By Mencius Moldbugman
In the beginning was the word.
It was morning in America. The hard January sunlight shone down on the streets of Washington DC but did nothing to alleviate the cold winter chill. Yet though the wind blew cold, the atmosphere down on the marble columned boulevards of the nation’s capital had never felt hotter. Rarely in the history of the Republic had the streets of Washington DC seethed with such violence and hatred on this most solemn of occasion.
All the way down the National Mall, from the Lincoln Memorial to as close to the United States Capitol building as the tired and saliva-drenched police could maintain a defense, a bubbling angry sea of mutual discord rose and rose in an ever-ascending crescendo of screams, shouts, tear gas and fire. The grand statue of Ulysses S. Grant would have certainly been toppled from his Memorial if he hadn’t already have fallen two months earlier on Election Day. On that day a wave of protest had sent the General crashing down from his horse in a tsunami of unrest that had hardly abated since. Riderless, Grant’s horse gazed west with a calm expression on its inanimate face while the bronze reliefs of Grant’s infantry on the pedestal below lay hidden by layer upon layer of freshly daubed spray-paint.
If even a fraction of the energy being demonstrated along the length and width of the National Mall was bestowed on the bronze horse, its disaffected gaze would have surely turned to alarm at the raging fighting taking place before it. The battle was as intense as any seen on the fields of Shiloh or Vicksburg that its master may have encountered. All the way down to the Lincoln Memorial, and as far north and south as Ford’s Theatre and the Potomac, placard-waving fanatic stared down placard-waving fanatic while the police tried desperately to restrain both sides. Yet if the horse could turn around and face in the opposite direction – raising its head to the large balcony on the western incline of the Capitol building – it would have witnessed an entirely different spectacle. There, standing by a microphone with a peculiar smile, stood a man spiritually and literally on another level from the fierce and stern faces of the dignitaries sat in the front seats and the fighting protestors below. Though the statue of the horse’s rider had been decapitated and sent to the depths of the Potomac River, if the General had still remained in the bronze saddle, he may have been able to bend down to his horse’s ear and whisper a tale of who the man on the balcony was and the strange journey that had brought him to the Capitol on a January morning and hence set America alight.
It had been equally bright on the day the first spark was struck, but it had been the harsh bright lights of Hollywood studio cameras rather than the steely morning sun of DC in January. Caked in smeared coatings of thick glutinous make-up dense enough to withstand the constant withering glare of the studio lights, a particularly shallow but cunning creature was busy stirring the emotions of her audience into a whirling cauldron of righteous indignation and satisfying emotion. In ancient times she would have been the High Priestess of a mystery cult or the spiritual matriarch of a druidic tribe, but in the modern godless age she had no other outlet for her talents than the only remaining spiritual pulpit in the United States still weighted with meaning: the TV network chat show. Engorged by the cameras that carried her image into every household in America and beyond; inflated by a commercial empire that printed her every utterance like commandments inscribed upon stone tablets; the distended face of the High Priestess was beamed directly into the synapses of her immense multitude of devotees who followed her every maxim like the most revered of scripture. She was a mistress of her craft who could bestow fame and fortune upon those guests she chose to bless; and equally destroy those who incurred her wrath, consigning them to a fate worse than non-existence. Key to her talents was the manipulation of her audience, normally involving an addictive concoction of virtuous stories, clear-cut villains, and simple monochromatic tenets that allowed her applauding fans to immediately feel the delightful joy of the righteous in an otherwise bare existence. The men and women of her studio audience, mostly women if truth were told, whooped and hollered as she smiled her beatific smile at them and promised them an afternoon of the finest emotional entertainment.
Though there were times when the High Priestess could focus on the light-hearted – a cute dog who could do somersaults or a sexually precocious seven-year-old who could pole-dance, say – that grand American institution of “The Election” was drawing near and the attention of the national audience had to be focused on the great civic task at hand. No singing or dancing today; this week’s very special episode was an opportunity for the High Priestess to direct the full force of her following to where it was most needed.
“Change!” screamed the politician to the cries and cheers of the audience who jumped up and down in their seats with joyous eyes filled with adoring rapture. “Change! A change to the division that has wrecked this country! A change from the hatred that spills out of the White House on a daily basis! And most of all: a change of the man who sits in the Oval Office who thinks he can tell us all how to live our lives!”
The politician was as bland as the High Priestess was glamourous, yet that was crucial to her function. The stars and celebrities of the silver screen, small and large, could be relied upon to supply the required razzle-dazzle needed to send a politician on a gold-dust covered rainbow to the White House. Hollywood had more than enough glitter to share. What was needed from the figurehead was altogether more down-to-earth. A reasonable amount of charisma was more than enough to lead a party into battle. Some memorized quips and sassy remarks to grab the headlines after a debate were sufficient; anything more could lead to dangerous levels of autonomy that would be sure to upset the bureaucratic apparatus that funded these processes. Centrist in her statements, even down to her ambiguous mixed-race heritage, she was a perfect blank sheet of beige who would offer no extreme statement or indeed anything more radical than an affirmative soundbite. Her mediocrity was her strength and she had this down pat. As generic as her statements were though, she had a special weapon in preparation for this event, and the TV show had been chosen as the perfect vehicle to deploy this devastating bomb. She just needed to raise the atmosphere to the right level before unloading the payload.
“All of you here in the studio or at home watching this will know that the President is a racist. Anyone who has seen his track record will know that he is a white supremacist who wants to destroy the lives and livelihoods of the brave people of color who built this nation and call it home.”
(Cheers and yells of “Hell yeah!” erupt from the audience)
“This President (boos at his name, the presenter smirks and pretends to plead with the audience for calm) has spent the last four years stoking fear amongst black and brown Americans. He lies about how minorities will destroy the suburbs (“Shame!” cries out one woman), he whips up violence and intimidation, and then pins it all on what has been an overwhelmingly peaceful movement for racial solidarity.”
(Camera shot of angry women shaking their heads with their arms folded)
“What the President is doing is patently false, it’s morally wrong, and yes, it’s racist!”
(Thunderous applause and cries of “That’s right!”)
“The only thing that this President is good at,” continued the politician, her confidence growing as the audience responded to her statements with fervent adoration, “is spreading lies, fear and confusion to win the election. And that’s not all! What I am going to share now will shock each and every decent family in the United States. Ladies! Sorry, I mean, ladies and gentlemen…”
A hush descended on not only the studio audience, but an entire continent from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Audience members were gripping the edge of their seats at whatever revelation was about to be imparted. The politician and the priestess both exchanged solemn looks befitting the occasion.
“Ladies and gentlemen,” she half-whispered with real fear and disgust in her voice, “it is my duty to tell you all today that we have reason to believe that there is video evidence…”
(The atmosphere grows tense)
“… out there which shows with absolute and definite certainty…”
(Panning camera shot of eyeballs of the more expressive audience participants bulging outward)
“… that this President, this man who claims to represent all the people of this great country…”
(One lady in the front row faints)
“… was caught on camera…”
“… saying, yes saying…”
“… the n-word.”
The silence was shattered into a thousand different pieces as if millions of voices had suddenly cried out in terror and then competed to reach new and greater heights of hysteria. While the High Priestess gave the politician a reassuring hug for the courage it had taken to reveal so disgusting and so barbaric a piece of essential information, her acolytes in the audience, and no doubt in living rooms across America, were aping the same behavior. Some screamed, some cried. The majority trembled with fear and hugged each other for support. It seemed as though a legion of souls had become one in a unified feeling of fear and revulsion at the great horror that had been unleashed. A waggish intern, not wishing to lose the spirit of the moment, pulled out a microphone and with a nod of assent from the make-up encrusted mistress of ceremonies proceeded to generate soundbites of loathing from the shaken witnesses. A small number were too grief-stricken to even speak beyond a few epitaphs that had to be censored out of a daytime broadcast. Most expressed condemnation of the President for his vile actions; others commended the politician for her bravery. One woman from Portland, Oregon, chose to just bark like a dog, so traumatized she had become by the news. As the intern edged through the audience, the High Priestess on her stage noticed that one of the studio audience was different from the others. Surprisingly for her core demographic, he was a middle-aged white man with a faraway look etched across his lips.
It was her eye for television drama that had launched the High Priestess from mere television presenter to Oracle of the nation’s conscious. With the uncanny eye that had built her career on the shattered reputations of so many now unknown celebrities, she instructed the intern to ask the man for his esteemed opinion.
“Why are you smiling?” cried out the politician. “Do you think this is funny?”
He was a man of no distinct attribute, and many would later speculate that this was a significant contributing factor to the events that followed. The kind of man you would easily pass on the street or see filling up a car at the gas station. Not obviously blue collar or white collar, the only defining feature that viewers would later recollect was his permanent smile of bemused indifference. The microphone was shoved into his hand.
“What’s so funny, sir?” repeated the High Priestess on behalf of her political client. “Do you care to share with us?” The scent of blood was in the air. The man reluctantly stood up and maintaining his signature smile shrugged his shoulders and addressed the platform.
“It’s just a word. That’s if it’s true. We haven’t seen the video evidence yet. It’s just a word. Maybe we should, um, I dunno… just get over it?”
If the initial reaction to the claimed conduct of the President had been a hand grenade thrown into the audience, then the man’s statement was the equivalent of a hydrogen bomb. Those seated close to him visibly recoiled away. The rest of the audience leapt to their feet and pointed their fingers at him yelling and screaming. Over on the stage, the eyes of the great and good widened in disbelief, though whether it was disbelief at what the man had said or the good fortune this meant for the show’s ratings was momentarily unclear.
“You know what I’m saying?” continued the man, coyly shrugging his shoulders once again. “We have all this drama over this one word when there are real issues out there. If I was President I’d just come out and say it on Day One. Then perhaps we can all get over it and move on.”
The United States of America, being a developed country that had long perfected its political processes, had a well-established procedure that was to be followed in scenarios such as the one given above. First, the story would break on the social media outlets that kept the American public glued to their iPhones every waking minute of the day. Clips of the man’s outrageous statement would circulate through Twitter and Facebook; the low and uneducated accounts would post sassy reaction gifs in response and the lofty bluechecked twitterati would express their mutual condemnation that such a view could be even possible in the current year. The chattering bluechecked classes would then report on the story in their respective analogue media outlets so that even Grandpa and Grandma John Q Public could bear witness to the unholy heresy that had been committed in one of the nation’s most sacred pulpits. A bi-partisan group of aspiring politicians wishing to make an even greater show of their virtue would then be invited to express their opinion in the editorial columns and news reports that fostered public opinion; making clear in the most candid way possible that the man, and the vile words he had spewed, WERE. NOT. OK.
Next was to destroy the man, but this is where the well-oiled machinery of cancel culture hit an unexpected roadblock. The guy was spotless. Of course, his identity was easy to track down; nobody was anonymous anymore. The man hailed from a small town in Iowa named Muscatine: a quintessentially Podunk Midwestern town with few points of interest other than that two individuals as disparate as Mark Twain and Chinese President Xi Jinping seemed to be the only people of note who had ever passed through the godforsaken place. Investigative journalists eager for a story tracked the man down to his Iowan workshop where it was revealed he was a self-employed electrician aged forty with no wife or children.
(“God-fucking-damnit,” one journalist who had made the long trek to Muscatine was overheard muttering in a local diner. “I knew he wasn’t gonna have a big corporate employer in a shithole like this but I was hoping he at least worked for a fucking Applebees or something.”)
No scandals surrounded the man. On the contrary, he gave all appearance of being an upstanding member of the Muscatine community who regularly attended church, helped out nearby families when they needed it, and seemed to have solid friendships with all who met him – including African Americans. The two junior electricians who worked for him were both black. Nobody had anything bad to say about him. Intriguingly though, infuriatingly even, the man had never established a presence on the internet so there were zero old embarrassing posts that could be used to besmirch him with modern day heresy. The only dirt found was that his brother had once been arrested for drunk-driving. Despite being unmarried, he wasn’t a pedophile. Nor gay.
Rarely stepping foot outside of Muscatine, let alone Iowa, he had accompanied his friend to Los Angeles for a short holiday. While his friend took care of some business affairs, he had killed time by grabbing one of the free tickets for the chat show rather than looking at yet more terrazzo stars down Hollywood Boulevard. He had thought it would be an interesting way to spend half a day; he hadn’t realized that by doing so he would later set the streets of every major city in the country on fire.
His standing in the local community was so solid that it was almost like a military operation when the journalist vultures descended on the town to find some dirt. A wall of silence akin to a Mafioso omerta confronted the gossip-hungry correspondents; not even a crazed cat-lady or disgruntled customer could be found who was willing to make up a sordid tale in exchange for fifteen minutes of shame. On the inevitable morning when the man left his house to find a media circus parked on his front lawn, he did not lose his temper, nor did he back down from his statement. He exchanged a few genial pleasantries with the gathered reporters and cameramen; even enquiring if they needed any coffee to keep them warm. When asked if he understood the significance of the words he had uttered and whether he had anything to regret, all he would say – again with a smile – was:
“I haven’t changed my mind. If I were President I’d say it on Day One. Right there in DC. Then maybe we can finally get some peace in this country.”
Election seasons always create minor celebrities who burn brightly for a moment then disappear into eternal insignificance. Ephemeral mayfly luminaries were plentiful. The journalists had done their due diligence, the politicians had been given their say; with the lack of any further scandal the story should have died a natural death as the news cycle span inexorably on in search of the next spectacle to distract the American masses from any real issue. Two things kept the otherwise trivial story in the spotlight for longer than its allotted time. First, the promised recording of the President spouting the forbidden word failed to materialize. The rival party stood by its claim that the tape existed but they couldn’t quite release it yet due to some unforeseen and unclear legal reason. The more they insisted on its existence, and the more the incumbent party insisted on its non-existence, the more the quasi-comical statement in the chat show burned in the public mind.
Secondly, out of nowhere, a GoFundMe campaign appeared out of nowhere to raise money to make the man from Muscatine the next President of the United States of America.
The anonymous mastermind behind the campaign had even gotten the ball rolling by depositing ten million US dollars into the fund. This took the campaign fund way beyond the nominal $5,000 required by the Federal Election Committee to stand as a contender.
Some speculated that the crowd-raising fund could only have been the creation of Satoshi Nakamoto: fabled pseudonymous developer behind bitcoin and one of the few people capable of maintaining absolute anonymity to start such a high-profile campaign. An elaborate chain of proxies, servers, fake IP addresses and cryptocurrency dropboxes prevented any curious investigator from finding out the true identity of who had created the fund. Others speculated that it was QAnon, or even the Russians or Chinese in an attempt to destabilize the great American democratic experiment. Some even ventured that it was the man himself conducting some form of get-rich-quick scheme, but nobody who had more than a cursory familiarity of the man who promised to release the forbidden word on the public thought that this was possible. To all extents and purposes, he was just a simple man who had been caught up in the ever turbulent tide of political events.
The news about the fund was reported with wry humor at first; less so once people began seriously donating to it. An intern for the President’s re-election campaign first sounded the alarm when for the fiftieth cold-call in a row a prospective voter had told him they were donating to the “n-word fund” as the GoFundMe had become affectionately known. Americans from all states seemed to relish the opportunity of donating five dollars, fifty dollars, five hundred dollars, more… just to give a rebuke to the two traditional parties. Several minor wrong-thinking celebrities and political pundits were donating substantial amounts to the cause. There is no such publicity as bad publicity; donating a cool hundred thousand to a tongue-in-cheek political endeavor that had no chance of success ensured a D-List celebrity more than a few much craved for newspaper bylines. Three weeks later, by the time the lawyers of the two main parties began to speculate whether or not it was worthwhile closing down the GoFundMe campaign, it had already amassed an astounding 300 million dollars – or one dollar for every American citizen. The smartest lawyers argued that the political fallout of cancelling such a large fund was now past the point of no return.
The nature of American society has always been that surprisingly new political alliances and compromises can be reached when large amounts of money are concerned. This has also been true of democracies in general since the time prospective Roman Tribunes would throw denarii out to the hungry masses. In a country brimming with superfluous lawyers and the aforementioned minor celebrities who were always on the lookout for a fleeting headline; the nascent campaign was soon joined by the proclamations of more than a handful of America’s professional parasite class – sincerely or not – who claimed themselves willing to support the obscure chat show audience member all the way on his journey to Capitol Hill. Lawyers, marketers, pollsters, tabloid journalists and Twitter grifters were all announcing their allegiance to the man they claimed was America’s last hope. And the man himself? With a now permanent cavalcade of cameras perched on his front lawn, the humble electrician still passed them every morning on his way to repair minor electrical faults in the homes of his neighbors. When questioned about the astonishing amount of money raised in his name, whether he would stand for President, and – most importantly – would he really say “it”, his answer was always the same:
“Sure, if that’s what people want. Why not? And I’ll say it too. I’ll say it on Day One.”
Then he would laugh and continue on his way.
Everyone thought it was funny. The column inches given over every day to the man whose only policy was to shout out a racial slur garnered a much needed chuckle and respite from the vicious election campaign. The rival party’s nominee even joked at a speech given at Princeton that the “n-word man” had more of a coherent government strategy than the sitting President. The President in response quipped to a media briefing that he only wished his presidential rival had more to say than the electrician from Muscatine. New Yorker magazine published a well-received parody article that made the rounds of faculty offices across the Ivy League about a world where the Iowan handyman actually became President and redid the wiring in the Oval Office. One of the lesser-known Baldwin brothers began impersonating the man in a series of Saturday Night Live sketches where his only response to questions of convoluted international importance was “I’M GONNA SAY IT!” Those four words soon became a national catchphrase. Immigrant souvenir store owners in New York started selling t-shirts with “I’M GONNA SAY IT!” cheaply emblazoned across the front. Fake Twitter accounts labeled “President N-Word” or “Presidential N-Word Countdown” started appearing that would troll the tweets of US politicians by replying to each and every one of their missives with the n-word (and were promptly banned). One particularly prolific Twitter troll began earnestly declaring that the Iowan electrician was the only man who could “complete the system of German idealism” and opened up an e-store selling copies of his new rapidly written book – N-Word Mindset – that came complete with a series of tie-in energy drinks. The official and sanctioned mood of the nation had moved on from the initial shock at the man’s statement on the chat show. Now his contribution to the national conversation was one of welcome and light relief.
Then his GoFundMe passed the 500 million dollar mark and people stopped laughing.
The various lawyers, charlatans and wannabes had succeeded in their mission in convincing the man to register as an official presidential candidate at the very last moment. Cameras had caught a number of mysterious and high-profile people (who shall remain nameless in this narrative for fear of litigation) entering and exiting the man’s run-of-the-mill Muscatine McMansion who had obviously been whispering in the ear of an individual who may or may not have known what was actually happening around him. It was official. He was running for President. America’s elite worried they were now a joke in the eyes of the world. He had a website. A campaign team. He even had a slogan.
MAKE AMERICA SAY IT AGAIN!
“This is a dark day in the history of the United States,” announced the rival party nominee in grave tones to the news reader interviewing her. “That in this year, after we have achieved so much, a man can actually launch himself as a viable political candidate for the post of President of the United States on the basis of uttering an unspeakable and contemptible racial slur. This act speaks volumes about how far this country has fallen during the last administration and how much we still need to achieve before we are on the right side of history.”
“Ma’am, how would you address those not-insignificant numbers of our citizenship who have donated to his campaign? Today it stands at six hundred million dollars – two dollars for every American citizen out there. What is the message they are trying to tell you?”
“I refuse to comment further on this charade of popular opinion that is being manipulated by those who hold no faith in equality and who stand against the march of progress. No right-thinking American supports this. We are a country of…”
“… Law and order!” exclaimed the President. “My administration has been the greatest upholder of law and order in this country since the second world war. We have a great track record. If people are serious about voting for this guy then the country is gonna plunge into absolute chaos. Chaos! I don’t think that’s what the American people want. Next question.”
“Sir!” The reporter jumped up from his chair and grasped the moment. “You claim to be looking out for the ordinary American, but under your administration we are witnessing riots from coast to coast on an unprecedented scale. Homes and businesses are being burned down, and people are being cancelled for speaking out against it. Do you think that has something to do with the record number of donations…?”
“Those riots are only taking place because of mayors who hold no political allegiance to me and their continued policies of undermining the federal administration. I have been monitoring the situation…”
“Ma’am! Will you debate our new independent presidential candidate?”
“Absolutely not. I’ll tell you how we move on as a country. We ignore him. I will not acknowledge his racism. Never.”
“Sir! Will you debate our new independent presidential candidate?”
“Listen to me. It isn’t going to happen. There has never been, and there will never be, a President of this country who would say that word. It’s just not gonna happen.”
“This is your host Mindy Williams for your favorite show Fire Talk. I’m talking to Jemma Hutt. Jemma? Could he actually win?”
“Mindy, I know this is daytime TV and all, but no f**king way!”
“Mr. Senator, you have been in politics for forty years. People look to you as the bellwether of this Republic. For the first time in years we have a third candidate in this race. Do you think he could he win? What is his end game?”
“There is no discussion here. This is a sideshow. A disgusting sideshow. The guy is probably aiming for a reality TV show.”
“Seven hundred million dollars! That’s seven hundred million dollars donated by the American public to a presidential candidate with no other policy except that he will say the n-word on Inauguration Day. What do you think about that and what do you think it says about the state of our nation?”
“Listen. I have one thing to say and one thing only. This little spectacle has been fun for some but it has run its course. The American people are not going to vote for some redneck racist who just wants to spout out shocking slurs for kicks. We shouldn’t even be discussing this. It distracts from the real issues. Sure, some jokers have given him some money, but that will dry up. A President has to deliver more than the n-word. In one month the money will be gone and he’ll be back home fixing TV cables. This is no longer a debate. Let’s just stop talking about him and move on. The question now is how do we minimize damage? Seems to me if the President wants to do that then he needs to grab hold of old conservative values like Mondale in ’84, and the other side needs to remember some of that hope and change they promised. That’ll save a few people down the ballot. But as far as this guy is concerned? Listen to me: it will never ever ever ever happen. Never!”
Obviously, the opinion polls said he had no chance. When the mainstream media even deigned to include him in their polling he was consistently seen as generating less than 1% of the popular vote. The President’s favored media and polls showed time and time again that the electorate wanted a serious politician who could address the real issues; the nominee’s repeatedly highlighted that the man was nothing more than a racist joke that emphasized more than ever that real change was needed if true equality was to be achieved. As for the man himself, he refused to be drawn into any kind of political debate or to elaborate on any other policy other than the fact that if he were to be elected he would stand there on Inauguration Day and shout the cursed word once and for all. On either party he had nothing to say. On Russia he had nothing to say. On economic disparity he had nothing to say. On the lack of jobs, on tax reform, on wealth inequality… he had nothing to say. On social atomization, on endless overseas wars, on the continued decrease in the standard of living, on the lack of opportunity due to government monopolies, on how the 21st century had seen the rage and anger of the United States turned in on itself like never seen before… he had nothing to say. When the riots both in favor and against him started to take place… he had nothing to say. When an impromptu gathering of young people metamorphisized into urban warfare and burnt down the suburban houses of thousands of law-abiding citizens – he had nothing to say. When the first shaky allegations that he was in collusion with foreign powers started appearing and mysterious plaintiffs rose up with sexual harassment claims that would put him in jail for decades… still he had nothing to say. Always, but no longer with a smile, he would merely say:
“I’ll say it. I’ll still say it.”
Yet just as the increasingly tired and weary looking Iowan electrician only allowed himself to speak about one issue, so too did his much more established political rivals. When the time came for the heads of the two major parties to speak head-to-head in an epic contest of rhetoric and showmanship, all of the usual issues were put to one side and instead it became a ninety-minute shouting-match over how such an abominable thing as the n-word candidate had ever come to fruition. The nominee blamed the President for fostering an atmosphere of racism that allowed such a consensus to come forth; and the President blame the nominee for stoking racial animus and allowing the hatred behind such a campaign to take bloom. For ninety minutes they screamed at each other, interrupted each other, fumed at each other; losing their heads over who was more to blame for bringing into this world a man who wanted to be the President just so he could say the n-word.
And on and on and on it went. For days, for weeks, for months. Just as it always had done. Had the history of the United States ever been anything other than a debate over the n-word?
It is at this point in the story where music sets a better scene than words ever could. For the reader to picture what happened next on that fateful election day, it would be appropriate to select a piece of classical music that begins slowly but gradually and inevitably rises into a cacophonous crescendo. Several modern day artists of the YouTube variety have found Edvard Grieg’s 1875 masterpiece In the Hall of the Mountain King from Peer Gynt to be the ideal music for the following scene. Early on in the music, you get a sense of somebody cautiously exploring their surroundings, tiptoeing around. It then builds up to frenzied excitement, not unlike the experience of riding a rollercoaster. Coincidentally, the composition is based on a Norwegian folk tale about a brave young boy who must escape from the clutches of a troll king. There are others who prefer Holst’s Mars, The Bringer of War or Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries but none of them are quite as fitting as Grieg’s opus.
Play the music and imagine a slow build-up of events taking place one after another. Calm newsreaders announcing the first results – New York falling that way, South Dakota falling the other way – nothing unexpected. Yet while the music is still tiptoeing around the Mountain King we get the first inclination of something more ominous to come. Kentucky declares for the independent candidate. A surprise, but it is Kentucky after all and if any state was going to do something so crazy it would be Kentucky. But then Utah! Oklahoma! West Virginia! One after another. The newsreaders stare with their mouths agape at the results coming in. Video footage from outside polling stations show men and women in “JUST SAY IT!” baseball caps exiting the stations with wide smiles and thumbs up. They’re not all white either. “I give him an n-word pass and my blessing,” announces one black voter in Georgia who then raises his fist in a salute of power. “It’s what we need to move on finally.” Idaho! Wyoming! What’s this? New Jersey? The music is really building up now. Footage from Times Square illuminates a sea of concerned faces experiencing the first trepidations of concern. Hawaii! Both the President and his counterpart on the opposite side have disappeared from public view, no doubt in crisis talks on how this could have happened. Vermont! Tennessee! Iowa comes in for its own! The notes are ascending now, the tempo accelerating. Cellos, double basses and bassoons are entering into play. Here come the first swing states: Michigan! D! Wisconsin! E! Arizona! F! People are crying in the streets and studios. Flori…
Florida. F sharp.
Everything went very quiet after that. The news anchors and professional opinion givers never expected such an outcome, so for once they did not know what to say. For the first moments after the final result was announced, all that the great American election circus had to say on the landmark victory was a silent graphic scrolling across the bottom of millions of television sets:
“INDEPENDENT CANDIDATE WINS PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION”
Of course, the silence could not last forever. It was not long before the official Voices of America regained their vocal chords and let loose a flurry of fire and fury over what had happened. It was a national tragedy. A joke. Shame. Fascism repeated on the American continent but this time as farce. The two mainstream party leaders refused to accept the verdict at first, but when the auditors reported back that the records showed that the men and women of the USA had indeed voted for a candidate who had no other policy than saying aloud a certain word, eventually even they and their hefty legal teams had to concede that this was indeed the legitimate vote. Oh, there were certainly people at home jubilant over the results – it was them who had voted in the Iowan after all – but they remained conspicuous by their absence in the national conversation that the media chose to stream into households in the style of a funerary dirge for a deceased leader of great renown. With solemn faces, the people’s betters and intellectual superiors lectured them across the airways at the terrible, terrible thing they had done and warned them of the terrible, terrible consequences that would surely follow.
Muscatine had never seen anything like it. The population practically doubled as media from around the world descended on the small town. At one point the local authorities had to clear out hundreds of journalists who had pitched tents and created a media shanty town on the outskirts of the sleepy settlement for their own safety and hygiene. Muscatine was just not built for such a throng. All clamored for a statement or a glimpse from the New Leader of the Free World but their efforts were all for naught. He had already been whisked away by his campaign team (nine hundred million dollars was the last recorded amount for the contributions donated to the campaign) and was hiding in an undisclosed location until his Inauguration Day in January, when, as his marketing people duly informed the vultures, “he would say it”.
It was as well that he had left his house before the election victory. A day later it was torched by an unknown assailant and burnt to the ground. Police were unable to find a suspect. Two days later, practically the entirety of Muscatine’s Main Street had been destroyed by a mob that had found its way from parts unknown to the obscure Iowa town.
Muscatine was only the first. Des Moines was in ruins a week later. It was a long two months till the inauguration in January. America experienced the hottest winter on record.
If the bronze horse in Washington DC knew of any of these events, its face did not betray its sentience or knowledge to any onlooker. Not that there were any onlookers paying attention to the horse when the moment came for the man on the balcony, surrounded by the scowling faces of an enraged elite, to place his hand on a Bible and declare:
“I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
The clock struck noon. It was no longer morning in America; a new time had arrived. Across the length of the National Mall, the white supremacists with their swastika tattoos put down their tiki torches, the black-clad Antifa rioters lay down their placards. Those engrossed in stomping their feet on the heads of others paused with their heels mid-air to look toward the balcony on Capitol Hill and the distant figure of the man who gazed back at them. The dignitaries in the front seats leaned forward with bulging eyes of mad, soundless, desperation. In homes not only across America, but the world, an oppressive silence fell upon one and all as they waited and waited for the moment it would be revealed if the new President would fulfill his threatening promise.
What must have been going through his mind that historic moment? Stood on the world’s greatest stage surrounded by generals and senators, the enraptured attention of the world in his hands, but otherwise so utterly and absolutely alone. The eyes of billions scrutinizing his face for any hint of emotion. Had he known on that fateful day where his actions and words would lead him? Had it all been just one big joke to him? Did he ever think that his words would bring him all the way to Capitol Hill and the ultimate position of authority thus conferred upon him? Most of all, did he really believe that by the simple utterance of the vilest of words the nation that was burning before him could somehow heal? No word held such power. Magical words were a thing of legend. And yet the power of the word had wrecked so much havoc already for it to be self-evident. It had brought him from obscurity to the highest seat of authority. It had brought the hundreds of thousands of people who lay before his gaze in a conflagration of protest, violence and disunity. It had split the country into a thousand pieces – not just when he had made his statement on the chat show – but centuries ago, when the idea of a shining city on a hill had yet to be even conceived. The power of the word lay in the dense jungles of West Africa, along the coastlines of Massachusetts, and even in the death camps of Auschwitz. A word so powerful that to allude to its existence brought ruin and destruction onto all those who dared. A word containing such rage and repressed anger that saying it aloud had the potential to destroy the world; even when buried beneath taboo and blasphemy its very forbidden existence had still torn relentlessly at the Republic till the country had been brought to its knees.
Neither the great bronze horse of Ulysses S. Grant, nor any of the people gathered in the capital that day, had any clue as to whether or not these considerations of infinite importance were present in the head of the newly elected President. Nobody was sure if he was really going to say it. It was quite possible, almost certain, that his advisors or even military figures with lethal authority, had counseled him in the strongest possible terms to take a different approach. Perhaps there were sniper rifles aimed at his head that very moment ready to extinguish the word the moment it looked like it might emerge from his mouth. Many hoped so. It just wasn’t possible that a world could exist where the word could be said. All that could be gleamed from the President’s face as he stared at the gathered multitudes was his ubiquitous enigmatic smile and an indecipherable spark in his eyes.
Slowly, very slowly, the President walked up to the microphone. He tapped it twice, coughed mildly, and then opened his mouth.