more than just an exhibition of our aggression. It is necessary for the progress of the world. Son, you are going to be the last President. Everything from the Sumerians to the birth of Christ and the rewriting of Christianity has been leading up to you. There’s a lot I’m not telling you here. So much that I’m not even sure where to begin."

"Tell me this," Charles said. "How do you know about all of this?"

The Diplomat shook his head somberly, as if remembering a death, and said, "I’ll start there."

The diplomat talked for six hours.

"I’ll tell you the true story of what’s been going on for the last 5000 years. You want to hear the worst thing? The thing that would make most conservatives blush and cry? All the conspiracy theorists are right. There is a conspiracy going back thousands of years. That’s not telling you much. You must have picked up as much from dinner table conversations growing up."

"Certainly." The dinner table conversations about political power and defense contracts never seemed like a revelation. To most children what their parents do for a living seem like the whole world. If the kid is listening to his father talking about building cars for a living, he thinks building cars is the center of the universe. The difference with young Charlie Winchell was that his father’s profession was--if not the center of the universe, then at least the center of earth, which wasn’t so inconsequential, it turns out, when it came to the entire universe. It may be that every father is God to his son, but Benjamin Winchell actually ran the world.

All of the above was thought in the flicker of an instant, second nature. The diplomat was still talking:

"The UFO buffs are right. There is a massive government conspiracy covering up the entire phenomenon. Sweeping it under the rug with bullshit fronts like Condon and Bluebook. Poor naïve Vallee, he thought he was actually uncovering something. Read his journals, the man may have been a prophet. Let me get to the point though. Roswell happened. Every political act in the last three thousand years has been done to deal with the UFO question. And by UFOs I mean a physical manifestation of God. Every religion is a way to describe the infinite, right? People think UFOs are just the latest manifestation of some kind of perennial vision. If this was Fatima, they’d be seeing the Virgin Mary. Not true--UFOs are real and the last manifestation before the end of the world.

"All our plans were almost laid to waste in the sixties when the counterculture discovered LSD. You see, they were right. Everything on earth is bullshit and all that matters is what exists behind matter, blah blah blah, consciousness, God, magic, whatever you want to call it. What they did wrong is they found their utopia too soon. They were undisciplined. Timothy Leary said tune in, drop out, and would have created a nation of raving homeless people if all of America truly listened to him and dropped out of society. It would have been anarchy. No food getting produced, everybody just lying in bed smiling at the ceiling. That’s not progress, that’s apathy.

"Which is where the conservative agenda comes in. Our methods might have seemed harsh. Killing students in Ohio. Beating up peaceniks holding out flowers. Cops didn’t know what we were up to, and they’d rather beat someone up then not. That’s their job, to enforce. But the powers-that-be knew that we were on to something much larger than some small demonstrations to a minor war. Everything we’ve been doing has been leading up to the Big One--the apocalypse. You think you came up with that campaign slogan by accident? Lesson one, nothing in this world happens by accident. He knows when you are sleeping, he knows when you’re awake, he knows when you’ve been bad or good--and we’ve been bad in order to ensure a long-term, larger good. But it takes time. War is a growing pain, as is ignorance. Am I making any sense?"

"Partially."

"Yeah, I’m trying to tell you the history of the world in a chapter. At least that shows that you’re paying attention. We are now to the final stage. The Mayans talked about 2012 being the end, and they were right. They were right about everything--even eating each other. Remember, if everybody’s reincarnated, what’s it matter if one of your manifestations gets eaten? Anyway, 2012 is here and you’re President which is no mistake. We’re going to bring on the end of the world and usher in a Paradise. We’re going to make this world evolve, whether it likes it or not. We’ve got to start a religious war so people will give up on religion once and for all."

"So the Bible isn’t true?"

"It’s all true, every religion. All true and all false because each religion claims it’s the answer."

"Let me ask a question: if we instigate a religious war, proving everything in Revelations to be true--why would people abandon religion?"

"Because the final revelation will be--after the war is over--that we are all God, and that is the only religious principle that matters."

"One last question--and then I may just have to throw up--why not just give people this revelation without a war?"

"Because we’ve fucked up things beyond measure. People believe in Satan, people believe in horrible grotesque, base and debasing things. The world had to come to a breaking point. This is my one regret: without these people out of the picture, the collective consciousness of the world cannot change for the better."

"So we fucked up the environment, desensitized everybody to spiritless sex and violence, made hate a religion, just so we could kill them all?"

"I’m proud of you, Charles. It is no accident that you are going to be President. Everything you say is true. We fucked up the world so we could fuck it one final time. It was what we were told to do. It was the only way for the human race to reach the next stage of evolution.

"We’ve done well keeping major ideas secret. Made UFOs seem like a laughing stock. Created fronts like SETI. What do you think SETI does, sits around all day listening to silence? Of course not. If people knew the secrets behind the UFO issue, they would know about the coming calamities. Contact alone would lead to hysteria, daily investigations, people abandoning faith, total upheaval which would have been out of our control. If there wasn’t such a thing as journalism this wouldn’t be a problem. There were two major things that we learned from in the last century: ‘The War of the Worlds’ and Watergate. In short, the media has more power than the Pope.

"Everyone had to keep living by the insane delusion that this was the way it should be. They had to keep going to their jobs, watching TV, voting, unaware that the world was disintegrating by design."

Benjamin Winchell sat up and took a deep breath as if he was taking in all the air from the room. "I’ve got good news and bad news for the conspiracy theorists. The good news is they’re right. The bad news is they’re right."

Wednesday, August 18

Time of the Americans

You’re getting now that this is the story of two men, both on opposite sides. Here’s what I didn’t tell you: Charles Winchell was my brother. Kidding, kidding. Nothing so dramatic as that. I was just a small town professor working on a novel. He was President of the whole Goddamn world. Our lives would eventually cross like brothers. I won’t invoke Cane and Abel. I’m not good enough to be Abel. Let’s just say that, spiritually, we begat each other.

At this point, I was ignorant of the goings-on in the oval office. I only know now. I was working on my book, teaching writing classes, lusting after my students (another story). I kept plugging away at the novel, unaware that I was writing what was actually occurring. They say that in the infinite number of planets that exist in the universe--nevermind in multiverses--it is statistically possible that there is an exact replica of Earth with people living similar, or identical, lives. Maybe that’s all that I’d hit on, a case of probabilities. Then again, Winchell’s campaign slogan was "Chuck is Good Luck."

It didn’t take an incredible leap of imagination to start thinking about a Biblical apocalypse in the making. Israel had started erecting the third temple. It was proof enough to a great many people that prophecy was being fulfilled. The boldest move that Winchell made was to bring a lasting peace to the Middle East. This was no small feat, of course. Militants are afraid of peace the way scientists are afraid of God. It puts an end to their jobs, everything they know. Winchell was instrumental in creating a new Middle Eastern coalition--The Union of Middle East States, a name that could only have American origins. TUOMES, or Tombs if you were cynical. It was a group of ten Middle Eastern countries, including Israel, and, as the broker of the deal, the United States. Suddenly, Middle Eastern countries took care of their own, and terrorists became the minority. President Winchell was a hero. America was once again a world savior.

I’ll get more into the terms of this peace as time goes on. In a sense, these were hard times to be writing an apocalyptic manifesto. Lighten up, Eugene, everybody said. This is good news. For instance, a friend of mine, a Spanish professor named Ian Orede did not believe my paranoia about Winchell, saying, "You’re not supposed to think these things." Case in point, he called it paranoia--about UFOs, secret society plotting, and the rest. Intellectuals are the worst kind of liberals: they’re conservative.

So instead of trying to convince people of what was happening and feeling like a drunken priest shouting on a streetcorner, I poured it into my book--some of which you are reading now.

Most people didn’t seem to realize that the Anti-Christ isn’t an evil motherfucker like Hitler or bin Laden. The Anti-Christ is charming and beloved and makes good on seven years of peace. Charles Winchell was this man. As soon as he started The Plan, his approval numbers started going up. And why not? He was promising and delivering peace in the Middle East.

Due to both paranoia and foresight I saw the Middle East coalition as part of Winchell’s plan. A ten state cartel came right from the Book of Revelations. This didn’t turn me into a Christian convert, however. Actually it had the opposite affect. Part of the reason I was writing my novel was to explain the prophecy in rational terms. Though I have to admit there was always a nagging issue: a person aiming to fulfill prophecy might be the prophecy itself.

Incredibly, President Winchell was playing the role of Anti-Christ so the world could usher in the one true Christ. What nobody knew was that Winchell was going through one hell of an identity crisis--probably the worst case in the history of mankind.

Tuesday, August 10

Revelations

Fast forward to the oval office, two years in.

(Note: The reason I am able to have a bird’s eye into what went on in the oval office during these years is not mere artistic license. In the present, we have mastered time travel, remote viewing, etc. so in a sense I was actually there. If this sounds far fetched, this will all make perfect sense when you get to the end of my story, and you realize, eerily, that I’m watching you now. Every book you read, you are being watched over by the author, even if two people are reading the same book at once.)

Things weren’t going as well as President Winchell had hoped. The world was falling apart and people were blaming him for it. This didn’t match well with his personality. He’d always been a sensitive soul. A single dark look from his wife could send him down for hours. In fact, he was a man for which there wasn’t enough praise in the world. One insult overshadowed everything that came before it, no matter who it came from. So what would such a man do if more than half the country was beginning to hate him. Half, Christ, he had a 73% disapproval rating.

People were just angry about the state of things, he tried to rationalize. They were afraid. He was an easy target. All the same, he didn’t become President to be hated.

Of course, things were going to hell for a reason. It had been planned this way. It had to come to an end. What was the point of discussing health care or another education bill? They didn’t do much good anyway. No, the time had finally come.

Five men sat in the Oval Office. Chief of Staff, Secretary of State, V.P., N.S.A., and the D.S.A. President Winchell started. They listened:

"All right, people, we’ve been here two years and nothing’s happened. Nothing meaningful. It’s time to start history. You ever see a movie about the Presidency? Nixon, Kennedy, Bush, whatever. All that slow camera movement, swelling music, as if every moment is profound, loaded with history. I think I can speak for most of us when I say that that’s not how it feels. Am I right? This place is like working in an office. A big, beautiful office, but sometimes I just don’t feel the romance.

"So here’s what I’m getting at. It’s time to start history. It’s time to feel like we’re part of something. And this something is going to be nothing that any Presidential administration has ever witnessed. We’re going to change the course of the fucking universe."

He paused to make sure that his audience was listening. They were, of course. Not just because they were paid to, not only because he was the President, but because they loved and trusted him. Even though they were a closer witness to his flaws, his temper, his indiscretions, this made them love him further. They saw that he was human--he was one of them. His humanity showed them just how profoundly different he was.

Winchell continued, an expressing somewhere between profound boredom and anger. "For too long, we’ve had to debate tooth and nail to go to war anywhere. Vietnam fucked us up where this is concerned. The peaceniks think Vietnam was the example of how a war could go wrong. What they don’t understand is it was the most peace-loving that could have happened. It stopped America and the world from jumping into another world war. But that’s all behind us.

"We’re all Christians here, am I right? Real Christians who believe in every word of the Bible? Now, I don’t know why any good Christian President has not done this sooner. The answer, of course, is that the world wasn’t ready. Now it is. We all want Jesus here. We all want a thousand years of peace. How is this going to happen? We are going to start a World War. It won’t take much. In a way it’s already been happening for the last fifty years. It’s our job to put the nail in the coffin, so to speak.

"I’m sure this has occurred to most of you. I’ve hinted at it enough. It’s time for us to usher in the second coming of Christ. It says he will only come after a worldwide calamity, an apocalypse. It’s our job to make sure that happens. It seems stupid that it has taken this long. Liberals and the non-religious have kept us from our natural human duty. They can go to hell. All of us will be protected by the rapture. Just in case, we’ll also be protected fifty feet underground. It’s time to test who’s been bad and who’s been good."

There was a dark, calm silence. If there could be music, it would have sounded like the final movement of Shostakovich’s 5th symphony. Or Carl Stalling.

Derek Potter, Chief of Staff, raised his right hand and said, looking meek and fearful, "This has been prophesied in the Book of Revelations."

"That’s right," Winchell said. "We are not doing anything that is not supposed to happen. Revelations is a guidebook for Armageddon. Anything else?"

"Forget health care and taxes. This will be the most important event in the history of mankind," someone said. I don’t know who.

"That’s what I’m saying," the President replied.

The five men were starting to looked pleased now, enticed. A change from the sober gravity that usually took place during these meetings. All involved seemed relaxed, even relieved. They’d had a collective epiphany which felt obvious and inevitable, justified. A kind of dumbfounded joy: "Why hadn’t we thought about this sooner?" Suddenly, their lives had purpose. They would be responsible for everlasting peace. They’d always felt like chosen men--no matter what they did they were a part of history: they belonged to the United States government. But now they were sitting on the throne of God, the only being higher than the President of the United States of America.

I do not know what this could have felt like to them then. Imagine all the pride in the history of America felt in one rush. They suddenly had proof of God, they were the most important men to have ever lived, they had jurisdiction over the Earth, they were absolved of any future struggle, they were free. I don’t know, it must have been fun.

Sunday, August 1

President Wind Chill

Charles Winchell was a diplomat’s son. He was a fortunate one. But he was many men, a kind of well-received schizophrenic. Charles was his presidential name. He went by Chuck to the unions, Charlie to the ladies, and Charles at the convention. He had a personality to fit every name.

It was not surprising that Winchell was able to get elected. We were in need of a dictator. The world was becoming such a grim place that people were progressively yearning for fascism.

The last sexual taboo was eaten as if by a gigantic vagina dentata on the 8th of January, 2008. That was the day that a midseason replacement. "Stick it to Me," a sitcom, went on the air. It was the first pornographic sitcom. I don’t want to sound like a prude here, I’m all for nudity, sex. It turns out that some taboos are necessary, especially when people are too immature to handle the consequences. Full nudity, full penetration, full money shots, all on free prime time. It started with "asshole" on NYPD Blue in the late nineties, some ass shots, trying to push the boundaries. Just the beginning. Once the internet had entered the television business, the networks were left with no other avenue to get people to watch. SITM wasn’t the highest rated show ever, that wasn’t the point. Pornography was on TV. Soon you would see girls sucking off men in broad daylight, a crowded street. The sex-obsession was a like a new kind of fundamentalism. TV doesn’t cause violence, TV doesn’t cause promiscuity, people argue. That only applies to intelligent people, of which, we all know, there aren’t many. Most others looked at TV as if it were an advertisement for reality. Or at least a justification.

So, girls were becoming porn stars by the hundreds. They weren’t doing anything different than fifty years ago. Now it was just being filmed. I didn’t buy that, exactly. There’s a thick line between wanting to kill your parents and actually killing them. The same went for girls having sex or having sex in front of throngs of observers, usually idiot men. I now believe that the mass sex-obsession was a great drive for procreation before the extinction

Violence too had become so commonplace as to be tolerated, the way one tolerated months of rain; you could complain, raise your fist at the sky, but there was really nothing you could do (until now, but that’s another story, for later.) With the casual sex came casual violence. It began in the nineties with the school shootings. To me school shootings seemed ludicrous. I was as alienated as a kid could be in high school. I hated everyone. Everyone avoided me. But even in my darkest rage I did not fantasize about killing every last one of them. Might have to do with my particular brand of insecurity--I believe both that I am better than everyone, and that everyone is better than me. So the school shootings to me seemed like a kind of possession, almost religious, a mixture of sickness and ambition that once was only left to the Hitlers of the world. But school violence--like Hitler--was only the beginning.

I don’t know exactly when it happened. There wasn’t a moment, a collective epiphany, some final act of violence where everyone said, fuck it, why be safe? Soon perfectly normal people were walking into a Wal-Mart and gunning people down. Going Postal became a pastime. One of the basic tenets of sci-fi literature is to take things that are actually happening in the present and exaggerate the fuck out of them. It’s like a quantum theory of society--if something happens once, on a small scale, it can happen to everyone all the time. I use this as a prelude because it might appear that I’m using a literary device. Sure, school shootings. What’s next, a shooting a day? School bombings? School warfare? Tragically, yes.

Talking about guns and pornography is provincial. Although anything that is provincial to America seems to affect everything--to say otherwise is like saying an alcoholic father doesn’t affect his children. On the world stage, things were even worse. Climate changes, wars over food, terrorism, and so on. I won’t get into everything right now. I don’t want to overload you with bad news.

It’s no wonder Winchell got elected. The world was a madly fucked-up place. Try to imagine the humiliation and heartbreak. In the past, chastity was an issue, at that point it existed for no one. People seemed to be losing their humanity, as if in preparation for a war. I sound like a Christian, don’t I, decrying how Satan is taking the souls of our children. I think that gives a bad name to Christians. Satan--or what he commonly represents--is no good. I would have even voted for Winchell if I hadn’t sensed--like the minority--that he was a complete lunatic.

Winchell was a member of a newly created party--the Unitans--a sort of valiant attempt to destroy gridlock and divisiveness. Even I would have voted for him if it wasn’t for his creepy emphasis on Christianity (like your current President, who incidentally is going to lose), his eyes which managed to be large and beady at once, both conniving and charming. He was everyman depending on who was looking at him. If you wanted a bad-ass, you got a bad-ass, if you wanted thoughtful, you got it. Of course, this was "thoughtful" to people who didn’t think--I’m not sure the man read, ever. But he gave the appearance of graciousness, and in that day and age that was enough. And this was not slick, former-actor, politician’s son graciousness--this was where he even got me. The man talked like a person. He sounded like a cross between an aggravated football coach, a successful car salesman, and also something completely original, indefinable. He actually memorized his speeches so he wouldn’t look stiff, mannered. He had a photographic memory, they said. On talk shows, he would say things like, "Don’t be stupid." He even used bad language, with a fatherly twinkle in his eye, saying, "I know we all talk like this, so what does it matter?" His use of bad language was what got liberals on his side. He admitted that he liked women, did some drugs in his life, and loved movies. It was refreshing to have a politician who didn’t talk like a robot, who smiled only when he found something funny. I thought it might be good for the country to have a man who spoke his mind, who seemed human, no matter what his ideas. At the time it wasn’t as if political policy was having any affect. People were fucking and killing each other in broad daylight. Maybe what the country needed was a good scolding by a good Christian. Something had to be done. If nothing else, he was entertaining.

By writing that last sentence, I am admitting partial responsibility for World War III. By liking the man, I helped get him elected, I contributed to the illusion of his charm.

Perhaps America had a collective death wish. More accurately, I think America had a collective wish to challenge God. God had forsaken America, after years of prosperity. God was dead. What America really wanted was the resurrection of "In God We Trust." They wanted the world superpower to sit on the throne of the world once again. Chuck Winchell was the best man for the job: a businessman, a preacher, a mechanic, an actor, a lover, a salesman, every American. He would lead America in their war with God.

His slogan at the most innocuous was "Chuck is Good Luck." But the other one that he threw out only so often was the heart of his campaign--the heart of the man himself. He told us that he was running on the "Apocalypse Ticket." Not literally, he said with his smirk (was it smug, diabolical, or earnest? Only God knew.) What he meant by "Apocalypse," he assured us, was that the old ways had to go. After all, the Greek word for apocalypse, apokalupsis, meant "to uncover," "to disclose," "To reveal." There was too much violence, too much casual sex, we needed to reveal our better selves. "I’ll invoke the Bible if I have to," he said. And then he would say (and this is where he charmed people), "And I won’t apologize for using the Bible. Hell yes, I’ll reference the Bible. Screw church and state, we’ve got some real problems at stake. We all need a slap on the wrist. The Bible is a book full of goodness and wisdom. As is the Bhagavad Gita, the Torah, or the sayings of Confucius. The Bible is a salve for these immoral times." Out with the old, in with the nuclear, one cynical pundit quipped. Somehow--but not surprisingly--the Apocalypse Ticket hit a chord with people. Things did need to change, boy did they, and the apocalypse was only a metaphor, right?

If only. What we now know is that everything the new President was shouting about was to be taken literally. The man did not have a capacity for irony. Which--IRONICALLY--was exactly the kind of thinking he was trying to kill with his apocalypse. The casual, smirking attitude towards violence, sex, everything. Give him credit, the man was sincere in a vast cultural ocean of insincerity: people had forgotten how to believe, and he was going to bring them back. Even if it meant killing them.

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