It’s afternoon outside the Trump Museum, and a small crowd of people has entered the park gates and are surging toward the left entrance. There are always so many more people when the Women’s Brigade are in charge of security, recognizable by their #NotThisTimeBuster! T-shirts and telescopic batons. No one is going to get stopped by the Military Police (the only police we have now), demanding birth certificates, beating up anyone they decide is resisting arrest…a defiant look in the eye being sufficient proof of arrest resistance. The WBs and the MPs have a tacit agreement that the latter will “keep the peace” (ha!) in the morning, and the former in the afternoon. At the entrance to the park, the Blessed Elevators are holding up their repent signs. It’s been five years since the world was supposed to end on July 4th 2020, but still they are waiting for the call to rise to the heavens above the doomed and sinning crowd.
Like the country as a whole, the Museum is a divided entity. The entrance way divides immediately to the left or the right, depending on your choice. If you go in on the right, you will be handed a red hat with the letters MAGA emblazoned on the front; to the left, you wear whatever you like, though pink “pussy hats” make you eligible for a 20% discount. Although there is a tunnel between the two halves of the museum and your entrance fee allows you access to both sides, no one ever uses it. Oddly, the exhibits are almost identical, but the meaning of these displays is different. On the right, Jared’s Cell is a sacred shine, a symbol of the privilege available to the wealthy even when incarcerated. It’s the most popular exhibit there, as the disenfranchised working class can sit and watch any of Jared’s half-dozen television sets or listen to country music on his Bose headphones. They can forget for a short time that these pleasures are no longer affordable on the outside. The most popular part of Jared’s Cell on the left is the corkboard wall where visitors can leave a sticky note that will later be turned into an email to its recipient or a tweet. “Rot in hell, J.K!” has become so prevalent a message, it now has a hashtag of its own.
Another crowd-pleaser on both sides is the photographic exhibit: “Trump Through The Lens.” On the right, the photographs are designed to flatter, to make the 45th President look slimmer and less orange, and to present him with an air of dignity. (A visiting art critic from Austria was hustled out of the Right-Trump museum when he murmured aloud: “Trying to make this buffoon look dignified is a task that would challenge the very Gods!”) On the left, the photographs show the man as who he is, and viewers there are often seen guffawing between tears. Popular on the right but not on the left is the Presidential Library, consisting only of books that bear the President’s name as author—The Art of the Deal, Great Again, Trump: How To Get Rich—since these were the only volumes that ever sat on his shelves. The difference between this exhibit on the two sides is that the left also shows the real Time magazine person-of-the-year covers, along with the counterfeit issues. On the right, there is no indication that their covers had a provenance other than the Time-Warner company. On neither side is the Climate Room frequented by visitors; no one wishes to be reminded of the floods and fires they experience so often now.
On this particular afternoon, a family has just arrived at the main entrance to the Trump Museum. They appear to be what once would have been considered the “typical American family,” consisting of a man, a woman, a boy of around 12, a girl of around 10. The man is Caucasian, thick of body, wearing khaki trousers and a white shirt. He and the boy—who wears shorts, sneakers, a football jersey with an Irish name and the number 12 on it—unhesitatingly turn to the right and begin to walk forward. The woman—who is a shade darker than the man and whose features suggest she could be Hispanic—and the girl, who could be her twin at a younger age, stop, confer with each other by glances, then take each other’s hand and begin walking to the left. The man calls out something, and both couples stop and look at one another. They gaze across the divide for several minutes, then go their separate ways.
Note: Loosely inspired by Ivan Vladislavic’s Propaganda By Monuments.