Senator Bubble was succeeding very well in picking off his opponents on by one. Although he was not himself a very intelligent or articulate person, he was smart enough to flatter and bribe his way to what by now seemed a certain victory. The conservative media and much of the party machinery seemed to have realised that the only way to beat Benny Pilder would be to choose the most entertaining candidate. There was certainly a large field of candidates; but most of them were boring, plagued by scandals, or simply too ambitious.
Out of some two dozen or so candidates, all of the long shots had already fallen by the wayside. Most of the serial scandal candidates had finally been put out of their misery by the not so loving truth shots of the media. All Bubble had to do know was to hold his nerve against the few remaining candidates; or rather, refuse to hold his nerve. It had been a while since there had been anything like Bubble’s crass, boorish and insensitive ‘charisma’ in a candidature. Not since the days of President Donald Trump had there been such a thin-skinned, flamboyantly vulgar party nomination candidate.
And now Bubble was about to finally debate his opposite number. Although the media were already taking about the impending final Democratic nomination debate, Bubble and Adams had agreed to a debate at their alma mater: St Thomas Aquinas Theological College, Rhode Island.
Bubble grunted, gassed and burped before ascending finally beginning to speak.
“Hi everybody!” Bubble said. “I love America! And I love God Almighty, and as Jesus Christ himself said, we walk by faith alone! Sola fide! And we also believe that in America alone, we have our trust!”
Miles and miles away, Saul scribbled down the fallacies and errors he noted. ‘Sola Fide’ sounded strange in a Catholic College. A hint of idolatry too, and quite possibly a misattributed quote… Saul racked his brains to see if it was so, and turned to Deborah. “Fake news!” Deborah laughed. “No such quote!”
Saul knelt down and poised his pen again. “He who honours me, I shall honour,” he muttered.
Deborah laughed again. “Now that is a real quote.” Saul looked up, surprised at how perky Deborah seemed to be, given recent circumstances. “John’s Gospel?” he muttered tentatively. “1st or 2nd Samuel, I think,” Mona answered. Saul blushed. How is it possible Monah could have known this, and he didn’t? He remembered the time, at a university debate about the Israel/Palestine issue, Saul made a casual allusion to the book of Deuteronomy, and slightly misquoted the passage in question. Saul was utterly horrified that Adams corrected him. And not only because the quote was only intended as a throwaway allusion.
Later, he cornered Adolph and told him in no uncertain terms that this book belonged to him, and that given how ‘his people’ had looted and plundered what was most sacred to Saul’s own people for centuries, the very least Adolph could do for him was to not be a wise-ass about the books ‘he and his boys’ had stolen. Adolph was greatly distressed at this to see how he had hurt Saul, and pleaded with Saul to forgive his unwise intervention. But Saul remained intractable for a whole two or three days, until a bottle of whiskey broke down the proverbial middle wall of division betwixt the twain.
Setting the notepad aside, Saul shuffled into the kitchen. Deborah glanced sadly at Saul; he seemed to be in one of his funny moods.
Bubble’s speech was riddled with so much theological and historical ignorance, it was very difficult to tell where genuine stupidity ended, and deliberate manipulation and gaslighting actually began. Of course, this was exactly what the media wanted, so it probably didn’t do him any harm. After a largely insincere flaunting of his faith credentials, Bubble remarked:
“I don’t know whether God thinks I am going to be the best President ever. I like to think he would. The Bible tells us that God rewards people who try their best to become successful and don’t take any crap from anybody. Christians have always believed that weak and pathetic losers are the enemies of God, and we have to make sure that no matter what happens, we try and do the right thing, and if haters don’t like it, then they can go to hell!
“I can honestly tell you, I’ve never felt the need to apologise to God for anything I’ve done as a Republican, and as a human being; my apology is to not mess up in the first place! That’s real faith! When you quit being a pussy and bitching and whining about how bad you feel about messing up! Don’t mess up! Then you don’t have to worry about anything.
“I don’t say I’ve never messed up in my life, but believe me, it doesn’t happen very often. You can imagine. Just imagine, ladies and gentlemen! Can you imagine me messing up? Doesn’t happen very often. You can count on that. You can count on that, ladies and gentlemen. I don’t mess up. Marcus Charleston Bubble don’t mess up. Neither did Jesus. Neither does Moses, or Josephus, or Jebediah, Hosiah, or Ezeebabbakook yada-yada-yada or all the other guys, who cares, you know who I mean! These boys, ain’t they just the best! Look at these boys, that’s… Jeremiah, isn’t it boys? … Matthew? Oh wow, he was a good one too. Matthew in the tiger’s den; I love those stories! I tell my kids all the time; they’re good kids too.
“No, they’re the best, believe me. You can’t doubt it. My kids are the best, you can trust me on that one. But yeah, as I always like to say, I don’t try to pray too much, cos I kinda prefer to be a man of action. You know, I was saying the other day, in one of my speeches, that the reason I don’t pray much, is because…”
This is only a small portion of what eventually turned out to be a 50 minutes stream of consciousness ramble, instead of a 5 minute introduction. Bubble was furious when, apparently thinking he was lesss than halfway through his intended rant, he tried to show slideshow of his visit to St Angelo d’Agostini leper hospital in the Philippines. At this point, the priests and scholars were utterly incandescent with rage at his disrespectful behaviour; but they finally begged him to cede the floor. Upon hearing this, Bubble began to rant and rave, saying that the ‘socialist media’ had clearly planted spies in the university. Although this was clearly a nonsensical accusation, Bubble had no intention of convincing anyone in the lecture hall of the truth of his silly conspiracy theory. For his speech was not at all for their ears.
In fact, should it not have been for the fact that Bubble had been offered wall to wall media coverage on the Anthony Bubble Premium Reportage Network and Josef Gueber Conservative Truth Channel, he wouldn’t have come at all. For reasons that are not entirely clear, the university had refused to allow mainstream media outlets to attend, saying they wished for a discreet and respectful discussion, rather than a media circus. Precisely why, then, they thought controversial indymedia outlets were appropriate invitees instead, remains a mystery we shall not pry too deeply into; for we dare not examine such things as are high for us and inscrutable, as the Psalmist says.
After Bubble, Adams spoke plainly of his agnostic views. Although many had advised him that this was political suicide for a nomination candidate, Adolph felt uncomfortable dissimulating. Even if he had wanted to hypocritically flaunt a piety he could not feel himself, he wouldn’t have known how. He did not judge those who did, but he did wonder how they managed it.
Then the debate finally began; with three conveniently loaded gotcha questions, from some carefully planted agents of the establishment.
1. Is the slogan ‘trading liberty for security’ just an excuse for cynical and opportunistic ‘liberty fundamentalists’ to seek personal advancement and enrichment?
2. Should former gay porn actor, convicted hate-crime perpetrator and UK Minister for Culture and the Arts Morton Megaraparthenon have apologised for saying that ‘Islamophobia, Scientologyphobia and Toryphobia are victimless crimes?
3. Is it wrong for us to just selfishly sit on our hands and look out for #1 when the international community has a sworn and sovereign duty and prerogative to act and to liberate and to practice compassionate cosmopolitanism and be a major player on the world stage, speaking up for those who can’t speak for themselves?
Adolph sighed, because he now realised he had been set up. Saul had been sceptical of the invitation, and had warned Adolph to be on his guard. And Deborah practically had to bow down on bended knee, to plead with Adolph not to go. Adolph, however, was worried about causing undue offence, and feared that it would be impolite to snub such a renowned institution; especially as it was his alma mater. Both his friends warned him that the university Saul and Adolph remembered was not the university of today.
Adolph was a little uneasy, but he told his friends that he had been personally approached by a young priest-professor, who was very nice to him, and told him that he was ‘a true shining light among all our past graduates.’ Adolph was largely immune to flattery; but he was not by any means immune to kindness, or at least perceived kindness. Upon hearing these (genuinely!) innocent and guileless words, Saul had sworn under his breath, and dropped the topic. Deborah, by contrast, sat down and cried. Adams tried to comfort her, but it was to no avail.
The debate started quite badly. Bubble began by saying that ‘trading liberty for security’ was a boring and stupid idea, and those who spoke like that were tedious irrelevancies. “Hopefully there is nobody too close to home who would be that damned stupid though, huh?” Adolph had seen a lot of disturbing behaviour from politicians in his time, but he was still unhappy with what Bubble said about him. Although Benny Pilder had behaved in an extraordinarily abusive and heartless manner towards him in the previous nomination debates, his fellow Democrat did at least seem to have a degree of intelligence and subtlety.
Pilder only rarely strayed into explicitly crass and abusive talk; possessing the mastery of a true pilot, Pilder always managed to drop a bomb or two, then deftly and imperceptibly steer back at least somewhat within the safe havens of bourgeois respectability and decency. By fairly obvious contrast, Bubble was consistently moronic. To his surprise, it was even harder to debate Bubble that it was to debate Pilder. He had previously thought that because Pilder was so supple, athletic and dynamic, he must surely be a tougher sparring partner than Bubble. However, it was precisely Bubble’s absolutely uninihibited character that made it almost impossible to debate, as he saw.
For, manipulative and conniving as Pilder was, he at least understood the rules of debate; he was able to follow the laws before bending them, and turning them against his opponents. He was every different from Bubble, who seemed barely aware that a rulebook even existed; every kind of regulation and convention conceivable, written and unwritten, was torn up and shredded.
Bubble mocked Adams’ name, his diction, his personal appearance, his career pre-politics, his political highs and lows, his friends, his family, his colleagues; and, in one particularly heartbreaking jibe that reduced Adams to tears, Bubble made light of his late mother’s death, while being careful to use innuendo about plane crashes and other contextual factors that made it absolutely unmistakable what he meant, but still provided plausible deniability to the media.
A seasoned debate, albeit far from a seasoned polemicist, Adolph was extremely unhappy about the cruel and heartless way Bubble was treating him. In the end, Adolph was unable to remember any of the details of the debate, including the three bad faith questions they had tricked him into trying to answer. All he could remember afterwards was the constant, cruel stream of personal attacks, not so subtle innuendo, nonsensical distortions of his past writings, speeches and actions, and even the dizzying avalanche of outright lies Bubble told about him.
At times, Adams had to blink, to remind himself he wasn’t dreaming. Bubble was so utterly full of sublime, demonic nonsense, the very idea of truth or falsehood, right or wrong, correct or incorrect, seemed obscene. Bubble seemed to be entirely lacking in the customary hypocrisy and bad faith of top-ranking politicians.
Dishonesty and hypocrisy at least imply a minimal regard for truth; as only someone who believes in truth is actually capable of lying, to start with. Bubble seemed to live in a world where the question of lies and falsehood, essence and appearance, sanity and delusion didn’t even exist to begin with. It was impossible for Bubble to lie, because he didn’t even seem to fulfil the basic preconditions of a good liar.
It was almost as though Bubble’s consciousness had been seared by bad habits, and the thought of lying didn’t even occur to him. As though he was somehow suffering from dangerous delusions, and he didn’t so much depart from the truth, as lack the merest conception of ‘true’ and ‘false.’
Sarcasm aside, Adolph was indeed an honest man, and lies grieved him.
But here, he seemed to be in trapped in a hideous Hell of Hells where even an honest lie would have comforted him more than anything.
This thought itself, in turn, made him feel guilty, and he wondered if he was beginning to lose his integrity.
But this was not so.
He was, although he would have been the last to tell you this himself, the victim of an extraordinary act of perpetual fraud; a ‘permanent sacrifice’ of the truth, an utter purgatory of delusion.