On the Rocking Chair: Reflections on America from the Year 2056

"Hi, grandpappy!"  

I looked down to see an eight-year-old boy dressed in tattered blue jeans and a stained white t-shirt.  His hair was cut short, giving way to a solid three inch gap between his steel blue eyes and the top of his forehead.  He had rosy cheeks, something he must have gotten from his dad's side of the family.  Nobody in my family could produce that kind of color.  

"Hiya, sport.  Where's your ma?"  

He shrugged.  "I dunno.  She said something about waiting on the waterman to come today."  

I nodded.  I had almost forgotten.  It was the third Thursday of the month.  The one day private water providers were allowed to sell their product.  Most of these providers went straight to the warehouses to sell their jugs in volume.  Only a handful of them still made the trek out to parts of rural Philadelphia.  Most of them simply went to places like Baltimore or New York City.  Places that weren't hit quite as hard...

"Grandpappy, tell me a story."  

I looked down at the kid, who was sitting with his legs crossed at the foot of my rocking chair.  His mom was doing a good job at provide him his education.  Kid could already do his multiplication tables through the number 8 and seemed to have a good grasp of reading and the written language.  Plus he was always asking questions about what life was like back in the olden days.  

He smiled.  "Tell me one about before the third war.  Before we fought the Chinese and Koreans."  

I sighed.  The phrase "before the third war" was used a lot these days.  Not because the war recently ended; it had been over for nearly two decades.  But because a lot of folks my age were close to reaching the end of our life expectancy.  I considered myself fortunate to still be alive and kicking at the righteous age of 54.  Most folks didn't live past 50 these days.  

"What kind of story do you wanna hear kiddo?"  

He put his right index finger up and tapped his lips.  "Ummm...I dunno.  In history class my mom is teaching me about President Trump and how he was our greatest president.  My mom always gets sad she wasn't alive when he was president.  Did you like him, grandpappy?"  

I slowly exhaled and leaned back in my rocking chair.  Poor kid.  Him mom was filling his head with lies, just as every other parent was doing these days.  Not that I blame her, the Secret Police had been known to stop random children and ask them about President Trump.  I even heard they paid a visit to the Jones family down the street when their eldest was stopped and incorrectly said Ivanka was the first lady and not Melania.  That earned both him and his parents a stern talking to.  

I smiled.  "Of course, kiddo.  Everyone liked him."  

He looked over his right shoulder and looked at me.  He tilted his head.  "But...everybody has some people that don't like them.  Even Jesus."  

I stopped rocking.  The kid deserved to know.  

"Well, not everyone..." 

He leaned forward, again looking over his right shoulder.  "What...what do you mean?" 

I leaned forward.  "Can you promise to keep a secret for me?  One that you won't even tell your mom?  Can you promise me that, kiddo?"  

He nodded slowly.  

I quickly scanned the horizon from the porch and proceeded to tell him the truth about President Trump.   

"In the year 2015, before he was president, Donald Trump was a businessman and a TV show host.  He had never been president.  In fact, he had never been a senator, congressman, governor, mayor, or even member of a local town council.  He decided to run for president to help sell his book and help get more people to watch his TV show."  

"So he didn't want to be president, Grandpappy?"  

I sighed.  "Well, not at first.  In fact, when he announced he was running he went off-script and ended up insulting a lot of Mexicans and Mexican-Americans by saying they were all thieves.  People were upset that someone could say something like that and still think they were qualified to be president.  But Donald Trump kept going."  

"Why did he say that about the Mexicans?"  

"Because, well, Donald Trump wasn't a very nice man.  In fact, there were a lot of groups he said mean things about:  Mexicans, African-Americans, Muslims, immigrants, refugees, women, the disabled.  He didn't like people that were different from him."  

"But doesn't the president have to try and help all people?"  

"He does.  But when Donald Trump ran for president, he said a lot of things that only appealed to a certain group of people.  He wanted to make the Mexicans leave.  He didn't want the country to accept refugees.  He didn't trust the Muslims.  He thought black people were violent by nature.  He didn't think women like your mom could make their own health decisions."  

"But...my mom is smart."  

"Yes, she is kiddo.  But Donald Trump didn't think women were smart.  He even got into an argument with one of them who asked him about some bad stuff he said about women.  After she asked him that, he went around and said mean things about the same woman who asked him that question.  He wasn't very nice at all."  

"But...if he wasn't nice why did people vote for him?"  

"Well, because unfortunately at that time our country had a lot of people who also weren't too nice.  We had had our first black president and a lot of people were scared that he would take away their freedoms and their guns.  That he wasn't even Christian that he was instead a Muslim.  Folks thought he couldn't be president because they thought he was lying about where he was born."  

"Why did they think that, Grandpappy?"  

"Because they couldn't believe that a smart, talented black man could actually become president.  Because they'd been raised by parents who believed that black people were inferior and that would never amount to nothin'.  So when we elected a black man as president, these people were scared.  Scared that black folks would rise up and take over and would make them lose their rights." 

"Did that happen?"  

"No!  Of course not!  But kiddo, these folks were scared that it would.  And so when Donald Trump came along, saying that mean stuff about Mexicans, black people, and immigrants, why it made sense to them.  They felt like he was speaking their language.  They shared his fears.  So when it came time to vote, they came out in record numbers to support him."

My grandson slowly nodded.  "And then the war..."  

I sighed.  "Yes, kiddo.  The war.  You see, folks were so riled up in voting for Donald Trump that they never realized what they were voting for.  The truth is, Donald Trump didn't know a lick about the world; he simply knew business.  He didn't understand that working with other countries was a lot different than sitting down to a business deal.  So during his first few days in office, he decided he didn't want to make peace with the country of Iran, a country we'd just recently made peace with after thirty years of not even talking to them.  So he ripped up a deal we had made with them and this made them angry." 

"Is that why we attacked China?"  

"Not quite, kiddo.  You see the Iranians were so upset that they protested outside an American embassy in Iran.  The protests were loud and there were a lot of people there.  President Trump decided to evacuate the embassy.  We got all our people out, but on the way the news showed that some Iranians were throwing rocks at our citizens through a front gate."  

"That doesn't seem nice."  

"I agree.  It wasn't nice.  But the Iranian people were upset and they wanted to show the world that they felt betrayed.  They didn't intend to seriously hurt anyone.  Unfortunately, President Trump didn't want the country to seem weak.  He saw the footage of the rocks and immediately ordered an airstrike on the Iranian president's compound.  The president wasn't there, but this attack was seen as an act of war.  The Iranians called upon their friends and their friends included China and North Korea."  

He nodded.  "Grandpappy, did you fight in the war?"  

I sighed.  "I had to, kiddo.  I didn't agree with it, but President Trump's executive order required that all men aged 18-30 were required to join the war effort.  We were sent to remote training bases where we prepared to be deployed.  We had no idea the enemy would attack us here at home."  

"You mean 5/18?"  

"Yes.  The day that North Korea launched its first attack on our homeland.  I was stationed three hours away from San Francisco when the first wave attacked.  It was like something out of a bad sci-fi film."  

I could see his eyes starting to water.  

"I'm sorry, kiddo.  I won't continue.  I'm sure you and your mom have already talked about the war in your history class anyway.  It was a long and gruesome war that lasted nearly six years.  It forever changed the country in so many ways.  Even after the war, we had to rebuild.  President Trump focused the rebuilding effort on the richest communities first.  Then when we ran out of money, the rest of our communities had to make due with what we had." 

"Like Philadelphia?"  

I smiled.  "You're bright, kiddo.  Yes, just like Philadelphia.  But like many poorer communities, we had to deal with the cuts that President Trump made.  He got rid of government departments like education and the EPA.  He brought in private companies to rebuild that he used to work with before he became president.  But these companies were corrupt and often took money without finishing the job.  That's why we don't have electricity or water in our homes here; the company that President Trump hired never finished the job in our neighborhood."  

"But I thought President Trump was a good businessman?"  

"He used to be.  But it's easy to do business when it's your own money rather than the American people's.  Since President Trump's private companies did the jobs for less money, he felt like he was making a great deal.  He didn't realize that the reason they were doing the jobs for less money is because they weren't completing the jobs."  

"Is that why we have to buy our water now?"  

"Well, that and the fact that we're dealing with unprecedented climate change.  You see, after the war President Trump refused to do any business whatsoever with Iran.  That included buying oil from Iran, which was part of a group of countries called OPEC that produced a lot of oil.  So instead President Trump ordered the United States to begin drilling all national parks and protected lands, including the Arctic Refuge.  Since we were not only drilling for oil across the country but also stopped investing in wind, solar, and other alternative energy, our planet heated up rapidly and made for scorching hot days, even like the one we're having today in the middle of March."  

He shook his head.  

"What is it, kiddo?"  

"It's just...if President Trump was this bad why does everyone think he was so good?"  

I sighed.  "Well...unfortunately President Trump was very good at telling lies.  Even during the war he would insist everything was okay even when most people knew it wasn't.  He did so during the war to keep people happy but after the war he did it to keep himself in power.  It's how he convinced the American people that he should serve more than two terms as president.  It's how he got enough public support to have people voluntarily give up their health insurance through their employer to force them to buy it on the open market.  And it's how he was able to enter a contract with the textbook company that ended up writing the history of the third world war and his five-terms as president."  

He nodded.  "And so that's why my mom thinks he was so good?"   

I looked deep into his blue eyes.  "Your mom isn't lying to you, kiddo.  She just doesn't know the truth."  

Just then a petite blonde woman with short jean shorts and a white tank top came into view carrying a six-gallon jug of water over her left shoulder.  Even here, in this dilapidated neighborhood, my daughter still could provide a spark of life, even when the world seemed to crumble around her.

"Hey you guys!  Am I missing another one of Grandpappy's stories?  Which one is it this time?  Your first days as an accountant?  That college prank where you stole the other fraternity's couch by dropping it off a third-story window into a pool?"  

I smiled.  "Nah, just a couple of war stories about your daddy the hero."  

"So you're telling your grandson lies?  Who does that?"  

I shook my head.  "Not me."  

She nodded.  "Ok, good.  Well thanks for watching him.  They keep moving the delivery drop off spot further and further from our house and I feel like each month the delivery truck is later and later.  I'm afraid that one of these months it might just bypass us completely.  Then who knows what'll happen?"  

I nodded.  "It was my pleasure to watch him.  He's really getting to know his history.  You're doing a good job with him." 

She shrugged her shoulders.  "Aww, shucks.  Just reading the book and learning as I go.  There's so much fascinating stuff about President Trump in there.  I'm telling you, you should read it some time.  You'd learn a lot."  

I smiled.  "I know enough already."  

"Your loss.  Ready to go, kiddo?"  

He nodded.  "Thanks for the stories, Grandpappy.  See you soon!"  He got up and gave me a hug.  I gave him a kiss on the forehead.

As they began the mile-long walk to their home, I turned and looked over my shoulder to an open window.  I turned back and watched my daughter and grandson fade into the distance.  

I spoke, looking forward.  "So would a conversation like that count as subversion?"  

My front door opened and out of it came a bald man with a goatee and glasses.  He wore a military-style uniform and had introduced himself as Sergeant Woodson before my grandson arrived.   

"Subversion is too kind a word.  You have a death wish, Mr. Cummings."  

I nodded.  I was 54.  I had already outlived my expiration date.  "You saw how my daughter still believes.  There's no reason to hurt her.  And I know you guys have the technology to wipe my grandson's memory from this afternoon."  

The agent nodded.  "Yes, we do.  And you are correct, neither one of them will be harmed.  Which is why I find your performance so puzzling.  Did you simply want to prove to me that there are still those like you out there?  Other subversives?"  

I smiled.  "That I did.  But more than that, I wanted to show you that it doesn't matter who we are or what we did in a previous life, there are those of us who know what President Trump was like before he was president.  His lies, his bigotry, his sexism, his misogyny, his shady business practices.  Millions of us knew who the true Donald Trump and we all voted against him.  We know the voting was rigged.  We know there's no actual way that America would have openly elected a man like Donald Trump to be leader of the free world with so many people knowing the truth about such a vile and villainous man." 

The agent laughed.  "You subversives are all the same.  You can't bring yourselves to admit that our country honestly and openly elected Donald Trump.  That the man ran on a campaign of promises and he kept each and every one of those promises.  Eleven million immigrants.  Gone.  Closed borders.  A twenty-foot wall on the Mexican border.  Catholicism as the state religion.  The abolishment of the Department of Education and the EPA.  Overturning that silly Obamacare as it was called.  And, of course, the ending of the asinine Iran deal."  

I shook my head.  "Our country, MY country, would never have elected someone like that."  

The agent kneeled in front of me facing me directly.  "Mr. Cummings, YOUR country was a lot stupider than you remember."  He then raised up his gun and pulled the trigger.

The bullet struck me directly in the chest.  I closed my eyes for the last time, feeling one last wave of the mid-March sun.  As the agent walked away I heard him mutter into his radio.

"Yes, President Palin.  Mission accomplished.  We got another one."

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