I have no clear idea of how long I'd been dead before I realized I wasn't in Kansas anymore. Things did seem different in some indefinable way, but I couldn't really put my finger on what had changed. Oh sure, the colors seemed more vivid, the clouds fluffier, the people generally friendlier, but I'd known such days when I was alive, so it took me awhile to realize I was dead. I only figured out I'd passed away when I stopped to ask a guy for directions. "Excuse me," I said, "but I think I'm lost. Could you tell me where we are?"
He smiled beatifically and said, "Why, pilgrim, you're in heaven, don't you know? And welcome."
So, I deduced, that stuff about the pearly gates and St. Peter was bogus. You just sort of turned up in heaven without a big ritual, or without cooling your heels waiting in a long line of applicants. That figures, because standing in line while some celestial bureaucrat checked your papers as though you were at the Department of Motor Vehicles hardly would have made arriving in Paradise seem all that paradisical.
Still, it took me a long time—a week, a decade, a millennium?—before I identified the most essentially good thing about being dead. I was standing at the corner of Elysium and Euphoria Streets when it dawned on me about what was so damned great about where I was.
I was standing at the corner of Elysium and Euphoria Streets when it dawned on me about what was so damned great about where I was.
It came to me in a flash, or revelation, in fact. There was no Donald Trump. Nary a speck or a sound bite. No images of him, no speeches, no commentary, no front page stories, no comedians or impersonators, no pundits of the right or left offering their explanations of this unexplainable phenomenon, no breaking news detailing his latest gaffe or offense against sense or sanity.
There was also no mention of Ivanka, or his three sons, nor of his present or past wives. There were no pictures of him golfing or getting off airplanes or eating taco bowls of Mexican food prepared by real honest-to-God authentic illegals in one of his restaurants. There were no pictures of him offering that idiotic thumbs up gesture whenever he couldn't think what else to do. There was no tweeting to decipher or ponder, no pundits attempting to explain what the latest tweet might portend in terms of Trump's political future, or the likelihood that the country and/or the world could recover from it.
All the time I'd been dead—or in heaven, if that was, most improbably, where I had wound up—I also never heard the names Kellyanne Conway, Paul Manafort, Sean Spicer, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Mike Pence, or Paul Ryan. It had been so long, in fact, that I'd damn near forgotten those names, or the faces that were attached, the identities of people who reminded me most every day in the months before I perished that evil was not a bullshit religious concept, but an active force in the world. Hell, evil even had its own political party in the United States, with franchises in most every other country in the world. And they were busy, these evil doers, whether they were in shiny white robes in Saudi Arabia, or expensive designer suits on Wall Street or Houston.
My post-mortem reality was a far, far better place than any I had known before, largely because there was only a fading memory of Mitch McConnell, Dick Cheney, Bill O'Reilly, Alex Jones, or Rush Limbaugh. There was no "Fox and Friends," no Sean Hannity. In fact, I'd been dead for a very long time before I realized there was nary a sign of Roger Ailes or anyone remotely like him. O'Reilly was also conspicuously absent, though it was clear that his absence wasn't due to the fact that he wasn't dead yet. One thing that was heavenly about heaven is that you just knew as part of your condition that such people would never be permitted to show up to stink up the joint.
Sometimes I just space out for an indeterminate amount of time—since this ain't a place where temporal matters matter—feeling the euphoria that comes with knowing that the likes of Ann Coulter will never intrude on this new reality I'd found. There will be no slimy little Reince Priebus types lurking about, no Steven Mnuchins, or Rick Perrys to bring everyone down on a regular basis. Betsy de Vos, for all her talk about her religious faith, was going to be eternally persona non grata in these parts, along with Franklin Graham, Jim Bakker, Jimmy Swaggart, and Jerry Falwell's kid. And, of course, there was no sign of Falwell, himself, anywhere.
Talk about heavenly. When I crossed over, it was after some 16 months of temporal reality in which Republican Party presidential primary candidate Donald J. Trump commanded all media every single day. Other stump speeches made by other candidates seldom got more than a teensy-weensy sound bite, a sentence or two at most. But Donald Trump's speeches were carried live, usually in their entirety, on most cable channels. The number of column inches of print devoted to him—good and bad, positive and negative—would have required enough paper to cover the bottom of every bird cage that ever provided habitat to captive parrots and parakeets, and to wrap every fish still left breathing in America's polluted rivers.
Was there a magazine extant that had not had Trump on its cover? From High Times to The Turkey Growers Association Monthly, from Morticians Today to The Pussy Grabber Quarterly, from Time to The Racing Form, there he was, orange and hirsute, a walking, talking Creamsicle of a man with only two things on his mind—telling everyone of his greatness, and figuring ever more grandiose schemes and rip-offs, each more grandiose and "unpresidented" than the one before.
And once he became the leader of what had once been dubbed "the free world," he consumed even more air time, cable news time, newsprint, and magazine space. It had been hard to imagine he could dominate even more of the world's attention than he had before he was elected, but he did, goo gobs of it until he seemed to be the only news on earth, the only human being worthy of time or attention, the black hole of media that sucked away evidence of most anything and anyone else.
Oh, and did I mention there was no mention of Vlad Putin, or of Russians in the Oval Office. There were no reports of visits from murderous foreign thugs to the White House, no sweet heart pay-to-play deals for Jared and Ivanka in exchange for massive amounts of deadly ordinance from American arms manufacturers. It was heaven.
But back on earth from whence I'd come, Trump was like a super villain, but in a world where there were no super heroes, no Batmen or Supermen or Wonder Women to take him on and take him down, but where there were plenty of flying monkeys, toadies, ass kissers, enablers, crooks and smaller scale schemers to give him cover and sanction his agenda, whatever the fuck it was.
And, looking back on that time and place where Donald Trump had been so central to damn near everything, I began to wonder if I'd gotten to heaven by way of Earth at all. In memory, the place I came from seemed a whole lot more like hell, a place of decline and decay, where animal species were dying out, the oceans were rising, new diseases were popping up while old antibiotics were being outfoxed by new viruses. The seas were filling up with plastic, the human populations were soaring, famines were endemic, as were nasty little wars, and the occasional bigger ones.
The planet seemed doomed, but there was little response to those who cried out warnings about the coming peril, the looming threats, the ballooning calamity. And, as the time to fix things grew shorter and shorter, human kind (and not-so-kind) consistently turned to the very worst possible leaders, wasting precious time and resources on the most reprehensible and/or downright stupid people and ideas. Deplorables, in fact, the very worst we had.
So, if you're feeling a little lost these days, adrift, afraid, unsure of whether you're in the United States, anymore, or the world as you once imagined it, just have a look around. If after a millisecond or two, you fail to see an image of or hear a word about Donald Trump, you might be in heaven. Otherwise, it's a pretty sure bet you're in hell.
Or, if not, pretty damn close.