Sunday, December 31, 1995

In the year 2045

OK, here's my answer to Newt Gingrich's alternate history novel, 1945. Here's an altered future. If not a neutered future. Pun intended.

The United States of America is now the Divided States of America. There's a rump government in the old industrial northeast, but nobody pays it much attention.

Most of the old Confederacy (except for Texas and all of Florida, south of Disneyworld, which is now owned by the WaltDisneyCorp) has been reconstituted as the Christian States of America. More orderly than other places; think Singapore with neon crosses. They stone witches, adulterers and drug addicts to death, and it's not a good place to be a black person, Jewish, or one of them secular humanists. But the mag-lev trains run on time.

The Southwest, at its best, resembles Northern Ireland during the troubles; at its worst, its a dead ringer for Bosnia in the mid 1990's. There's a strong Hispanic separatist movement, an almost equally strong nativist movement,resulting in mild to severe parades, bombings, kneecappings,when the two hatefronts clash. Aqui...aya...y yanquis mortidad or For California will fight:f or California will be right. You pays your money, you takes your shot.

As to the heartland, the Midwest is a hodgepodge of overlapping, militia-controlled entities, Aryan Nation this, Middle America that. There's a decidedly Germanic cast about it all: speeches, boots, bombs, and military haircuts. In most of these regions, it is illegal to show The Blues Brothers.

From Midwest to Farwest, the sagebrush-rebellion-wise-use people have had their way, which means there's no west left at all, only stripmines and stripmalls. In Nevada, the last Native American reservation still survives. They are fighting for their land, even today. A noble people.

Most of the rich people live in the Pacific Northwest, from northern California up through Washington, Oregon, and on to Alberta. They consider themselves more a part of the Pacific Rim than they do the rest of America -- which they regard with liberal disgust, as they have the money and security forces to afford such sentiments.They feel very guilty. Really. They feel sorry for the Native Americans and they're angry at what's happening in the Christian States and the Midwest, the atrocities, all those horrible things. Someone should really do something. They give money to charities and hold benefit rock concerts and wear t-shirts with slogans, while making sure that the borders are secure.

Speaking of money, Alaska and Hawaii have been sold to Japan to cover interest charges on that ol' debbil the national debt (which was also the reason the national parks were sold off). Much-needed hard currency is also supplied by shipping American prisoners off to forced labor camps in the PRC. Helps out with that balance of trade thing.

Social security, medicare, welfare, and most of the other trappings of the evil welfare state have collapsed leaving...nothing, zippo, nada, not even workhouses or poor houses. Government is off our backs forever. Road, rail and mail have been privatized, which means you get what you pay for, or you don't get.

The popular vehicles of choice (for those who can afford them) either fly or go on almost any kind of terrain. Most of the so-called confederacies, alliances, and coalitions don't mean very much. The former United States of America (like the rest of the world) is divided into DWorlds and Lebanons--the DWorlds meaning Disneyworlds: artificial walled-in communities, sort of like Seaside, except for the guys in guard towers with automatic weapons. White flight to the suburbs has been reversed; the central cities are all now nicely gentrified, surrounded by rings of people living in cardboard boxes selling garbage, themselves, or pieces of themselves.

In 2045, the former United States of America resembles Brazil -- both the country, and the movie. The cities are surrounded by areolae of suffering campesinos; in the soft, chewy center are a very few people having a very good time. But people have adapted. The ability at which they accept these things and go on is amazing. Just the way it is...

Libertarians will be pleased to note that the radical principle of self-ownership now extends to dueling, suicide parlors, organ harvesting. Drug use and abortion are illegal in most areas though. A philosophical inconsistency, but nobody points it out too much (except for sob sisters in the PacificRim) It's a bad age for dialectic.

In addition to convict labor, our leading exports are organs, entertainment, military hardware, and thugs. To the rest of the planet, we're Hessians, Irish cops not afraid to use the beat stick--and our bombs and missiles are just plain better. It's a source of pride that there are still some things Americans do better than anybody else. A commitment to excellence!

Newt Gingrich, amazingly enough, is still alive, floating foetus-like in a spherical bubble, filled with amniotic fluid, his brain and nervous system hardwired to an AI interface. Old Newt was always into that kind of thing. The net, the future. Just loved that gee-whiz-sense-of-wonder thing.

The wires leading out from Newt's head go into a computer, and out again to an audioanimatronic simulacrum of Howdy Doody, a pure freckle-faced synthesis of Newt's forward-into-the-past urge to leap into Tomorrowland and a Happy Days 1950s at one and the same time.

Way it works: you speak to the puppet and you speak to Newt; it sees you, thru luxvid eyes, talks back. Eerie. Kind of like Magic, though the puppet has never really hurt anybody. Kids think he's cute, write him postcards...

So, 2045 and all that -- my how time flies! It's the 50th anniversary of the publication of Newt's book, and the reporters are all flocking around his freckle-faced Doppelganger. One ballsy reporter looks Newtie Doody straight in the eye and asks, "What the hell you were you thinking?" The puppet turns its head. Dead serious (as far as Newt's imagineered user interface can register emotion), the puppet speaks.

"It was necessary to destroy the country to save it," he says.

102 years old, and Newt still comes up with the perfect sound-bite.

Tuesday, December 12, 1995

The rocket's red glare

Francis Scott Key bursts into Fort McHenry. The walls are pock-marked and full of holes; the ground has massive craters. There's a cluster of bleeding American soldiers lying around, some with amputated limbs. Not to mention a few corpses. Francis runs to the center of the fort and looks up. Joy floods his face.

FRANCIS: Thank God, you're all right!

SOLDIER #1: Francis!

OFFICER: It's good to see you, lad.

FRANCIS: I was so worried!

SOLDIER #2: It has been quite a night.

FRANCIS: But you made it through!

OFFICER #1: (indicating corpse) Not all of us.

FRANCIS: You're in one piece!

SOLDIER #2: (indicating amputated limb tied with bloody rag) Not all of us.

FRANCIS: Oh, the flag, the flag, the glorious lovely flag!

OFFICER: The flag?

SOLDIER #2: He's worried about the flag?

FRANCIS: Yes. The British had me prisoner. I witnessed the bombardment all night long! All those shells, bursting all around that glorious flag! That seductive, titillating, saucy, naughty flag! Look at it, waving up there, so fragile, so beautiful! (shudders with erotic delight) Ohhhh! I was worried to my core! To the depths of my very soul!

SOLDIER #1: What about us?

FRANCIS: You? I wasn't worried about you!

OFFICER: Well, thank you very much.

FRANCIS: Oh, you don't matter. None of us matter! Don't you see? The flag is what's important! Lovely, stripey little flag all covered in stars and stripes. Ohhh!

He runs to the flag pole, pulleys the flag down, removes it, caresses it to his face.

FRANCIS: Did they hurt you flaggy?

SOLDIER #2: You and that flag should get married.

FRANCIS: I wrote a song about this beautiful flag. Do you want to hear it?

SOLDIERS: No!

He sings the national anthem. The soldiers groan.