Construction Literary Magazine

Fall 2020

Death’s Second Life

Death’s Second Life

Editor’s note: This post is part XII of the Etch A President Saga, a satirical series on the 2012 Election campaign.

“Broccoli carried the day.”

The New York Times, June 28

“Now there is medication, so fewer people are dying of AIDS. I’m not very happy because this is my future.”

Moeketsi Monamela, a coffin maker in Africa whose sales have plummeted

Death, holding a tall scythe, can’t believe its wilted ears. After months of deliberation, the Supreme Court of the United States has ruled 5-4 that Death is constitutionally permissible.

Miraculously, Death has been saved by tax law, which permits Congress to impose the so-called death tax that rakes in more than $21 billion annually. (The Congress’s taxing power also recently saved millions of Americans from lack of health coverage.)

Death sheds a joyful tear. Life, seated nearby in the defense section, is also overwhelmed—because of what value is Life without Death? With the court’s surprise ruling, old people can continue to croak, unhappy people can continue to quit the scene, and the Coney Island Cyclone can continue to claim lives. Hearing the news in the West Wing, President Barack Obama fist-bumps his chief strategist David Axelrod, both men relieved because Death’s repeal would have further pushed up the unemployment rate by leaving jobless coffin makers, grave diggers, and morticians.

Democrats had united with Life and Death to overcome a strong fight from Republicans aiming to end the individual death mandate. Both camps claimed their view was divinely ordained, with Republicans citing Revelation 21:4—“there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away”—while Democrats cited Ecclesiastes 3:1-2—“there is a time for everything . . . a time to be born and a time to die.”

The Bible is so maddeningly ambiguous and self-contradictory on the issue that even God’s only begotten son opted to stay out of this debate.

“Ask Mary, I’m busy,” Jesus Christ told the Pope.

Back in the Supreme Court, Chief Justice John Roberts reads his majority opinion: “The requirement that certain individuals die because they have not obtained eternal Life may reasonably be characterized as a tax,” Chief Justice Roberts wrote in the majority opinion. “Because the Constitution permits such a tax, it is not our role to forbid it, or to pass upon its wisdom or fairness.”

From the bench, Justice Antonin Scalia criticizes the ruling “as a vast judicial overreaching.”

“Death is not a tax—it is a penalty and allowing it to continue is a vast judicial overreach of the Commerce Clause,” he says. “That clause grants Congress power to regulate commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes, according to the Constitution. Does this mean Congress can permit Death to travel between states but not between tribal reservations on those states? If I die while playing craps at the Mohegan Sun Casino, might I return to life the moment I leave the Mohegan tribal reservation?”

Justice Elena Kagan speaks up: “You just don’t want to eat your broccoli, that’s why you want to strike down Death.”

“I don’t mind broccoli,” says Scalia, “so long as it’s deep-fried and drenched in vinegar and ketchup.”

Justice Clarence Thomas’s stomach rumbles, briefly awakening the conservative judge from his 20-year slumber. He quickly dozes off again.[i] 

Outside the courtroom, meanwhile, Mitt Romney is back on his soapbox rallying the anti-Death protesters.

“We’re gunna run Death off our land!” says the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, renewing his pledge to strike down the individual mandate. “Death was bad policy yesterday; it’s bad policy today. Death was bad law yesterday; it’s bad law today.”

The crowd cheers.

Romney, who is a human cyborg, as previously established, continues: “I promise to repeal Death, because you poor Americans can’t afford the same medical care and longevity-boosting dietary habits as rich people like me who eat healthy and exercise and relax on jet-skis.”

Chief strategist Eric Fehrnstrom, standing to Romney’s side, grips Romney by the scruff and shakes, which allows the top political adviser to reset the robot’s memory and restart its Etch A President program all over again.

“I mean,” Romney continues, “Obama is not looking out for your interests! This president promised not to raise taxes on the poor, but who dies most frequently? Poor and middle class Americans! This president is forcing Death upon you! I promise to cut taxes and repeal Death once I am president.”

“But Mr. Romney,” shouts a reporter, “isn’t it true that you were the first state governor to pass an individual death mandate? Wouldn’t the court’s ruling imply that you also raised taxes?”

“Yes,” says Romney.

Fehrnstrom shakes the cyborg.

“No,” says Romney, flip-flopping. “I disagree with the ruling of the court and agree with the dissent written by Justice Scalia, which very clearly states that the mandate was not a tax.”

The crowd jostles Romney and his Etch A President programming is accidentally reset again.

“Yes!” says Romney. “I agree with the ruling of the court and disagree with the minority dissent. Obama has raised taxes.”

Fehrnstrom shakes the Robo-Romney:


The crowd jostles Romney again.

“I mean, yes!”

[i] Justice Clarence Thomas has not asked a question from the bench since Feb. 22, 2006.