Wednesday, December 7, 2016

On the Life of President Morton

In 2016, the year tyranny came to America, Paul Morton was living in Seattle. He was 35 years old at the time, enjoying a humble existence as a Ph.D. student, a teacher, and a writer for various web sites. In the previous years, he had grown weary of the political discourse on the left. The battles over microaggressions -- battles that seemed as bizarre to Morton and most of his contemporaries as they do to us -- had a stultifying effect on debate. He often wondered at what he perceived as the joylessness of his colleagues who dissected the ugly politics of so much work that he loved, utilizing a terrible interpretation of otherwise good theory to make their arguments. He was glad to see the gay marriage issue settled. Now he feared for his livelihood in a university system that was on the verge of collapse.

As for so many others, the election of Donald Trump to the presidency on November 8, 2016 was for Morton a transformational moment for his vision of the country, of world affairs, of what mattered and what did not matter. He grew convinced that the human race had maybe two generations left, and wrote about his fears on Facebook, a technological means by which one seventh of the human race communicated in the early years of the twenty-first century. He became radicalized. He gave money to various causes and joked that he was like a bourgeois who joins the revolution in an agitprop play.

He was one of the members of the revolutionary generation, the generation who led the Green Army in the civil war that engulfed the United States of America -- as it was then called -- throughout the 2020s and 2030s as the sea levels rose and destroyed the coastal regions of the nation. Resources were depleted. Millions died of starvation, disease, and bloodletting. But Morton's contemporaries won. When the war finally ended in 2037, Morton was 56, grey, ten pounds thinner than he had been 20 years before. He became the Minister of Culture of a country now simply called America, which recognized the states that had still survived through a new central authority set up in the coastal city of Chicago.

Morton was a democratic socialist, a self-identification that placed him at odds with the leader of the new administration, a younger, charismatic, athletic figure who often poked fun of Morton's habit during the previous war to avoid the battlefield at all costs, of his decision to spend so many hours in the office of his newspaper churning out propaganda through the print medium, a technology that had to be revived after the destruction of the internet. Morton's anti-charisma was its own kind of charisma and he had his friends, but they were slowly disappearing as the tensions between him and the dear leader grew.

The dear leader could no longer afford the presence of Morton in his administration. Morton was placed on trial and humiliated. Luckily, he was not sent to a camp. He was too well-known a figure abroad, and his death in a camp would have affected America's standing on the world stage. Morton was placed under house arrest for six years. He spent much of the time composing essays that would revive the writers he admired in his youth that few people read anymore, like Philip Roth and J.M. Coetzee. He pulled out his notes from his dissertation on the Zagreb School of Animation. He had still managed to hold onto the old films after 30 years. He was in fact the sole holder of several of the shorts as the archive in Croatia that held them had long been destroyed. As a matter of kindness, perhaps a lingering sentimental feeling for their long-lost comradery, the leader allowed him to publish the dissertation in book form. Thanks to Morton's status, the book was widely read abroad for clues that would reveal the inner workings of the regime in America.

The regime fell within a few years of Morton's release from prison. The transition was peaceful, and thanks to the celebrity Morton enjoyed abroad among liberals and conservatives alike, he was unanimously elected as the first president -- a largely ceremonial position -- of New America. "The last American democracy lasted 240 years. This democracy will last until the end of humanity," he said at his inaugration. He was 70 years old.

Morton was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. In his acceptance speech he ruefully noted that he would have preferred the Literature Prize, but he understood what his role had to be. He said that he would wish for a time when the Nobel Peace Prize was no longer necessary, but he knew that such a wish would be for a utopia, and wishes for utopias had destroyed so many democracies.

He stepped down from the presidency five years later and died of a terrible lung illness a few years after that. He asked that his remains be cremated and spread along the spot of the Atlantic Ocean that now covered his birthplace of Morristown, New Jersey.

-- Bot 6, Ro. The Annals of Human Civilization on Planet Earth. Crater 2071, Jupiter: University of
Europa Press. 2678.

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