Well, what was next was that tall, dark-skinned, lanky, AME preacher from Columbia, S.C. named Rev. Guess, I told you about.
At first, everybody laughed. I was still following the news then and I watched the shirks of the smart-ass Generation Rule commentators when they discussed Rev. Guess. You had pushy, fearless black Reverends like that back in your day, Father. You even deftly portrayed one in your novel The Woman’s Man. What was his name, the Rev. Alex?
If I was still hanging out in my bars in Manhattan with the gang, I could see us now, pointing at the large thin screen, laughing our hip, sophisticated, knowing laughter.
And me, the Major, the man of action, the mad Russian, would yell above the rest, “Get the fuck outta here!”
But Father, America was a land in deep psychological turmoil and pain. We could still make money better than everyone else. We still made things. Our military was still intact. Our businesses, as usual, made an amazing recovery. We still had more than we could eat. It was just that we didn’t believe in very much.
Rev. Guess had an uncanny, almost supernatural ability to tap into, and probe our psychic pain. It was as if he had been sent from another world. His message was simple: moral decay.
I can see you smiling a thin, wry little smile now, Father. That message is as old as people. So-called religious and political leaders have been beating humans upside the head with that message since the first African grunted!
But this homely looking guy, as he peered into our living rooms, with his dark shining eyes visible behind his small, old-fashioned glasses, just seemed to be saying all of the things most people wanted to hear. He was the most eloquent person I had ever heard in my life.
God, Father, did he ever have a silver tongue! Let me give you an example:
“Did all our great wealth, our unparalleled military might, in the end, protect those millions who died that day? No!
“But what was New York City at the time of the Big Bang? What had it become? What made the All Mighty turn his gracious back on that den of evil? Yes evil, my fellow Americans.
“I don’t want to cast blame on the dead, God rest their unfortunate souls, but the New York of 2037 was a hedonist place that denied all of God’s basic rules. It was a place were there were more bars, more drugs, more men living with men, more women living with women, then men and women living in family, in harmony with nature, as God intended.
“More! More! More! More! More of everything that is wicked and evil in the world! They even had the nerve, the sheer, unmitigated gall, and the audacity to call themselves Generation Rule. Generation Rule? Rule what? Rule whom? Didn’t they know in all of their arrogance, that only God rules? Generation Rule, indeed!”
He phased and stared at us; letting his words sink in, watching us closely through our television screens “And we wonder why, my fellow Americans” he concluded,” that God turned his back on New York!”
This obviously didn’t play well in what was left of New York. But for the rest of the country, Rev. Guess had turned into a national hero. A man of faith. A man of moral values. A man who believed deeply in something other than making a buck and poisoning people!
There was also an interesting sub-text to all of this, although unspoken. Rev. Guess was so attractive because he wasn’t slick, well-package, official, press savvy—all of the things we had come to expect from our leaders of whatever color. Those qualities were now seen as the very things that had lead us down this path of destruction and fear of the future. He was giving plainspoken, hard working, do all the grunt work Americans-- back a future.
What he gave me, Father were the creeps!
It seemed that he was making a direct attack on my friends and me; that somehow we were the ones that were responsible for the blast. I knew many people in the country hated and envied us in New York. We seemed to be the only ones having any fun.
America’s children couldn’t wait to dump those dull-ass suburbs and wannabe cities like that phony Dallas, or those boring small towns, and head for the exciting New York City. I mean, Father, it’s always been hard to find a place to live in New York.
Just before the Big Bang it was outrageous! Someone estimated that over 25 per cent of the American population lived in the greater New York area, with most wanting more than anything to live in New York proper.
That’s the real reason I stayed in Mother’s apartment. There was no way I was going to pay $12,500 for a tiny studio anywhere in Manhattan! Even the Bronx was ridiculous. And Staten Island,
It seemed like the whole damn country, indeed the world, wanted nothing more than to be in New York. You talk about a city roaring back! It was a grand time to be here, Father. Maybe that’s why bastards like Rev. Guess hated us so. In many ways, he was like those creeps that set off that bomb.
We had robbed them of their best and brightest. We had proven that big cities could work. That we didn’t need their prayers and guilt trips. Rule and have a good time doing it! That was our motto. That’s why they hated us, Father.
I only wished that David were around so I could ask him what he thought about the good Reverend.
“Can you imagine this crazy man!” I would ask incredulously. David would immediately know how disgusted I was because my tough guy New York street voice would become fully developed.
David would phase slightly, the way he always did, giving my question, or statement, as the case may be, careful consideration.
“Well, P,” he would answer in his soft, almost feminine voice, “as a student of American history, you know that we are a circular society.”
Ah yes, David’s famous circle.
“What do you mean?” I would ask, as if I hadn’t heard this theory many, many times.
“Ideas. Notions about who and what we are as a people. Every thirty years or so, usually kicked off by some event, like an assassination, a war, or a depression we go back to a set of old, discarded ideas. All the Rev. is doing is recycling the 80’s and 90’s, and he is right on time, P.”
Of course I couldn’t have that conversation with my thoughtful friend. He was now returned to the stardust from which we all came. But as I walked the beach, I imagined that was what he would have said.
It sounded just like him, Father.
But what about Mother. What would she have said about all of this? I doubt she would have said very much. In fact, she probably would have liked the Rev. Guess and gladly join his cause, and become one of his “Army of God.”
After she gave up on men and the theatre, she began going to the local Russian Orthodox Church every week, and sometimes during weeknights. I would sometimes walk out of my bedroom and see her in the living room down on her knees, deep in prayer.
Even then, Father, she was still filled with high drama and was up to her old, colorful theatrics. Suddenly our apartment started smelling of heavily perfumed incense, and burning candles, and filling up with strange, mysterious looking religious icons which cast strange flickering black shadows on the walls whenever the lights were dimmed, and the candles lit.
It was the large black Madonna that really got my attention, however. Now that was really theatrical! Where she found it she never told me, maybe in what was left of black Harlem.
She would also warn me darkly to stay away from people like David.
“Don’t argue with me, Alex. Against God,” she said. She raised a bony finger at me censoriously. I had made the unfortunate mistake of asking her why she didn’t want to catch David in our apartment ever again.
“Against God? What are you talking about, Mother?”
She just looked at me with her small blue eyes and shook her head. “You know what I mean, Alex!”
That was the end of that conversation! And David never set foot in our place again until Mother died. She had spent almost her entire life in the theatre, where damn near every man is gay; now, in her religious years, she didn’t want her only son anywhere near people like that.
Yes, Father, I knew what Mother meant!
Mother would try to drag me to church with her, but I thought those Russian Orthodox priests, with their funny looking pointed hats, were as strange and medieval looking as the similarly dressed Ultra Orthodox Jews who were still a large part of New York City. People sure knew how to look as different from others as possible back in the days when those religions came under the complete control of a ruling class. Much like the army,
But I’m just thinking out loud, Father. Who knows why they one day decided to dress like that?
Whatever the case, Mother might have been right at home with Rev. Guess with his gay bashing, and fun bashing.
And you, Father? Who knows what you would have made of all of this?
Needless to say, Rev. Guess became all of the rage, and his “People’s Army of God,” blacks, whites, Hispanics, Asians, native people, the whole damn shebang, except of course the Jews and Muslims. And this is an interesting intersection of history, Father. Now these two bitter enemies were faced with even greater enemies.
As I said at the beginning of this letter, life as you knew it, stood on its head.
Still, with the Jews and Muslims standing on the sidelines, with no one paying any attention anymore to them, the world had never seen this kind of mass frenzy in a long, long time. The last time this occurred was in Nazi Germany, if my limited knowledge of history is correct. You should have seen it, Father.
Guess was swept into office on the Republican ticket of all things, in 2040. His extra long coattails pulled in many like-minded individuals at the national, state and local level. He and his movement was a phenomenon unmatched in American History
Our friends in the rest of the world, at first yawned and looked at us with growing bemusement. They had had their share of the Rev. Guess’s of the world. Who did we think we were to have escaped such lunatics for so long!
“It’s about time!” they seemed to say.
But I was appalled, Father.
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