The State of the Union, Microdosed

Bad trip

[The author has taken a microdose of LSD or whatever is really in this thing this guy gave him.]

Faces swell and leer in the hideous chamber of lies. A mannequin moves as if motorized into the sky chamber, surrounded by human curiosities, such as the oldest man in the world and a pretty dwarf. A chorus of lunch ladies in white sit primly together in ostentatious solidarity.

Suddenly all is still and dark and my throat tightens as I imagine clouds of gas streaming in to kill them all — then a sudden shrill bark and the Living Caricatures, an a cappella group of Evil Bankers from Movies, streams forth instead, trying somehow to pick the Congressmembers’ pockets through their handshakes. And then another bark, and then a red streak, a streak like a bloody gash, appears in the maw of the crowd, and it is on the chest of a giant, a giant with straw for hair and the scowling visage of a long-imprisoned madman. But he does not babble like a madman; Judy Woodruff and Mark Shields babble for him; Shields’ jowls reach down to the ground and pool. The red streak of blood does not seem to trouble the giant, and then the blood turns into a tie, and we know we are in the presence of Trump.

Trump manfully works his dentures. He squints and cocks his head. He says words like breakthrough and citizen but I see over his head his real thoughts, which are “gggggg,” “skkkrrr,” “pussy, gotta get pussy,” and grey frozen clots that represent tuneless humming. He is talking about unity, and his voice tries to be husky, but instead it sounds like what happens to your grandpa’s voice when he gets tired. Also he sniffles, struggles for breath. I see the Adderall bubbling in his veins, pink and blue.

He speaks of “Annivers-erries.” He mentions D-Day. This takes a second to kick in with the crowd. He narrows his eyes and nods, as if to say, “suckers!” He has unearthed three D-Day survivors, whom all of course cheer. Then he mentions the moon landing, calls up Buzz Aldrin, who from his skybox salutes and swallows hard, trying not to punch a bitch. Trump says we will go back to space “with American rockets... there is nothing anywhere in the world that can compete with America.” Under his clothes, his epidermis, his guts growl and hiss; the Republicans’ grinning faces turn to pork loins.

His hair has become a smudge. The smudge is all I can look at; the animated mudpie of his face is too awful. The smudge promises everything will be better than ever. Everyone goes RRRRRRRRRR RRRRR, hands go CPCPCPCPC. The smudge calls for cooperation. The lunch ladies don’t give a shit. AOC says with her eyes: Fuck you, old man. The smudge calls for coalitions. “Vision or vengeance,” he summons. “Incredible progress or pointless destruction.”

Maybe the smudge is not slow just because he’s sinking into senile dementia. Maybe this is him working to sound statesmanlike. The tiny flecks under the smudge are not moving as much nor as lubriciously as usual. But when he says “death taxes on family farms” his Mussolini pout shows he can still luxuriate in a lie sometimes if it’s good enough. His voice becomes dreamy, floaty; “our economy is the envy of the world” is a child’s prayer, amplified to excite our wonder, an effect in a planetarium show.

But you know how these trips are; the high can suddenly get nasty. The chant of “U.S.A.” is embedded in the darkness of the chamber like a corn kernel in shit. The Republicans yell and hoot but their hoots and yells swirl like ghosts in a windstorm, fading, overcome. The smudge calls for backup against “ridiculous partisan investigations,” but the Republicans’ RRRRing and CPCPCPing sound like appreciation for a joke rather than rising to a cause — they sound like spectators, not teammates; under their skin frost forms; if you think I’m going to the mat for him, their secret selves whisper, you’re crazy.

The smudge starts calling out the Story People, one of them a wet-eyed black lady whose sentence he commuted. My public self, with a pipe and elbow patches, looks down from its hovel on a cliff and asks, Can anyone really believe that was anything but a ham-handed gesture to show he cares about minorities? Racists love cover almost as much as they enjoy a cop getting off on murder charges. My journeying self listens for the truth in the echoes of the chamber but the RRRRRRR and CPCPCPCPC drowns it out. The smudge talks about new legislation, rolls out another black ex-prisoner. The speechwriter in his head is really working hard but the stiff-jointed pretense cannot be animated; it thrashes feebly, spastically on the floor, like a string-joint puppet worked by the claw hand of an arthritic.

Now the hairs stand up; the voice, weakened by senility and a flaw in the transdermal drug delivery system, yet fights, rising to tell the old fable of border war, bloodthirsty Messicans, and innocent homesteaders. The smudge talks about “wealthy politicians” who live behind “gates and guards” while “working class Americans... pay the price... migrant children... human pawns... sex traffickers...” As his story grows more lurid, his voice gets thinner and hoarser, like grandpa exhausted at the end of a long day’s scream at the TV.

Here comes the Angel Mom, her pain flogged to the crowd by the smudge’s carnival barking. He attempts the old catch-in-the-throat; it just sounds like he needs a cough drop. The room is amber with the promise of Mentho-Eucalyptus. Does he see it too?

Did this dose just kick in a little more, or did he say the wall would be “see-through”?

The lunch ladies rise and try to turn his women-in-the-workforce thing on him, but it’s no good; they should have jumped the rostrum with daggers, or at least ululated at him. My public self is disappointed. It just looks like a rambunctious young mothers’ happy hour in Park Slope.

The smudge keeps going on women-empowerment, and then onto the trade deficit, and then NAFTA, and then... But there’s nothing left. He keeps talking, about infrastructure, about bipartisanship, about “cutting-edge industries”; but the air doesn’t vibrate to him; he calls for coverage of “pre-existing conditions,” and there isn’t even the Trumpian frisson from a Big Lie well-told, not even the sinful shiver that used to come for many of us from the smudge’s flouting of standards of decency, the giddy feeling of going too far. Even the Republicans’ applause turns pro-forma, a few hard smacks and siddown. When the smudge talks about stopping AIDS, a noble and doable goal, his habit of lying boldly works against him — a large gesture that’s supposed to stir the soul instead of sneers and smirks can’t stir shit. Even the great joke of the smudge pretending to care about abortion and “the holy image of God” falls flat, and the North Korea thing is so dumb the Republican applause falters with embarrassment, which is what they have instead of shame.

Now the body rushes are on me; I’m cold, so very cold, and I know why — because I have to watch this thing to the end, in case he drops dead or the ceiling collapses, and now even the hallucinations are gone and cannot comfort me; like the mother in Yeats’ Purgatory, I must reanimate that dead night not once but many times! From Nixon to Reagan to Bush to Bush to Trump, an eternal piss-golden braid threads and swirls in the toilet of our democracy —

Oh, good, it’s over. While my journeying self returns sweating to its bed, my public self says in closing: Cheer for socialism! I’ve heard the old white men roar U.S.A. a million times over the years, but it never felt so poignant, so ghost-dancey, so fin-de-siècle as when they tried using it to drive socialism from the chamber. But polls show that the kids like socialism, and that specter is not going to stop haunting just because the smudge, I mean Trump, denounced it as he has denounced Messicans and partisanship — that is to say, without anyone but the dying remnant and the brain-damaged believing a word of it. So cheer for socialism! What the hell, they just might go for it.