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General News    H3'ed 10/22/20

Tomgram: Ariel Dorfman, Trump's Divine Fate

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In case you hadn't noticed, they wear masks in hell. I didn't know that myself until this year. On the best evidence around, however, like most Americans, I'm now in a circle of hell. I feel it particularly when I'm out on streets that are starting to chill down, not heat up, as winter arrives (however slowly) and a pandemic spike in Covid-19 cases heads our way, as hospitals fill, panic grows, and the president from... well, hell... assures us that, by hook or crook (crook being perhaps the operative word here), in 2021 he plans to oversee the greatest economic comeback in history. And mind you, I'm thinking about this nightmare while out walking New York City's streets half-blind as my glasses, just above that mask of mine, fog up with my own breath. I have no doubt that it's the fog of hell as, at my advanced age, my friends are increasingly isolated and alone in a city, a country, a world under siege.

And bad as it might have been, it didn't truly have to be this way, not if we had a president who cared for any of us even faintly, even microcosmically like the way he cares for himself. That's why it gives me special pleasure today to post a piece by that wonderful Chilean writer, whose work I first began editing and publishing in book form back in the 1980s, my old friend (and TomDispatch regular) Ariel Dorfman. I read my first Dorfman piece in 1969 in another life entirely when I was still a printer at the New England Free Press. It was a critique of Walt Disney he had co-authored, years ahead of its time, called How to Read Donald Duck and I've never forgotten it. Today, he does what so many of us, myself included, would love to do. He ushers "our" president, Donald Trump, through the gates of Hell. Join him for a moment, even if your glasses fog over. Tom

Sending Trump to Hell
Dante Alighieri Has Words for Donald J. Trump From the Other Side of Death
By Ariel Dorfman

For some time now, I've wanted to send Donald Trump to Hell. I mean this literally, not as a figure of speech. I want him to inhabit the palpable, sensory Hell that religions have long conjured up with scenes of sulfur, damnation, and screams of perpetual pain from those who once caused grievous harm to their fellow humans.

The more Trump has abused his power and position in this world and the more he's escaped any retribution for his crimes, the more obsessed I've become with visualizing ways for him to pay in some version of the afterlife.

As I mulled over the treatment he deserved for the havoc he continues to wreak on the lives of countless others here in the United States and across the globe, I turned almost automatically to the work of Dante Alighieri, the Italian poet whose Divina Commedia minutely recreated in a verse called terza rima what awaited the readers of his time once they died. Dante (1265-1321) laid out his otherworldly landscape in three volumes -- Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso -- that have rightly been considered among the towering and influential literary achievements of humanity.

There was nothing abstract about the Hell he created. Dante pictured himself personally taking a voyage into the hereafter to meet men and women, both of his time and from the past, who were being rewarded for their virtue or eternally castigated for their offenses. Of that journey through purgatorial fires and heavenly wonders, guided by his dead childhood sweetheart Beatrice, it was the Florentine writer's descent into the saturated circles of Hell that most fascinated and enthralled readers throughout the centuries. We listen to stories of the wicked as they express their remorse and experience the excruciatingly sophisticated torments he dreamt up as suitable reprisals for the damage they did during their earthly existence.

Witnessing the infernal realities President Trump has unleashed on America, I can't help wondering where Dante would have placed our miscreant-in-chief in his afterlife of horror. In the end, perhaps not surprisingly, I realized one obvious thing: the 45th president has such a multitude of transgressions to his name that he fits almost every category and canto that Dante invented for the sinners of his age.

As I pondered what the Italian author would have made of Trump and his certainty that he was above the laws of society and nature, I was invaded by Dante's divinatory and lyrical voice. It came to me as if in a hallucination. Listening carefully, I managed to record the words with which that visionary poet of yesteryear would describe a man who, until recently, believed himself invincible and invulnerable, how he would be judged and condemned once his life was over.

Here, then, is my version of Dante's prophecy -- my way, that is, of finally consigning Donald Trump to Hell for forever and a day.

Dante Greets Trump at the Gates of Hell and Explains What His Punishment Is to Be

My name, sir, is Dante Alighieri. Among the innumerable dead that inhabit these shores, I have been chosen to speak to you because an expert on the afterlife was needed to describe what awaits your soul when it passes, as all souls must, into this land of shadows. I was chosen, whether as an honor or not, to imagine your fate once you wind your way toward us.

Having accepted this task, I was tempted, sir, as I watched your every act in that life before death, to make this easier for myself and simply conjure up the circles of Hell I had already described in my terza rima. I would then have guided you down my cascade of verses, step by step, into the depths of darkness I had designed for others.

Were you not the selfish embodiment of so many sins I dealt with in my Commedia? Lust and adultery, yes! Gluttony, yes; greed and avarice, oh yes; wrath and fury, certainly; violence, fraud, and usury, yes again! Divisiveness and treachery, even heresy -- you who did not believe in God and yet used the Bible as a prop -- yes, one more time!

Did you not practice all those iniquities, a slave to your loveless appetites? Do you not deserve to be called to account in ways I once envisioned: buffeted by vicious winds, drowning in storms of putrefaction, choking under gurgling waters of belligerence, immersed in the boiling blood that echoes rage, thirsting across a burning plain, steeped in the excrement of flattery and seduction, clawed to pieces by the night demons of corruption, or feeling that throat and tongue of yours that tore so many citizens apart mutilated and hacked to bits? Would it not be fair that, like other perjurers and impostors, you be bloated with disease? Would it not make sense that you be trapped in ice or flames, endlessly chewed by the jaws of eternity, like those who committed treason against country and friends in my time?

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Tom Engelhardt, who runs the Nation Institute's ("a regular antidote to the mainstream media"), is the co-founder of the American Empire Project and, most recently, the author of Mission Unaccomplished: Tomdispatch (more...)

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