I’ve always been a reader and early on one of my favorite reads was science fiction. I’m especially addicted to the sub-genre of dystopian fiction, the stories of faraway worlds – in time or in space – with disturbing cultural norms or technological nightmares, from slightly off-kilter to straight-on horrific.
So as someone living in the year 2020, in the United States of America, I find a real-world dystopian universe coming to life every day all around me. It appears to me every morning when I get up, cue the Keurig to get the old engine going, and settle down for some screen time. Each morning I observe, in this real-life, dystopian US of A, a new chapter.
Here are some of the most recent.
Over the past three weeks the COVID-19 is not going away. Rather than flattening or dying out, it continues on the increase along several data points: the number of positive tests, hospitalizations, deaths – in many areas falling back to where we were just two months ago.
But then there were the official governmental reports on the virus. The president promised it would just “disappear,” magically go away, poof! And Vice President Mike Pence, head of the White House virus panel, assured us it was going away, totally under control. The VP actually cited a wonderfully positive report, “good news,” he said, that the virus was infecting more young people. Well, gosh, I thought, how wonderful! . . . for us older folks.
Now back in my regular generic existence, here in the Golden State, my wife and I had very much adopted mask-wearing, that when we venture out to wherever there would be other people, it is simply commonsensical and safe to wear a mask. And this simple action has been encouraged by 100% of scientific opinion: that until we have a vaccine, mask-wearing is the No. 1 tool for defeating this virus.
But on my screens — phone, TV — masks are apparently not all that necessary, say, if you’re at a bar, or at the beach, or simply a family cook-out, bunches of people with their bare faces hanging out, happily laughing and breathing on each other. And the idea that masks are irrelevant, even kind of stupid, is promoted by the president of the United States. Because it makes him look bad, he doesn’t need one, even holding his own “family” gatherings and downplaying the need for masks and social distancing.
Then there’s my sense of patriotism that also has gotten a bit of a jolt recently, like looking into a funhouse mirror. I’ve always believed that the foundation, the very essence of democracy, is based on a single activity, a fundamental right and responsibility: voting – that the collective act of choosing candidates was the best way of saying we will not be ruled by a king, dictator or any other sort of tyrant.
But in the parallel America, we’re frequently being told that too many people might be voting and they need to be discouraged or completely blocked from doing so. The theory? — that if everybody voted, or as many as possible as those registered, this might result in the “wrong people” being elected – primarily Democrats or people of color. And a whole range of barriers are continually being proposed to limit the number of voters, so that the “right people” have the better chance of election.
Then there’s that history thing, how 150-plus years ago a bunch of American states said they didn’t want to be the “unum” of the “in pluribus.” The result was treason, several breaking off in order to create their own separate country, largely based on “owning” other human beings. The result: after hundreds of thousands died on both sides, these traitors were decisively defeated. And in my boring, everyday world, traitors and losers shouldn’t fare very well.
Not so in the parallel America. Despite having lost their “cause,” many of these traitors were granted folk hero status, their flag continuing to wave here and there. And many of their military “heroes” were then memorialized with a bunch of statues, portraits, plaques — unbelievably, even some U.S. military bases (ten in all).
Just to repeat that: ten U.S. military basis named for traitors!
Yes indeed, it’s really amazing to observe the daily alternate nightmare which is, for many Americans, their reality: a parallel USA of governmental fabrication, the unconcerned spread of disease and death, the forthright suppression of voting, and the adulation of traitors.