My fellow Americans, we are now at peak lucid dreaming.
Trump talked about his One True Wall. According to the Post:
President Trump told reporters on Air Force One on Wednesday that his proposed border wall would have to be “transparent” to prevent Americans from being struck and killed by 60-pound sacks of drugs tossed over from the Mexican side.
This was already totally rational, but the President—ever the perfectionist—continued, just in case there were any doubters and haters in the plane:
“One of the things with the wall is you need transparency. You have to be able to see through it,” Trump said. He continued: “In other words, if you can’t see through that wall — so it could be a steel wall with openings, but you have to have openings because you have to see what’s on the other side of the wall. And I’ll give you an example. As horrible as it sounds, when they throw the large sacks of drugs over, and if you have people on the other side of the wall, you don’t see them — they hit you on the head with 60 pounds of stuff? It’s over. As crazy as that sounds, you need transparency through that wall.”
Yes, why not? I’m surprised he didn’t find room in the blueprints for fragments of the True Cross. The Post went on to describe the exacting technical specifications required for building “the drug trebuchet: a medieval-era device capable of slinging heavy objects, typically marijuana bales, across hundreds of yards.”
I see through his ambition, much as the narco cartels will see through the fabulous wall during the sundowning years of the American experiment. Like the veil of time or the band Tool, the Wall of Tomorrow lends itself to abstractions, visions. Given enough money and crayons, there is little doubt that the Commander-in-Chief could furnish several books of Poe-style visions for the see-through boundary: trick gates, guillotines, rude puns, swinging pendulums, the works. I have complete faith in his creative potential.
It’s funny: for a teetotaler, the President is now conceptually higher than any dedicated Pink Floyd fan has ever been. I can only wonder now what comes next. The news reads like the first line of an apocalyptic sci-fi novel from the Sixties: “The week before the bombs fell, the Orange President spoke of a great glass wall.” But nobody in the Post, or anywhere else I looked, did justice to the event. This is an important bridge we have just crossed. With the announcement of the clear railing, we have fully, freely entered the Full Wonka stage of the Trump Presidency.
In fiction, the Wonka is an eccentric authority figure who cannot be removed from power because he runs the show. Like Wonka, the President is an isolated, rambling tycoon, who puts his insignia on everything, and is suspicious of everyone. The recluse stamps his name in gold, and only a few favored people may see him. Wonka is endearing on paper but perilous in person.
In Wonka’s kingdom, all fever dreams have the terrifying, dewy solidness of flesh. Boats that go too fast. Rivers of chocolate. Unspeakable fates befalling giant children. Various quicksands and television-making machines. In the White House, and in the Wonka Factory, it is the spoiled privileged kids that keep getting everything wrong, and turning Wonka’s factory into a charnel-house. And finally, there is the Great Glass Elevator, which can shoot up into the void of space, or submerge itself in the billowing ocean among pirate bones. Trump has similar visions, and the desire to build them. He has a wall, not an elevator, but what are a few details here and there?
In truth, Full Wonka is not just the story of Trump, but the story of the American Presidency.
Originally, during the 18th century, the President was a kind of an exalted secretary. Later, as the nation and the government’s powers expanded, he became a manager, a warlord. In the reign of Teddy Roosevelt, the Presidency was also an entertainer.
As capitalism failed in the Thirties, the President morphed into a law-bound king. Then, when the American empire rose, the President became an Emperor, and the imperial Presidency outlasted the Cold War. From 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue spill networks of influence, huge weedy clumps of power, growing over the institutions of the Republic like ivy over masonry. In the Trump Administration, the reach of the Presidency has definitively extended past the boundary of reality, and straight into the realm of fantasy.
Has any non-Speer architect built with such wild abandon, even in their mind’s eye? Emperors and rulers have elevated horses and dislocated popes; occasionally they go mad and invade Russia. The former dictator of Turkmenistan, Saparmurat Niyazov, was his country’s Trump. He wrote a new religious text, ordered a castle of ice be built in the desert, and named everything after himself. But did Niyazov have bag-based fanfiction?
King Zhou of Shang had his serfs construct a wine-filled lake. The Roman Emperor Heliogabalus avalanched his dinner guests under an abundance of flower petals. Charles VI of France imagined he was made of glass. But the king kept glass a property of his own person; he never asked his ministers to build a transcontinental sheet of glass. As always, America takes the lead.