Well Barack, we’re into the home stretch, what they’re already calling a lap of honour, though in a way, the whole thing has seemed weirdly choreographed from the start. You might even say a few interesting things before you drift off into that Great Horizon. But that’s all it will be at the end of the day, just a bunch of stuff you, or somebody else, said.
I hope I don’t offend you when I say that you were a fake. I mean ‘fake’ in its best possible sense, in the sense in which you and I and everyone else on the Net or with a public profile is a fake. To greatly varying degrees of success, we have left some vital part of ourselves behind to go cruising in the cyber ether for some sort of connection, some disembodied electronic voice to answer back and go “yeah man, you’re cool.”
You were and are a media phenomenon. The vast facilities and resources of OPRAH could only ever have been thrown open to someone who was entirely a creature of the cyber ether. That’s just life, or virtual life, or whatever.
What must that have felt like, I wonder? You seem like a smart guy most of the time. It would seem like a violation of nature if you didn’t possess some kind of self-awareness. But that could just be my depressingly human urge to project. We’ve all got to guard against that. Look at the devil’s ransoms Disney has made out of exploiting our urge to see savage beasts as cuddly toys.
Does it ever occur to you that apart from the breath oozing in and out, the oxygen doing its humdrum but miraculous work, the occasional boners, the mild irritations, those what must have been fervent gasps for a smoke, most of you was basically dreamed up by somebody else? And not just by one person.
You’re a walking, talking consensus dreamed up by some kind of all powerful focus group. If you didn’t exist, they’d have had to invent you, and thank God you did exist, sort of.
And you never really rocked the boat either, did you? But how unfair of all those people who expected you to. Even if you wanted to, even now, you’ve got all those books and lecture tours and endless security details for your daughters – no matter where they go or what they do – for the rest of their lives, and possibly even beyond their lives. Does the Secret Service remit extend to the grandchildren of former Presidents? I must look that up.
Fair dues, it’s all part of the deal, I guess. But it does seem like a big price to pay, doesn’t it, for them to pay, for never saying what you really think?
Who’ll be the next ghost in the office? Will it be Hillary (she’s half a ghost already)? Will it be Trump (imagine)?
Everyone who gives out about Trump misses the most important thing. If the deliberations inside the Most High Focus Group take a confounding turn, and Donald’s Phantasmagorical hair becomes the next occupant of the White House, then he actually won’t be all that different to you.
He will be a new piece of Virtual Meat thrown to the Virtual Mob. It even makes sense in a way. Vary the diet: a huge glob of high fat synthoburger to follow your lean, gangling slice of antelope. You were supposed to make people calm. Maybe it’s now time to make them angry.
Units can be more effectively shifted if there’s some kind of figure who excites some kind of passion, however negative. Passion makes you hungry, negative passion makes you very hungry.
Anyway, enjoy the lap of honour. Supermodels, after all, are venerated for the ability to do little more than walk up and down in a (mostly) straight line. You are entitled to no less.
And love that retirement baby. Though even to me, it seems dauntingly long, unsettlingly infinite. It is tempting to think that you might even surprise people during the long political dotage. Maybe you’ll do all kinds of nice, poor old Jimmy Carter things.
Maybe you’ll write a warts and all autobiography. Maybe you’ll horrify and delight the bottom politic with the literary equivalent of a sex tape, or even a real sex tape.
But I doubt it. It seems an awful price to pay, doesn’t it, for never saying what you really think?