For some time now I’ve wanted to send Donald Trump to Hell. I mean it literally, not as a phrase. I want him to live in the tactile, sensory hell that the religions have long conjured up with scenes of brimstone, condemnation, and cries of perpetual pain from those who once inflicted severe harm on their fellow human beings.
The more Trump has abused his power and position in this world and the more he has withdrawn from retaliation for his crimes, the more obsessed I am with visualizing ways he can pay in a version of the afterlife.
As I thought about the treatment he deserved for the havoc he continues to wreak the lives of countless other people here in the US and around the world, I almost automatically turned to work Dante Alighieri, the Italian poet, whose Divina Commedia meticulously reproduced in verse form terza rima What awaited the readers of his day when they died? Dante (1265–1321) laid out his otherworldly landscape in three volumes –inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso – this was rightly regarded as one of the most outstanding and influential literary achievements of mankind.
There was nothing abstract about the hell he created. Dante imagined himself taking a journey into the afterlife to meet men and women of his time and past who were rewarded for their virtue or forever scourged for their crimes. From this journey through purgatory and heavenly miracles, guided by his dead child treasure Beatrice, it was the Florentine writer’s descent into the saturated circles of hell that fascinated and delighted readers over the centuries. We hear stories of the wicked as they express their repentance and experience the excruciating torment that he has devised as appropriate reprisals for the damage they have wrought during their earthly existence.
As I see the hellish realities that President Trump has unleashed on America, I inevitably wonder where Dante would have made our villain boss in his after-horror life. In the end, perhaps unsurprisingly, one thing became clear to me: The 45th President has such a multitude of transgressions on his behalf that it fits almost every category and chant that Dante invented for the sinners of his day.
As I pondered what the Italian author would have thought of Trump and his certainty that he was above the laws of society and nature, I was attacked by Dante’s fortune telling and lyrical voice. It came to me like a hallucination. I listened carefully and managed to record the words that this visionary poet from yesterday would use to describe a man who until recently believed himself invincible and invulnerable as he would be judged and condemned when his life was over.
So here is my version of Dante’s prophecy – my way to take Donald Trump to hell for good for good and one day.
Dante greets Trump at the gates of hell and explains what his punishment will be
My name is Dante Alighieri. Among the myriad of dead living on these shores, I was chosen to speak to you because an expert on the afterlife was needed to describe what to expect your soul when, like all souls, they must got into this land of shadows. I was chosen, in honor or not, to imagine your fate as you move toward us.
After taking on this assignment, sir, as I watched every act in this pre-death life, I was tempted to make this easier for me and just conjure up the circles of hell I had already described in mine terza rima. I would then have led you step by step through my cascade of verses into the depths of darkness that I had designed for others.
Weren’t you the selfish embodiment of so many sins that I’ve dealt with in mine? Commedia? Lust and adultery, yes! Gluttony, yes; Greed and avarice, oh yes; Anger and anger certainly; Violence, fraud and usury, yes again! Division and betrayal, even heresy – you who did not believe in God and still used the Bible as a support– Yes, one more time!
Have you not done all of these wrongdoings, a slave to your loveless appetite? Haven’t you deserved to be held accountable in the way I once imagined: beaten by violent winds, drowned in storms of putrefaction, choked under the gurgling waters of warfare, immersed in the boiling blood that echoes anger, Thirsty across a burning plain, permeated by the excrement of flattery and seduction torn to pieces by the nighttime demons of corruption, or the feeling that your throat and tongue, which so many citizens have ripped apart, have been mutilated and hacked to pieces? Wouldn’t it be fair if you were bloated with disease like other Perjurians and scammers? Wouldn’t it make sense for you to be trapped in ice or flames endlessly chewed by the jaws of eternity, like those who in my day betrayed their land and friends?
And yet I ultimately rejected it all. Ultimately, I was chosen not to repeat myself, but because I was trusted to be creative and find an appropriately new reckoning for you – something, the authorities responsible for this place said, less wild and violent, more educational, even therapeutic. So times have changed since I wrote my poem!
My mission did not seem to be to fit you into rings of an already conceived hell of terrible vengeance. So so many centuries later I began to be inspired by my fellow sufferers, and there they actually were – your multitude of victims, those who need to heal, those you never wanted to see or grieve, whose pain you never shared, who Greet you in a new way now, sir.
You may not have noticed, but I did. They have been lined up since they arrived. Now you are here by my side, counting the days until your time is up and you have to face them. And so I decided that they would get the chance to do just that one at a time for eternity.
After all, each of them was devastated because of you: a father, who died from the pandemic you did less than nothing to prevent; a little boy shot you have not forbidden with a gun; a worker overcome from toxic vapors, the release of which ensured your administration; the demonstrators killed of a white supremacist inflamed by your rhetoric; a black man who expired Thanks to police violence, you refuse to convict yourself. a migrant who he laid to the desert heat on the other side of the wall you steel Tax money to (only partially) to build. And let’s not forget this Kurdish fighter slaughtered because you betrayed their people.
I could go on and on and call the unjustly dead, the premature babies, the avoidable dead, who all now crowded around me, otherwise not represented and forgotten, but waited for your arrival for their moment of truth. Each of them must be patient as my plan is for each and every sacrifice to be granted by you at any time he or she wishes to relive a life and tell its final moments. You will be forced to listen to their stories over and over until you finally learn how to make their grief your own, until their tragedies are really in the bowels of your mind, as long as you really need to ask for forgiveness.
Trump is trying to find a way out of hell
Your first reaction will no doubt be to indulge in the fantasy that just like you swore the pandemic would be magically sentso this new situation will miraculously merge into nothing. However, if you open your eyes and are still here, your urge is to invoke all your old tricks, those of the ultimate deceiver, so as not to sink deeper into the moral abyss I have prepared for you.
The way you bribed, bought and got yourself out Scandals and BankruptciesSo you will believe that you can sneak out of this moment and fidget too. They will try to pretend you are just hosting one more (ir) reality TV show where that Dante companion can be transformed into another Your apprenticescompeting for your size and approval.
And if none of that works, you will be led to believe that you actually atone for your terrible deeds and fall back into the lies and macho bravado that were your second skin. You will swear that you repented so that you could escape this narrowness, these rooms where you became more of a prey than a predator. You will present yourself as a Savior who boasts of single-handedly inventing a vaccine against accountability and discovering a male cure for the horrors of Hell. You will dream – I know you will – of reappearing victorious and of course maskless on the balcony of the White House.
This time it won’t work, however, not here in this transparent abode of death. And yet, you will surely try to speed up the process because you will know – I’ve already decided so much – that the ones you ruined in your lifetime are only the beginning of your journey, not the end. You will become all too aware, as you spend hours, days, years, decades with the men, women, and children who have exposed you to early mortality and enduring grief, that a host of others will arrive, all of those who will perish Future due to your neglect and malice.
I assure you, they will meander endlessly in your mind and accumulate through many mornings, all those who have not yet died I will do that prematurely as the brutality You have worshiped and fueled what takes its toll, like the earth, the sky and the water you devastated exact heatwaves of vengeance – hurricanes and droughts and famines and floods, increasing casualties with every minute that passes, including women who will die from you in botched street abortions judicial nominations. The coming decades are already preparing to welcome the legions of your dead.
That is the desperation I now imagine for you, since I am no longer the man who was bitterly banished from his beloved Florence. The centuries in the hereafter have obviously softened me to compassion for those who have sinned. Beatrice, the love of my life, would have admired my metamorphosis which, when depressed, will also allow you to lift yourself up and down until you really repent, until you ask for an absolution that (if you really are sincere) is granted.
Still, while I am speaking and being divine, I am being eaten by a worm of doubt. I was told this had been tried before. The mists of time are full of men who, like you, thought they were gods, and who after their death were led howling into rooms where the life they broke was overflowing with the irreparable harm they had done. And these criminals – Benito Mussolini, Mao Zedong, Augusto Pinochet, Napoleon Bonaparte, Andrew Jackson, Saddam Hussein, Joseph Stalin, and Idi Amin (oh, the list is endless!) – have never left the twisted mirror of their own rooms of penance.
They still stagnate in them. It is whispered in my ear that Dante Alighieri’s redeeming prophecy will never come true for you, Donald Trump. Perhaps, like these other cursed evildoers, you deny responsibility. You may continue to claim that you are the real victim. Perhaps you will prove incorrigible and flawed and stubbornly blind as they continue to be. Perhaps there is an evil within you and in the universe that will never completely subside, a cruelty that has no end. Maybe it is impossible to erase the pain when it is infinite.
I fear, therefore, that it might be unkind to promise any kind of justice if there isn’t one for those who stand in line and hope to meet their tormentor on the other side of death. Why, I wonder, resurrect the dead if it is just a matter of constantly shattering their hopes?
Which means forever
And yet, what can I do but fulfill the task assigned to me? Out of all the poets I was chosen because of that Divina Commedia I wrote this when I was still alive and banished from Florence for descending into the inferno, climbing Mount Purgatory, and catching a glimpse of what the sun and stars of Paradise looked like. I was chosen from the fields of the dead to prepare these words for you as a warning, plea, or searing indictment, a task which I have accepted and which I cannot now do without.
What can I do then but close these words by answering the one objection which you could rightly raise to my picture of your fate in the hereafter? I imagine you scream – “But Dante Alighieri,” you will say, “the future that you painted will last forever.”
And I’ll answer, yes, Donald J. Trump, it will indeed take forever, but forever is all you have, after all, each of us.