All our best men are laughed at in this nightmare land. —Jack Kerouac
I may have told a lie during the night. Little man woke up about a quarter to three, crying from a nightmare. I pulled him up into my lap, gave him a big hug, and tried to reassure him. “Dreams are only pretend,” I said. “And bad dreams are not real.” Another big hug and he was able to go back to bed and sleep soundly the rest of the night.
But that part about bad dreams not being real? Yeah, I may have fibbed a bit on that one. Nightmares can be all too real.
Let’s fast-forward four years to the year 2020. There are 10 million driverless cars on the road, which has reduced the number of traffic fatalities; but those cars don’t always take us where we want to go as governments have the ability to override our instructions and force us to go where they demand. Everyone you meet is aligned with one group or another and even something as simple as buying a soda can result in you being charged as a spy. Few people gather at bars anymore and even fewer at churches. Quantum computing on the cloud has our entire lives connected to and controlled by the Internet of Things. Unchecked global warming has accelerated the acidification of the oceans to the point the Florida Keys and other coral-based islands are dissolving into the sea.
Racism is rampant and segregation is mandatory. People of religious faiths wear identifying badges and don’t intermingle. Those with no badge are regarded with suspicion but are the larger group and travel the most freely. Healthcare is available only to the rich and many hospitals have closed, their halls lying empty after the entire payment system collapsed. Living without debt is impossible because inflation wasn’t held back by plummeting wages. Women and LGBT groups have joined forces in an attempt to thwart efforts at minimizing the rights of both, with an increasing militantism necessary to protect both groups from armed right-wing militias running rampant. 80% of the US population takes required anti-depressants in an attempt to hold back rising suicide rates.
As incredible as that situation may seem, every last bit of it is a simple extrapolation based on current events and sentiments. While none of the scenarios are certain, each are possible given current developments and prevailing attitudes. The United States has always prided itself on being a country where anything is possible, but included in that “anything” is the opportunity for a nightmare such as the one described above.
Don’t say it won’t happen. Just six short months ago no one was taking the candidacy of a loud-mouthed, egotistical New York real estate billionaire seriously, either. No one thought he’d last through the first few primaries. Now, he’s the heir-apparent to his party’s nomination and should he actually win (don’t say it can’t happen) every one of the nightmare scenarios mentioned above could become true, based on his past and current rhetoric.
No one likes a nightmare and when we are small we take comfort in the fact they are just bad dreams. This is one nightmare, though, that could all too easily become a reality that not only fails to make America great but endangers our very future. We can put a stop to this nightmare, but only if those who are apathetic and lazy, those who think their voice doesn’t count, those who hold the opinion that fate is out of their hands, begin to speak up and make noise and participate in the public discussion at such levels as to not be ignored.
Life will almost certainly go on, no matter what the future holds, but do you really want to live in a nightmare?