Season three of True Detective follows Wayne Hays, a stoic, world-weary cop, played by Mahershala Ali, as he tries to uncover the truth behind the kidnapping of two children in three separate timelines over the course of three decades. The final stanza depicts Hays in his twilight years. His gut and instincts are still there. The elements that drew you to love (or hate) the character haven’t dimmed. But he’s not the same. His memory is fading. He’s experiencing vivid hallucinations including his deceased wife, an ominous and non-existent sedan on his street, and threatening beings in his home. In one vignette he wakes up on the street in his bathrobe.
The show has not yet given us a medical diagnosis of what exactly is afflicting him. And I’m no doctor. But as I’ve been watching the show and the news the past week I am becoming increasingly alarmed by the prospect that Wayne Hays and the president of the United States may be suffering from the same condition.
I do not offer this possibility lightly. I know that the Trump administration and its allies take very seriously false accusations of health problems. And I am aware that the president just recently received another glowing review from the plenipotentiary vice-minister of medical services in the White House and has in the past availed himself of the top-of-the-line medical advice that is afforded the wealthy in our free market system.
But even so, I feel compelled to abide by the DHS mantra of “see something, say something,” so here it is.
The president seems to be hallucinating about marauding Hispanic invaders. I think we should be concerned.
Maybe Trump isn’t in the same deteriorating mental place as Wayne Hays. After all, Hays is a fictional character on prestige cable and Trump was a character on a network reality series. You can’t equate the two, of course.
So maybe Trump is really a 243-pound (lol) septuagenarian Haley Joel Osment, and he’s seeing the corpses of contractors he and his father have screwed over in decades past? Or maybe he’s gone deep down a YouTube suggested video rabbit hole and he’s watching clips from a Middle Eastern war zone that have been mislabeled as present-day Mexico and Trump is convinced its real because the people are brown-skinned and it looks kinda like what he imagines the border to be. I don’t know. As I said, I’m not a doctor.
We should also consider the possibility that a member of the Deep State has been dosing his Diet Coke with acid. After all, they never found out who wrote that anonymous New York Times op-ed.
What I know for certain is that here on the physical plane of existence there is no security emergency at the U.S.-Mexico border. The incursion the president describes is not the lived reality of any actual Americans. Border crossings are down, crime is down, employment is up. Yet the president’s hallucinations persist, and in the past week they seem to be growing more severe.
At a speech in El Paso, rather than just talking about the imaginary caravan of people invading the country, Trump actually claimed that he had invented the word “caravan” altogether. (In fact, the word is sourced from medieval Latin, caravana, picked up during the Crusades from Persian karwan “group of desert travelers.” Donald Trump is very old but this is slightly before his time.)
He has also begun touting the construction of an imaginary wall. “The wall is being built. It’ll continue. It’s going at a rapid pace,” he said. “Now you really mean ‘finish the wall’ because we’ve built a lot of it,” he continued. None of these statements are remotely true. And rather than be alarmed that the president is having a wall-themed seance, everyone is going along with it. After all, the wall is in our hearts.
So then I start to wonder—maybe I’m the crazy one. Maybe this is all just equal parts Trumpian hyperbole and good old fashioned gaslighting.
But if so, what explains the other delusions, like the blubbering tough guys crying whenever they meet Trump. And it’s not just this one time. Trump seems to keep meeting “monster” sized buff men who are brought to tears by their gratitude to him. For a wall that doesn’t exist. That’s designed to stop an infiltration that isn’t happening.
The layers of unreality build upon itself.
After-all, whatever happened to the president’s friend “Jim” who used to go to Paris every year but now doesn’t? He was scared of the imaginary brown-skinned “infiltration” of the City of Lights. We haven’t heard from him in a while. Are you in there Jim?
Now the dots are being connected . . . Pepe Silva . . . Time replaced by a fever dream . . . Paris under siege. The apparitions in Trump’s delusions are having menacing delusions of their own.
So now the Orange King is set to act. Haunted by these threats he is poised to declare an extralegal national emergency to prevent a U.S.-Carcosan nightmare. This, you would hope, would be the moment for those close to the president recognize this illness and shake him back to reality. To stand with him by the window and with kind eyes let him know that, no there is no ominous car out there. There are no barbarians at the gates.
But no, the delusions persist. The fantasy is fed. And at times even those who can see the light can feel our definitions fading.