Last night I dreamed I saw Kellyanne Conway kneeling on a sofa in the White House while a choir of well-dressed African-Americans gathered prayerfully around the orange president. She gazed fixedly at the irradiated screen of a handheld device, while the hem of her skirt found a resting place above her knees. I have seen women posed this way on the cover of Playboy and also upon bumper stickers and decals fastened to pickup trucks. But I never dreamed this straddle might pass for decorum in the nation’s capital. Until now.
“No he hasn’t grabbed it yet,” an off-screen voice said in the background. “And I don’t think he’s going to—not until she gets a wee bit closer to a 10.”
As the dream continued, a set of Bluetooth speakers pushed music from a neglected playlist into the West Wing, its harmonies swollen with the forgotten promise that the South would rise again. Mint juleps would once again become the birthright of every true American. As long as you could produce a valid ID card and the required DNA, you’d receive a lifetime skating pass and free drinks served up by smiling darkies who understood their place in De Rerum Natura and kept to it without complaint.
With that same ID card, you’d get free access to mud parks all over the country where girls much younger than Kellyanne—all tens, every one of them—gyrated to the sound of grinding gears and the grunt of big-tired muscle trucks attempting to gnaw through muddy canals against futile odds. Failing, always failing, they’d be like mighty Sisyphus himself but with a difference. In the new order of things, the mythic hero is hauled back to his platinum-blonde wenches by a winch. Who needs deus ex machina when you’ve got a winch to wench with?
It was at this point that the dream suddenly changed, as dreams often do. I saw Dorothy clicking her red heels all the way back to Kansas with its six electoral votes. The scene shifted again, and I witnessed a fat man in a baseball cap bowling for Columbine. “It can’t compete with Slouching toward Bethlehem,” he said with a shrug to no one in particular. “But hey, it’s a living.”
Then, breaking the fourth wall, he turned to me and began to prophesize, noting that he had predicted the election’s outcome long before the tragedy occurred.
“The orange president will not complete his first term,” the fat man said. And suddenly there was a great hush as an iron curtain appeared with Russian words scrawled across it in chalk.
“Gogol? Is that you?” the orange president quivered.
“No,” came the off-screen reply. “We’ve already got enough dead souls around here.”
“Then who goes there?”
“It’s Chekhov,” the voice said. “It’s time to discuss our marriage proposal, don’t you think?”
An argument followed, amid much saber-rattling, which seemed to take place in waves. I was unable to understand it all. But I gathered it had something to do with a foreign policy based on a pair of hunting dogs called Guess and Squeezer and whether they should be allowed to take golden showers together.
As this segment drew fitfully to a close, I was less than comforted when the fight ended with the return of détente. It seemed the marriage would be allowed to take place as planned as long as the two sides were permitted to go on arguing. Horrible obscenities could be heard during the heated exchange: Mosul. Assad. Rosneft. The Dossier. 19 Percent.
But no one seemed to care about these things. It was all about the orange president's new foreign policy based on those dogs Guess and Squeezer, and whether Russia would accept a slice of the most beautiful chocolate cake the world had ever seen—after it had first been offered to China.
“The world turns upon such things,” the off-screen dream narrator said. “When it comes to mass communication, it’s fast versus slow these days. The liberals lost because Hillary’s nine-point plans to save the world were slow—meaning it takes time to think them through. People don’t want to think. They want a fast answer. Something they can get their minds around. I’ll build a wall. That’s what the other guy said. And it worked.
Just then the dream changed again, and I saw a flock of falcons rising from the flames of a burning southern city where a bridge had just collapsed. “Rise up, rise up,” they sang in their special language. “Rise up!”
But like Icarus, they flew too high and were soon spotted by a deflated patriot, who took aim at the birds with his rifle. “I’ve got a Handel on this,” he shouted, flashing a woman’s photo with the name Karen printed on it.
“Tell Handel to keep her Ossoff the sixth congressional district,” the birds cried, an obvious reference to Georgia’s special election to fill the seat once owned by Newt Gingrich and eventually held by a pricey doctor turned cabinet member.
The strain of all this synchronicity began to wear on me. Exhausted, I hoped the dream was nearly over. But it was not to be. All of a sudden, Oedipus and Creon appeared and began an argument of their own. It was as if the whole world had become polarized into likes and dislikes: stay versus leave, left versus right, up versus down, red versus blue. Dualities. Wherein there could be no peace.
“Call in Tiresias the Soothsayer,” someone yelled. And when the old blind man arrived, TV newsman Lawrence O’Donnell asked whether the impossible might become possible in Georgia’s sixth congressional district.
“Can a 30-year-old democrat win against a career politician who gained national attention in 2012 as part of the public relations fiasco that caused the Susan B. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation to withdraw funding from Planned Parenthood, then quickly reverse itself as soon as Handel was out?” As usual, O’Donnell had done his homework.
“Though blind, I see major money coming from the national party in support of Karen Handel,” the old seer said. “I also see lots of little money coming in from all over the country to support Jon Ossoff. That young fellow is extremely well-educated and basically a centrist. But Handel will attempt to win the day by singing “The Forsaken Nymph” (composed by that other Handel) and claim that Ossoff is trying to ‘steal’ the election by laying hold of potentially greater sums of outside money than she has.”
“Why does money matter so much?” Lawrence O’Donnell asked the soothsayer.
“Because money buys advertising,” the old man said. “Money pays for daily mailings, placards, posters, and targeted social-media campaigns. Money allows you to trash the opposition. It lets you tell as many lies and half-truths as possible to a public that has forgotten how to be a discerning electorate. The public has allowed itself to morph into passive consumerism, twisting this way and that in foul winds stirred by media campaigns spoon-fed to the comfortably numb between commercial breaks of The Bachelor, Dancing with the Stars, and the Real Housewives of every major city in America.
“Why that’s outrageous,” O’Donnell said. “Is there a name for this phenomenon?”
“Yes,” said the old man. “It’s called The Walking Dead.”
When I woke up, my iPad was still queued to the Audible.com presentation of the Three Oedipus Plays, one of the best productions of Sophocles’ Theban Trilogy I’ve ever heard. But this is the last time I’ll listen to Greek tragedy before going to bed. My unconscious is far too gullible. So I promised myself, as I lumbered out to the deck, clutching my daily double espresso, never again to consume anything stronger than Masterpiece Mystery before falling off to sleep. It’s a lot safer. It’s true that Oedipus is sometimes mentioned by Endeavour Morse and even Inspector Lewis. But there’s no Kellyanne there. And I can always count on Father Brown. He hasn’t given me a nightmare yet—and isn’t likely to.
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