The American Book of the Dead: President Wind Chill

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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