Friday, February 25, 2011
March 5th, 2040
Portland, Oregon – Pacific Northwest States
It’s been a while. I was talking about the aftermath of the Mideast War.
A lot of people were stunned with the Romney Administration’s lack of action – but apart from dropping nukes ourselves, there wasn’t much we could do. The Iranians had purchased a new air force from the Soviets – brand-new MiG 35’s, complete with training; we had two carrier groups in the Persian Gulf, but that wasn’t going to be a match for the combined forces of several enraged Arab nations.
The Russians and the Chinese were doing a lot of business in the region, particularly with Iran; being a net-debtor nation made it possible for the Chinese to tell us to keep our nose out – and they’d do the same (plus, they wouldn’t call every note they held and start dumping dollars). What could have become a catastrophic world-conflict remained regional.
There were a lot of Fundamentalists in America back then; if you look at our history, Fundamentalism has raised its head on more than one occasion; the big resurgence began in the 1960’s; saw its peak in the early part of this century; it came apart at the seams when Israel became Palestine again (albeit with a little Arab help) in ’14.
I’m reminded of what happened when Caesar invaded Gaul; he took the time to learn their religion – the Gauls worshipped a pantheon of gods which were made manifest in nature. They were particularly fond of trees.
Caesar sent the Tenth Legion ahead of his army, not with swords, but axes. They cut a regulation Roman road at five miles a day and paved it with de-limbed tree-trunks.
The Gauls turned to their priests, who invoked the gods – and when nothing happened, they were forced to admit one of two things – either their gods had abandoned them, or there were no ‘gods’ in the first place. Regardless, it shattered the very construct of Gallic society.
By the time Vercingetorix was starved to submission at Alesia, the Gauls were a demoralized lot who’d lost faith even in the very universe they inhabited. They were a people without a purpose. That’s what happened to the American Fundamentalist movement.
After the fall of Israel, some went to hilltops to pray for the ‘rapture’; others predicted the Four Horsemen and the worst parts of Revelation – but as ’14 gave way to ’15 and beyond, it became clear that nothing was going to happen – and even the staunchest of them started to lose followers.
As things stand now, the Twentieth Century Fundamentalist Movement is a thirty-year-distant memory; there are plenty who still remember megachurches and the influence they had on everything from education to government – now; they get mentioned as part of and a contributing factor to the the dissolution of the United States.
I understand they're still around, though. That, too, is part of our history - Fundamentalism comes and goes; it's buried deep in the fabric of this land, taking its origins from the border-areas of Scotland and England. They come and go. We haven't seen the last of 'em.
The rest of ’14 went by with everyone wondering what was going to happen next. Business ground to a halt. The neighbors and I got together and started cultivating every bare patch of dirt in the immediate area – we planted root-crops and things like cabbage, once we learned that the dirt was all right. One good thing – we all lost weight, although we all had a tough go that winter.
The banks back East raised hell about Oregon and the rest of the Northwest – they were still hell-bent on collecting mortgage-money and foreclosing on homes out here! The governor put a stop to that – he told the Federals back in Washington that if they wanted to take someone’s house or business and sell it, they’d have to come with an army and take it all back. We were in the process of putting together the new government in Spokane by that time, as Washington decided that throwing in with Oregon, as well as recruiting Idaho and Montana, was a better shake than staying with a group of people back East who looked down their nose at us.
Anyway, the governor declared all debts forgiven and all mortgages paid in full. He mollified the local banks by allowing several of them to merge – the idea caught on across state borders, and that’s how the Bank of the Northwest States came to be. After the Constitutional Convention in Spokane in late ’14, the BNS issued the new currency; most of us thought it looked like play money, but before long most of the Federal banknotes were nothing more than novelties; there were a few rich folks who found out that money’s only as good as the nation that issues it – they had a hard time getting used to the change. Eventually, we signed a treaty with what was left of the Federal government dealing with currency-exchange; most of those folks got at least something for their greenbacks, or so I read.
The law wasn’t much good for a while; the first couple of years were a hard time for a lot of folks living in cities; there were a lot of desperate people here, too; not just in California. I’ve never been fond of the notion of killing anyone – but I can see where what passed for ‘justice’ in some parts of the region was a temporary necessity.
I saw that happen when I went to the local courthouse to finalize the new deed on my house; they’d caught three people – kids; really, no more’n about twenty, each of ‘em – they were caught driving a local couple’s car; they had the couple’s I.D. and some things from their home in the vehicle, also. A deputy was sent to the home, where they found the couple dead and the house torn up in search of valuables.
I asked a local man what was going on – he told me the particulars, and I stood there and watched a trial, right there on the courthouse steps – all the courtrooms were full of paperwork and people trying to sort out who-owned-what; it was a warm May day – 2015, if I remember right – and without a judge present, the Sheriff dealt with the problem himself, right then and there.
There were two girls and a young fellow – like I said; they weren’t much older’n twenty – the guy said something like, “I don’t have to tell you nothin’ ‘till I see a judge.” The Sheriff responded that this was the only trial he and the girls were going to get, and he’d better start by explaining how he and the girls were caught driving the dead couple’s car with their wallet and purse, and wearing some of their clothing. Some words were exchanged; they each got to make mile-a-minute excuses in their turn; then the Sheriff found ‘em all guilty.
One of the girls figured it out first – she bent over and emptied her stomach on her shoes, quick as you please; the other girl just started to wail and blubber. The guy started swearing at the Sheriff, all the while one of his deputies tossed three ropes over the upper support-beam of the courthouse entrance.
Within five minutes, all three were pissing their jeans, tongues swelled up and stickin’ out like sausages; hanging in front of the courthouse-steps as an object-lesson.
I used the back-entrance that day. I guess a lot of other folks did, too.
By 2016, we had a government, a national currency, a flag – hell; we were a country. We’d traded our one aircraft-carrier back to the Federals for five destroyers – then we turned around and sold three of those to China in trade for solar and wind technology. The Chinese were rearming like nobody’s business – they wanted to be the top dog, and that was fine by us – they could police the world as far as we were concerned - just as long as they traded with us and left us alone beyond that. We sold ‘em our one big submarine, too, if I remember right. I can’t recollect if they ever used any of that stuff, but it was a good deal for us.
Me? I went to work for the big energy cooperative, selling power through Montana to the Midwestern States; I did that for another fifteen years before I finally retired for good. Turned out that independence for the Northwest meant that the big banks back east no longer held any power over us – and my thirty years of business experience actually mattered, now that we were creating jobs for our own people again, rather than sending them all overseas. (When you’ve got a country to build, unemployment disappears overnight, even if the standard of living is lower.)
I drive a Chinese-made pickup now; it’s all electric, and it’s treated me right (it gets me to the farmer's market, where I augment my savings and government pension with specialty goodies I grow in the garden.) I’m old enough, of course, to remember names like Ford and Chevrolet – but those are all history, except for the few that you can see in museums and the occasional rich guy’s garage. Gasoline is around $15.00/PNS per gallon, but some folks can seem to pony up the cash to take their antiques for a spin. I never realized how much the damn things smelled. Having clean air is another good thing about what happened.
Like I said, there are about 2/3’s the people that there were – the birthrate dropped like a rock hereabouts for twenty years or more – and even with immigration, a lot of towns here just disappeared. It’s hard to make a living as a real-estate agent, what with the Homestead Laws and housing free for the taking in a lot of cases.
Canada took their time, but they recognized us in ’17. As I mentioned, they’re second only to China in trade. British Columbia petitioned Ottawa and Spokane to join us in ’26; that took a while, too, but they’ve been a part of the P.N.S. for the past ten years now.
Alaska voted to stick with the Federals back in Washington. Oil or no oil; that was fine by us – their politics were more’n a bit extreme.
I remember everyone talking about the Balkan countries back then, and how horrible it was that the U.S. was going that way – but what most people don’t remember is that when they'd finished splitting up and creating their own countries again, the Balkans started to thrive. We’ve done the same thing in our own way, and while there are aspects of it that I miss, I don’t miss the raging inequality; the Second Great Depression; the country tearing itself apart over things like religion and empire-building. Now that it’s all done, I know I’d rather live here than in what the U.S. was becoming.
I’ve often heard it said that democracy is just the notion that extraordinary things can be expected from ordinary people. I suppose that’s what happened - things came apart; the center couldn’t hold; mere anarchy was loosed upon the world, and it was up to us to rise to the occasion and put the whole shiterree back together again, even if it was on a smaller scale.
But, like I said – I’m old. Sometimes, I think the only thing I really know is my garden.
(Portrait of a dead country with the failed motto, “E Pluribus Unum”; a cautionary tale for those who believe that some things are Too Big To Fail – and a warning: It can happen here.)