American Shithole #3 — Partisans of Liberty
by Eric Wilson
In honor of the late, great Ursula K. LeGuin, I present a bit of science fiction in lieu of the daily political grind, or perhaps this would qualify as high fantasy.
I was sorting through my things this past weekend — rummaging around the closet spaces, poking through old boxes full of books and papers, rediscovering various knickknacks and doodads from my younger days — and I happened to find an old land line phone with a voice message machine. “A relic from a forgotten time,” I thought. I had picked it up at a second-hand store for a dollar some months back. I don’t even know why I bought it; there is certainly no use for it in this day and age.
Curiosity struck me, and I plugged it in, half-expecting the device to either melt or explode.
Much to my astonishment it powered up. The cassette tape coughed, wheezed and whirred. The little red light was blinking methodically. I lifted the receiver, raised it to my ear, and I was shocked to hear a recognizable voice on the other end of the line. “Hello?” I sputtered. “Hello,” the voice echoed. It was a familiar voice, alright — it was mine!
Now, I don’t know if a rift in time opened up, or if the new THC/CBD drops were more powerful than I was led to believe — I’m not here to speculate — but suddenly I was having a conversation with myself; the younger, dumber, drunker version of me from exactly ten years ago.
We exchanged pleasantries, and after our mutual disbelief and excitement over this mysterious event had subsided, I felt compelled to inform my younger self of the future:
2018 Me: So, listen up, buddy. I need to tell you a few things about the next decade. These things are going to terrify you, and probably give you gas.
2008 Me: But it’s so terrible already right now; don’t you remember? We’re in the final year of the Bush presidency part deux, fighting two unwinnable wars that have gone on forever, and we’re on the verge of an economic meltdown if this recession turns into a depression; it has to get better. I mean, how bad could it possibly be in the future?
2018 Me: Yes, I remember what I used to think terrible was. So, about that; good news and bad news, buddy. On the upside, the senator from Illinois you admire? He’s going to be president.
2008 Me: Holy shit! Holy fucking shit!! Are you kidding me?! That’s amazing!!!
2018 Me: Yes it is, and yes it was. So that’s, um, some of the good news. I’m trying to soften the blows here…
2008 Me: So what happened, did Obama not win a second term?
2018 Me: Oh no, Obama wins a second term.
2008 Me: Sweet sister sassafras, that’s unbelievable! So he saves us from another Great Depression? Amazing! So through 2016 we’re good, right?
2018 Me: It was pretty amazing; and with unprecedented partisan opposition at every turn. Unfortunately, it’s not 2016, it’s 2018, and there has been a bit of a kerfuffle, a bit of a setback for humanity, where among other things, Donald Trump is President.
2008 Me: Who?
2018 Me: Donald Trump. He’s a billionaire that went bankrupt a few times. You remember him from the eighties.
2008 Me: Oh, okay. President of what?
2018 Me: President of the United States of America.
2008 Me: Donald Trump, from the Home Alone sequel? Sorry, I didn’t place the name immediately — as I can’t really remember the last time he was in the news.
2018 Me: Well, you can just shut your face about that, you lucky fucking bastard.
2008 Me: Hey, take it easy! So what’s the problem? Is he interrupting your favorite TV shows with too many special reports from one of his gaudy gold toilets or something?
2018 Me: Not exactly. Well, yes, come to think of it. Look, you might as well hear about Twitter, and the changes brought about by social media. Ugh, there is so much to address. I can’t recall, are you familiar with social media yet?
2008 Me: I created a Myspace account this week!
2018 Me: A what? Oh, I remember, yes, that’s nice. You will be fascinated with it for three months until you create a Facebook account, whereupon you will enter a vortex of meaningless, perpetual time-suck.
2008 Me: It’s so fun though, sharing music with my friends! So Facebook is what, some sort of internet crack or something? Seems interesting to me. I mean, how cool would that be, if you could just know what everyone else is doing, or even thinking at any time of day? Neat!
2018 Me: Yeah, right… neat. Well, you’re going to have all that and then some, bucko.
2008 Me: So, I’m bracing for more horrible shit. Let’s have it.
2018 Me: Right — back on track. Actually, I haven’t really gotten to the horrible stuff yet. I mean, yes, Trump is horrible beyond imagination, but that’s only part of it. Listen, before I get too far ahead of myself, I want to tell you more about Obama. He saves our lives. I mean me and you, he straight-up saves our lives.
2008 Me: Holy shit, what does he do?
2018 Me: For one, he signs the Affordable Care Act into law, and in 2014 you have your first colonoscopy, and instead of dying, withered and frail like your grandfather, you catch colon cancer before it develops.
2008 Me: Wow, I… I’ve never owed anyone my life before. What a president!
2018 Me: He was pretty special. Also, that affordable healthcare provides you with options when you are struck with a degenerative condition that same year, affecting your legs. Listen, about your conservative friends that voted to take that healthcare away from millions of Americans — the few conservative friends you have — you are going to be very angry with them for being selfish, stupid fucking assholes that cravenly stay silent in the wake of this national debacle. This anger will come close to consuming you. You’ll think you are letting something out, but instead, you’re letting something in.
2008 Me: Oooh, a life lesson. Got it. Don’t be too big of a dick to the dipshits.
2018 Me: Anyway, before I get too dark, there was some cool shit too. There was even a democratic socialist running in the primary, in 2016.
2008 Me: Get the fuck out of here!
2018 Me: I’m not kidding, we had Bernie Sanders — seemingly out of nowhere — a progressive, democratic socialist that was not beholden to the Koch brothers, the Mercers, or Wall Street. He had no private interests advancing his campaign, and he was winning. He was winning, in America. It’s one of the most moving experiences of our lives.
2008 Me: Well I’ll be damned. So what happened next? Jesus, this is an amazing story!
2018 Me: What happened? The DNC conspired to steal the primary for Hillary Clinton, that’s what happened.
2008 Me: Get the fuck out of here! So Hillary Clinton becomes the most seasoned female political figure in American history, steals the primary, and then later loses to Donald Trump?
2018 Me: Yeah, and it would take me weeks to fill you in on all the crazy shit Trump said and did during the campaign, and in his first year. Scholars will be breaking it down for decades. None of it would prepare you for what was really going on.
(It is here in our story where I would encourage you to imagine a montage where I act out various Trump events for my younger self; the building of border walls with tiny hands, the mocking of disabled reporters with tiny hands, etc., — all his greatest hits with tiny hands — set to the music of the underappreciated Balalaika.)
2008 Me: Wow, how did he manage all of that insanity in so little time? I mean what could possibly motivate him to be that crazy?
2018 Me: Yes, I am getting to that.
2008 Me: At least the wars in the Middle East are over. I mean eight years of Obama must have brought peace to the region, right?
2008 Me: Hello?
2018 Me: No, unfortunately the wars in the desert are still raging on — I was just counting the years in my head. The only people that will ever hold dominion in Afghanistan, are the Afghans. It’s a truth that so few seem capable of accepting. Still, the Afghan people are more than willing to teach this lesson, any decade, any century.
2008 Me: We’ve been at war for fifteen years?
2018 Me: Yes, and there is no end in sight. A bit of a side note here — hey, you know all those musicians you love?
2008 Me: Yeah?
2018 Me: You’re gonna maybe need to go buy some concert tickets in the next couple years.
2008 Me: What do you mean? Aww, man! Who dies? I mean, since you are bringing it up, it’s got to be bad; how many do we lose?
2018 Me: Just go ahead and assume that everyone you love in music dies starting in 2015, so, you know, take your time — but when it comes, it’s like a broken spigot, and it’s not going to be pretty.
2008 Me: That really is terrible. Jeez, I feel awful now.
2018 Me: Yeah, yeah… um, so that’s also, by comparison, not the terrible stuff.
2008 Me: Fucking hell, do evil aliens land and take over the planet? Is there a plague that has wiped out most of humanity? It’s a meteor, isn’t it? A giant meteor has killed all the great musicians…
2018 Me: It’s even more Hollywood than that. During all the hellishness of the past two years, it appears Trump, along with his son, son-in-law, and several members of the administration, conspired with the Russians. They committed treason by colluding with hostile foreign agents, in order to gain advantage in the presidential election — and then doubled down by obstructing justice at every turn, when their efforts were discovered.
2008 Me: Old me says what?
2018 Me: There’s more. Several prominent republicans along with Trump, are currently attempting to discredit and destabilize the intelligence community, the Department of Justice, and the media, in what has amounted to a de facto coup. Fascism, authoritarianism, and populism are on the rise and Nazis have returned in force to America.
2008 Me: Old. Me. Says. Whaaat? Jesus fucking Christ. I’d rather fight the fucking space aliens.
2018 Me: You and me, both. Look, forget about all that for a second. In about a year, the Supreme Court of the United States is going to hear Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. It was argued March 24, 2009. Reargued September 9, 2009. Decided January 21, 2010. This is a devastating blow to democracy worldwide.
2008 Me: Citizens United sounds nice!
2018 Me: Shut up, you drunken idiot. Republican sponsored bills always sound nice! If the republicans had a bill that supported harvesting children’s limbs for erectile dysfunction research, they’d call it Tiny Arms Across America, or some shit. Also, all the hippies stayed home in the mid-term elections, including you, you lazy hippy and in 2010 democrats lose the House and Senate. Democrats never recovered and it hamstrung Obama for the rest of his presidency.
2008 Me: Wow, just wow. (pause) Hey, wait a minute. Hey! Oh man, you got me! Who is this, is this Pete? This was the best impersonation of me ever! Such a crazy story too! (chuckles) Trump. Russians. Pussy grabbing. Seriously, best prank ever! I’m going to pass out and forget all about this, so make sure and remind me tomorrow!
It was just then that I remembered receiving that call ten years ago, and a chill ran down my spine. I had owned this phone, and I must have sold it in a garage sale some years ago. It found its way back to me so I could offer warning — or perhaps so I could complete the time loop. I looked down to find the tape cassette had ceased its whir and the message light blinked no more. If only I had believed myself…
I was startled when my cell phone rang, and it was an eerily familiar voice on the line.
2028 Me: Listen up, buddy, I know this sounds crazy, but I just found this old technology — the smart phone — and I have to tell ya, I’m calling from ten years in the future, and it is insane around here…