Picture this: It’s 2005 and you’re driving to work when a city bus driver inadvertently blows through a red light and the bus hits the passenger side of your car at full speed.
You suffer some cuts and some bruises and some heavy but not life-threatening blood loss. You have broken your right arm and there’s a fracture in one of your legs. These things heal just fine. The kicker is that the solid blow sustained by your head when it hit the pillar caused you to enter into a coma and, oh boy, it was a big one.
On the morning that you got into your car. Donald Trump was a pretty wealthy, very strange man. He just started hosting a very American reality TV show called The Apprentice. He appeared as himself in Zoolander and Two Weeks Notice. Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts just filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, as a means of reducing its $USD 1.8 billion in debts down to a much more manageable $USD $1.2 billion. He is a ridiculous person.
Boom. It’s 2019. You wake up. The doctors take some time to reacquaint you with your body and also the world around you. You learn what Minions are and what the Marvel Cinematic Universe is and about Marie Kondo and Tame Impala and Ariana Grande and — my goodness — it’s a lot.
You learn about smartphones and dabbing and you learn about Twitter. And you see this image:
At first, you don’t really know what you’re looking at. Is that… Donald Trump? The hair guy? It looks like, yep, that’s a portrait of Abe Lincoln back there. That looks like… huh. That looks like a big ol’ pile of Filet-O-Fishes — or maybe it’s Filets-O-Fish. You’re not sure. Is that the White House? No, that wouldn’t make any sense.
You consider that possibly it’s from a movie. It’s vaguely reminiscent of that bit from Richie Rich where you find out he has his own McDonald’s. Was he in that one? It seems like the sort of movie he would have been in, but you can’t quite remember.
The almost-symmetry of its composition, centred around a grimacing Trump doing an inscrutable gesture with his hands, definitely has the vibe of some sort of cinema; almost like a sinister Wes Anderson. It feels organic to you, though. The slightly inexpert depth of field and the crooked angle at which the camera is being held both give the impression of spontaneity. This isn’t a shoot.
You look at it again.
You show some people at the hospital. They say: “This is normal.“
This man is the president now. You ask how it happened but apparently there’s a lot there, just trust that there is a continuous chain of events from 2005 through to 2019 that led to here. There was no dimensional shift, no break in the time-space continuum. No weird sci-fi stuff happened.
Taken as a sum of its component parts, its an absurd image: Trump. The White House. Abraham Lincoln. Stacks of burgers. Antique furnishings. Trump standing like a rictus-grinning gargoyle. All of it. It seems like it would make more sense as part of a movie called like Millionaire Kid or Commander in Chill or Burger Mansion than it would as part of real life.
This nightmare image makes sense, though. There’s a story behind it.
Your mind reels. Is it… upsetting? Not particularly, but it is jarring. You were awake for Schwarzenegger as Governor, so you’re prepared somewhat, but this is, well, something else.
The people around you — the ones that were awake for the start of this — they seem bemused but not surprised. It’s odd, certainly, but it’s nothing unusual, not for him. One of them tells you that Trump inexplicably calls the Filet-O-Fish a ‘Fish Delight’. Weird.
This is a shock to you and only you.
This is normal.Image: The White House