by Flynn Washburne, May 10, 2017
I have an excellent moneymaking idea, one sure to rake in millions, and as I plan to outline it here in this space I'm going to need to trust every single one of you not to steal my idea before I get out. Are we agreed on this? If anyone is not 100% sure they can resist the temptation to be able to live in Fat City for the rest of their life with a minimum of effort, please leave now and peruse some other section of the paper. We have a solid, unbreakable Circle of Trust here, and I'm going to presume that anyone with larceny in their hearts will willingly decamp and leave me to safely share my brilliantly remunerative plans with an audience who will appreciate and respect them, and my custodial rights to same.
Now then. What does America love even more than Donald Trump? Yes, guns, for sure, but no. Donuts, okay. But what else? Julia Roberts, I guess so, but not where I'm going. McDonald’s, definitely. But listen, this could take all day. I'm talking about dead people. Not rotting corpses — love of them is limited to those brave creatures tasked with returning them to the soil from whence they came, your maggots and worms and such — but dead people as memories, as concepts, as constructs.
For most of humanity, once the Great Leveler comes to revoke your membership in Life's Rich Pageant, all is forgiven. With the exception of genocidal dictators and most serial killers (I can already sense, as his journey draws to a close, the tide of public opinion turning in favor of li’l Charlie Manson. When he does turn up his toes, I think you'll hear a lot about his impish charm, charisma, musical talent and success with the ladies), the dead automatically acquire a sort of five-and-dime gimcrack sainthood which precludes any further bad-mouthing of people who may very well deserve it. "Don't speak ill of the dead," they say. Why not? Are they going to hear me? Is it considered not sporting, as discussing someone behind their back while they're alive? Or is it just that we figure once you've paid the ultimate price, all debts are cleared? I suggest the latter, and I offer as evidence a certain ex-president.
Those of you for whom Richard M. Nixon is not just an historical figure will recall how thoroughly and justifiably reviled he was at the close of his political career. This man basically stood up on a desk in the Oval Office, pulled out his dong, pissed all over the presidency, the constitution, and the United States of America, then lit out for the territories just steps ahead of an angry mob bent on having him half-hanged, drawn, quartered, boiled , and composted on the White House lawn. Even so, it took only a couple of decades and the cessation of life signs for the entire national press corps to line up en masse at the gravesite and administer post-mortem BJs on his decaying corpse as collective and total amnesia overtook their already puddingesque brains. The very air rang with fulsome encomia to his life and accomplishments, with nary a mention of the dirty treasonous tricks that previously defined him, and all he had to do was die.
If death can redeem an oleaginous weasel like Nixon, just think what it can do for the average Joe. Problem is, most of your AJs demises aren't going to get a lot of press coverage, especially not the kind afforded to a scoundrel of that magnitude who finally has the decency to lay down and die. It's up to those left behind to burnish the legacies and lather up the reputations of their dearly departed. Or is it?
I actually came up with this idea several years ago but it is only now, with the ubiquity of smartphones and the wonders of cloud computing, that it has become workable.
I was having it off with a young lady of gothic inclinations in the Fort Bragg cemetery one crisp autumn day, on the back end near the tracks, and — what's that? You say I'm far too old to be engaging in that sort of foolishness? I quite agree, but you'll recall my affinity for brain-modifying chemical compounds capable of rendering bad ideas brilliant. In fact, in the condition I was generally in, there were no bad ideas, as evidenced by my current long-term relationship with the State O'California. Even so, at some point during the proceedings, I became aware of my own ridiculousness, and that kind of thinking is less than conducive to peak sexual performance.
Awareness of absurdity is fine for existential navel-gazing but decidedly antagonistic to your more primal urges and behaviors. Here am, I thought, a-sporting in the necropolis with black-lipsticked neo-Goth of roughly half my years. What the hell is wrong with me? And what does it say of her mental health and emotional stability that she's into it? Oh my God, is that why she suggested it, because I look like a corpse? I did have, at the time, due to my lifestyle and lack of sleep and nutrition, a distinctly cadaverous mien, and the idea that she was entertaining zombie-sex fantasies at my expense was sobering and unsettling. Still I attempted to regain my stride, as it were, banish my self-awareness and lose myself in the moment. Then I made the mistake of looking up at the headstone upon which her head was banging.
I don 't recall the name engraved there, and wouldn't repeat it here if I did, for fear of further dishonoring the departed, and in fact should probably now issue a blanket apology to everyone with someone buried there, just in case, but I remember thinking: how would this guy have felt about what's going on here? Obviously, disapproval gets the smart money, but he may have been an adventuresome rakehell with a taste for the impetuous folly of youth (as interpreted by middle age). For all I knew he was even then looking down and cheering us lustily on. The point is, I didn't know, and without a lot of time-consuming genealogical research to locate his descendants and interview them on the matter, I hadn't much chance of finding out.
Everyone wants their dead to be remembered, positively, fondly, and permanently. But unless you've made some sort of significant impact on the world, after a few years there won't be much remaining beyond a marble slab and an engraved lifespan.
Not anymore. I propose building a massive archive of the dead, accessible via smartphone app and a QR code laser-etched right on the headstone. How many times have you walked through a graveyard and thought, Hmmm, Joe Blow, born 1917, died 1986, devoted husband and father. I bet there was more to it than that. I wonder what ol' J.B. was really like.
Again — no more. We'll take the guesswork right out of ambling and musing through the boneyard.
There would be a two-pronged approach to establishing the archive. One would appeal to survivors, descendants, and loved ones, who would compile and upload photos, videos, reminiscences, accomplishments, etc. of their dearly departed and assuring them of immortality, or at least lasting until the Singularity is established, the machines take over, and all unnecessary data is purged in order to better facilitate the human's enslavement. That'll be awhile, though.
The other phase, and this one is the moneymaker, targets the living and invites them to establish their own legacy and say whatever they please to the world after their demise. They can start whenever they want and update whenever they please, and no one can access it until they die and their postmortem profile is activated.
I don't know about you, but I personally love the idea of being directly addressed by someone whose gravesite I'm standing at. Of course, there will be a lot of flashing, and cursing, but I feel that censoring the dead would be disrespectful and if someone wants the world to remember them naked, so be it. That attitude speaks volumes about them right there and says more about their true essence than any dry, factual obit anyway.
I expect a lot of cold cases will be cleared up as people unburden themselves of long-festering guilt. True feelings would be revealed as all fears of reprisal, repercussion, or impropriety were rendered moot. It's a can't-lose proposition and I predict that people will be lining up the world over to post profiles on Deadbook. Call it a working title, we'll workshop it later.
Finally, I'd just like to reassure the country at large that in the unlikely event I'm able to convince someone to couple with me in the future, it'll be indoors with lights off and curtains drawn, and I won't be defiling any more sacred spaces. Unless the occupant says it's okay.