“Alice laughed. ‘There’s no use trying,’ she said: ‘one can’t believe impossible things.’
‘I daresay you haven’t had much practice,’ said the Queen. ‘When I was your age, I always did it for half-an-hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.‘”
-- Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass
Yesterday I happened to catch sight of a guy named Karl Rove hanging out of his window over at the Fox News truth abattoir, furiously polishing the latest, stankiest Trump Turd with both hands.
And I thought to myself, "Man, that guy really likes what he's doing. Just look how he's leaning into it, con mucho gusto."
And then I thought to myself, "He seems very familiar to me. Haven't I seen him before somewhere?"
And I ransacked my memory from today (whenever that is) all the way back to 2016, which is when all of recorded history began. And, sure, this Rove fella popped up a couple of times, but I remained possessed of the strong feeling that I had seen or heard of him in some other context. During some other...era?
But of course that was impossible, because there had never been an era other than this one. In fact, I don't even know what the word "era" means. I don't think it's even a word at all, so why should it pop into my head?
So I did what I always do when I'm confused: I pick a direction -- doesn't matter which direction since all directions are the same -- take a walk, sit down wherever I end up and have a long think. I pack along my first edition of Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There in case I end up far away from home and bored. Usually I end up where I started which is very convenient because it allows me easy access to my fridge and Netflix if my long think doesn't go well, but every now and then I manage to get lost, hence the book.
And this day was just such a "ended up far from home day". This day I somehow ended up all the way out by the Great Big 2016 Time Wall that separates us from the dinosaurs.
I supposed there's no need to explain the Great Big 2016 Time Wall since everyone knows about it: There were dinosaurs in the Before Time...and now there is us. And the Great Big 2016 Time Wall is what keeps us safe from the Before Time dinosaurs rampaging into our time and messing everything up.
It's all pretty straightforward.
So I sat and I thought until I got bored with thinking. A read a little Through the Looking-Glass although if I'm being brutally honest, I've already read it dozens of times and the only reason I take it with me is the comfort on knowing it's with me. If that makes any sense.
Amway with no fridge or Netflix immediately at-hand I began, well, making mischief. Just little stuff. Flicking pebbles at horseflies mostly. Until I ran out of pebbles. Then I began picking at some of the mortar that holds the large, gray bricks of the Great Big 2016 Time Wall together. Which, while it isn't technically illegal, it is frowned upon. However, in my defense, I was out of flickable pebbles.
But as I picked at it, the mortar practically disintegrated into sand and dust almost as soon as I touched it. And little chips of the gray brick too. Just fell into my hand and then fell apart. Which was definitely not good, but no real cause for alarm. My perambulations had probably taken me to some relatively unimportant section of the Great Big 2016 Time Wall, where whoever it was that was in charge of tending to this noble structure (that kept the rampaging dinosaurs at bay!) had skimped a little on maintenance. Probably no worse than, say, driving a few miles past the recommended oil change mileage the garage tech posts on the little sticker in the upper corner of your windshield.
Not advisable, but not catastrophic. So I rested my copy of Through the Looking-Glass on a grassy spot where it could doze comfortably during my brief absence and moved a few yards down the length of the wall -- which stretched reassuringly over the horizon in both directions -- and poked gingerly at another bit of mortar jutting slightly out from the main body.
Same thing happened. Big chunk fell at my feet along with fully half of a large gray brick. Startled the hell out of me. I jumped back, and watched as it collapsed and blew away.
But more alarming than that were the sounds I could now hear ... coming from the other side of the wall. Something that sounded like growling. Something else that seemed to be snarling. It was distant and muffled -- nothing coherent -- but definitely not good.
I stepped back a few more paces and took a long, careful look at this unbreachable fortification we had all taken for granted and, Jesus, was the maintenance crew for this whole section on vacation? Bricks high above my head were clearly hanging loose from gaps in the mortar that obviously should have been cleaned out and re-tuckpointed a very long time ago. I leaned against the wall with both hands and I swear I could feel it shudder, this monumental things all of us had always assumed was a solid as the Earth.
That's when I got really nervous. And that's when this guy suddenly showed up next to me. His name-tag said "Chuck". He told me he was from the Department of Wall Conservation, although he bore a striking resemblance to that intrepid NBC network newshound, Chuck Todd.
Maybe this was like National Guard duty. What Chuck did on the weekends. But was this a weekend? So hard to tell anymore.
I was about to let him know what I'd found when he cut me off.
"Don't mess with the wall, sir," Chuck told me curtly.
"Or," a mischievous voice in my head whisperer, "Curt told me chuckly." And that made me giggle out loud just a little bit, which clearly did nothing to improve my status in Chuck's eyes.
I pressed on.
"You don't understand. Pieces are falling off of it. I just leaned on it and it practically..." I began.
Chuck cut me off again.
"The Wall is great. The Wall is perfect. The Wall will last 1,000 years, sir," Chuck said. "Just don't mess with it."
I reached deep inside myself and summoned my Inner Karen.
"What is the name of your supervisor!" I said.
"You wouldn't know him," he said. And then he was gone.
Well, OK. Maybe Chuck was goofing with me or maybe he is the worst weekend volunteer at the Department of Wall Conservation. And maybe the Wall was just fine further on down and I was just having a very strange day. Whatever was happening, I had seen enough horror and science fiction flicks to know that, if I was going to find someone in actual authority and have words with them, it'd be best to gather a lot more solid data.
I sprinted about a mile or two down the length of the Wall. Or maybe it was 100 miles. Hard to tell, really. Anyway it felt far enough away from "Chuck" to take a breath. I didn't see any cautionary signs or construction alerts from the Department of Wall Conservation warning passers by not to touch anything. And anyway, what harm could I really do to a Wall built to withstand hordes of rampaging dinosaurs, right?
So took reached out a finger and tapped the Wall. Very lightly. Honestly I'd table-tapped harder than that when teaching my niece how to signal for another card in blackjack. And the brick I tapped ... collapsed like a souffle. A little "whoof" of stale out-rushing of air and it was gone. And the same thing happened to the bricks next to it. And two of the bricks above and below it. Then the whole surrounding structure shifted drunkenly to compensate for the gap.
Jesus, those pigs in Angry Birds built better than this.
I noticed that light was filtering through the crack that remained. The ruddy and golden light of perfect sunrises and sunsets. But on this side it was still the same, murky dusk that it had been for, what, months now? Years maybe? Who could tell?
That's when "Joe" popped up next to me, seemingly out of nowhere. This time there was no confusion: it was Joe Scarborough, the two-fisted leader of the Resistance who had been using his three hours of daily teevee time to fight on the Side of the Angels since, well, since the beginning of recorded time.
"Mr. Scarborough," I began, "it is such an honor to meet..."
"Don't mess with the wall," Joe said, neatly amputating my thought mid-sentence. "Just don't."
"But it's falling apart..." I began.
Joe interrupted me again, just like he does on teevee. It was such a thrill for me to be treated like a celebrity!
"The Wall is great. The Wall is perfect. The Wall will last 1,000 years, sir," Joe said. "If you don't mess with it."
"Unless you want Trump to win!" a tiny voice squeaked from a tiny person who had been lost in Joe's dark, hulking shadow.
She stepped out of the shadow, followed by Noah Rothman and Mike Barnicle and Michael Steele and John Podhoretz and Charlie Sykes and Bret Stephens and others I did not recognize but heroes all! Everyone knew that no one had been clearer or earlier in their warnings about the Republican Party than they had, and no one had suffered more greatly for it.
"Well, do you want that? Do you want Trump to win?" they demanded.
"Of course not," I said. "But I don't understand? What does one thing have to do with the other?"
"Just leave it alone!" they shouted in unison, so loud that the Wall shook. It rippled, like a sheet of rubber. Dust sifted from its heights and filled the air around us, making the murk even murkier. Streaks of the golden light from the other side stabbed upwards into the glowering clouds.
And then I noticed two things at once.
First, noises from the other side of the Great Big 2016 Time Wall were now clearly audible and they didn't sound like the groan and growls of prehistoric beasts. They sounded like human voices. A lot of human voices.
Second, Joe and Mika and their retinue suddenly looked scared.
"Can't you hear that?" I pleaded. "It sounds like there are people on the other side. People trapped over there with the rampaging dinosaurs."
They stared at me, mute, trying and failing to cover their fear.
"So you do want Trump to win," Mika hissed.
"Of course not, but there has to be some way to rescue those people. A door or a gate or something?" I said, but they went right on staring at me as if I had asked them to scoop out their own livers with a melon baller.
"Well is there someone higher up I could speak to? Someone in overall charge?" I asked.
"You wouldn't know him," they sneered.
Then they were gone, leaving me with a very simple mission: find a door or a gate and help the people trapped on the other side escape the rampaging dinosaurs. I thought briefly about going back home an getting a ladder, but by now my home was at least 1,000 miles away, and the only ladder I had was maybe six feet tall fully extended, and the top of the wall was now lost in the scudding clouds. So, that was a "no" on the ladder idea.
So on I ran, in search of a gate or a window or a guard tower or a gift shop because who in their right mind would build such a Wall as this without those things? Eventually I knew I would find one, or find someone who could explain the events of their terrible day to me in words I could understand.
I'm not a FitBit guy, so I tried to figure out how much ground I was covering by counting steps, but I lost track after a few thousand miles. I ran as light-footed as I could, but as careful as I was, the Wall visibly shimmied with the impact of every stride. For a long time it was just the Wall and unchanging terrain, zipping silently by in the gloaming. Then up ahead I spotted something other than Wall and grass. It was square, red, solid-looking, with gilt lettering, laying comfortably on the grass as if it hadn't a care in the world.
Holy Bandersnatch, it was my very own, hardback first edition of Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There. Somehow I had run all the way around the world. And somehow I had left this incredibly rare and valuable book out exposed to the elements while I did it.
Well that was definitely something I could blog about.
And upon my return, who did I find lined up to greet me but the true Saviors of the Republic. The true Founding Fathers and Mothers of the New America. The men and women of The Lincoln Project, flanked on both sides by many of my Liberal allies and elite members of the Liberal media.
Liberal comrades who had fought by my side through the darkest days of...
...the darkest days of...
...the darkest days of...well...something, although I'll be damned if I can remember what.
Liberal allies I will composite into one person named, oh, let's say "Chris" for the same of expedient storytelling.
And I knew Chris was my compatriot. That was the important thing. And the whole crowd had come to welcome me home!
"Thank God you're all here!" I said, almost in tears. "There are people on the other side of the Wall. People who are in danger and need our help!"
From high above, David Brooks descended on white cloud. He proclaimed, "I speak for the Very Serious People who possess special, unimpeachable insider knowledge of what is beyond the Wall. Trust us, there is nothing but sadness there. Such sadness and ruin that no one but a Leftist Extremist would be insane enough to tamper with the Wall and risk bringing those rampaging dinosaurs down on all of us."
Rick Wilson stepped forward. "And I am here to speak for all of us Noble Never Trumpers who have been down in the trenches fighting the terrible Republican scourge since the beginning of time. And I am here to tell you one very important thing."
Wilson looked around to make sure he had everyone's attention.
"Whatever or whoever is on the other side of this wall, they're fucked. So fuck 'em," he said, radiating the kindly warmth and sincerity that you can just feel every time he is on the teevee
"But I can hear them," I said. "I know they're trying to tell us something important. Something terribly important. Something that we lost and we have to get back. And look, this is really easy! All we need is a door or a window. Something we can open and close."
I pulled a penny from my pocket and tossed it at the Great Big 2016 Time Wall and where it struck, brickwork the size of a manhole cover disintegrated. And in the few seconds before the Wall could wars and squeeze itself shut, a brilliant light lanced through the hole, blinding the gallant committee of concern who were there to stop me from making a foolish mistake. A babble of voices poured through as well -- voices which were so familiar. Voices of people whose names and histories were right on the tip of my tongue carried along on a warm breeze from the other side, strong enough to riffle the pages of my book and that felt like ice cream trucks and sprinklers and summer.
Then the hole closed, and the light and the voices faded away. The air stood still.
Old allies of mine stepped quickly forward. "Please, don't do that again," Chris said in a very rattled voice.
They linked arms with Rick Wilson and David Brooks. And hey look, Bill Kristol is there too!
They all smiled.
"Look buddy, we're all friends here," Chris said. "We're all on the same side."
Everyone nodded agreeably. This is all so reasonable!
"We only want what's best for you. And what's best for America," he said.
A sea of nodding heads.
"But there are things going on here you don't understand, buddy. Things only we understand."
The heads all kept nodding.
"Well, Chris, since we're all friends here, why don't you explain those things to me, buddy. I seem to have all kinds of time and I'm reasonably intelligent."
The sea of heads was now shaking ruefully. Bad news coming.
"You just wouldn't understand. It's too complicated. All you need to know is that you can't just cut a door in this thing. Or a window. Or a mail slot. The Wall exists as a whole -- complete and intact."
"The Wall is great. The Wall is perfect. The Wall will last 1,000 years," the entire crowd chanted as one.
"Well this 1000-year Wall of yours is awfully god damn shabby from what I've seen, and I've seen all of it." I said. "In fact I'm pretty sure that if I huffed (I huffed) and puffed I could blow the whole damn thing down."
"Don't," my comrades in arms shouted in unison. "Just don't...unless you want Trump to win."
"You know, I've had people telling me that all day, but so far no one can tell me what the hell it means."
"Look, asshole," Wilson jumped in, all pretense of patience gone, "you've got two choices. Two. You can either screw around with this Wall until it collapses in which case you and everyone you love will be trampled by rampaging dinosaurs and Trump will win, or you can shut the fuck up, quit screwing around with things that are above your pay-grade, leave now and let us professionals handle things. There is no fucking third option!"
Chris gently pick up my book and handed it to me, still open to where the breeze had left it.
"Just go home. Go home and forget about all of this and it will all work out OK." He smile and nodded for me to leave. Behind him were thousand of vaguely familiar people. Maybe millions. What do numbers even mean anymore? All smiling and nodding that, yes, I should get on home.
I looked down at my book. It was opened to what they call the "front matter". Publication stuff that somehow my eyes had always skipped past before but lingered on this time.
The page read:
And then I read it again.Through the Looking-GlassAnd What Alice Found TherebyLewis CarrollWith Fifty Illustrations by John TennielLondonMacMillan and Co1872[The Right of Translation and Reproduction is reserved]
And I smiled, because it had been there all along.
Far away there was the sound of something huge hitting to the ground. Boom. Like a heavy bookshelf four rooms away being knocked over.
There followed the sound of another gigantic something toppling over somewhere far from where we were, but now close enough so you could feel it through the soles of your feet.
And that is when my dear friends and well-wishers lost their calm.
"Stop this! Stop this right now!"
I told them I wasn't doing anything. What was technically true. I wasn't doing anything, but I was thinking an awful lot. About the book in my hand. That had been published in 1872. In the Before Time. In the Time of Dinosaurs. Except that dinosaurs died out 65 million years ago. Which I remembered -- remembered!! -- from the field trip my class had made to the Field Museum when I was in , what? In fourth grade? Jesus, fourth grade. I had once been in something called fourth grade years and years ago. Definitely during the Before Time. Definitely before 2016.
Back when, holy shit, Nixon was president!
Jesus! There had been a thing named Nixon!
Another gargantuan something made a very big sound just over the horizon as it suddenly and explosively ceased to exist. There was also light coming from over that way too. A ruddy, golden light that hurt my "friend's" eyes in the same way the summer wind that was blowing the clouds away offended their noses.
Some of them were cursing my name. Some were crying.
But there was no disaster. There were no rampaging dinosaurs. But there was Atwater and Rove and Cheney and Gingrich. There was Ailes and Limbaugh and O'Reilly and "Tiller the Baby Killer". There was Iraq and torture and Birtherism and the Great Recession and on and on and on. There was nothing but their own long, bloody, contemptible and deeply complicit Past -- a Past which they had convinced the media to wall off and then insisted that the rest of us were obliged to forget -- roaring back into the timeline.
Jesus, no wonder they needed a Wall the size of the world itself to keep in all imprisoned.
No wonder they were furious.
They had worked so very hard to convince people with enormous influence over public opinion to use that power to expunge their wretched, destructive histories. To lock it all away in a deep, dark dungeon and bully the rest of us into believing that letting them all off the hook for all that they had done to create Donald Trump was the price we would all have to pay to beat Donald Trump.
That somehow agreeing to pretend that history began in 2016 was the price for saving the country.
Now, like a dream suddenly remembered whole and complete, the Past was reasserting its dominion all at once.
And the Past was was pissed.
“It’s a great huge game of chess that’s being played -- all over the world -- if this is the world at all, you know.”
-- Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass
Pay The Writer