I wake up to familiar noises. Banging, metal crunching against metal. Men, yelling orders to each other frantically. The incessant beeping and metallic swerving of the cranes. My small room quakes periodically when the cranes are directly overhead. Sighing, I shake the sleep from my body as I rise from my bare mattress. As I take the very few steps from my mattress to the front door of my one room unit. Exhaling deeply I open the door. The usual.
I take in the view from my six foot by three foot front “porch.” I glance at the wall next to my front door and smirk at the small sign that reads, “Old New Orleans Ocean top properties.” Shaking my head I bring my gaze back to the view from my porch. I see two oil rigs about a hundred yards in the distance surrounded by open water. I can still hear the men yelling and the cranes turning at the rigs as the smell of burning oil hits me like a rock to the chest. I cough and spit mucus and blood into the water a few feet from me. I stay crouched over and take in the sight of floating debris. Floating debris, this came for free with the “ocean view.” Dead fish, bellies up, floating among globs of oil and dead plant life.
The only plant life that has seemed to survive everything that’s happened over the past forty years is the Chinese Tallow tree. The bits of soil that have washed up against the sides of my “ocean top” apartment building don’t support any other kind of plant life. We’re not sure why, but it seems like these trees choke out any other plant life that attempts to grow. Anyone caught trying to kill a Chinese Tallow tree will be shot on sight by the military police that make daily rounds. Ironic. The same government that caused all of this environmental chaos decides that it get to kill its citizens over a tree that’s more like a weed. I suppose it makes sense though. The government that chokes out our freedoms probably identifies with the Tallow tree that chokes out other plant life. So I do smile to myself slightly as I remember that the Chinese Tallow tree was made the official state tree of Louisiana in 2056.
I look down at the water in front of me. I think about the city that is below me. New Orleans. I never had a chance to see it myself. She was destroyed in 2031 when the ocean retook her. One would think that people would have seen how the, “Operation Free America” deregulation measures of 2024 had caused this to happen. Unfortunately the public, in their moment of terror and guilt, were all too willing to buy into the president’s anti-reason rhetoric. President Pence. My father used to tell me stories about him. No one really thought he could have won the white house, but after the economic failures of 2021 under President Biden, people were desperate. Pence promised America an economic future. This economic future came at the cost of America’s soul.
It came as no surprise that after the August 2031 disaster the public once again turned to the promise of economic security rather than deal with guilt, regulation, and the unknown. All of us that live in this part of the country have to watch Pence’s 2032 State of the Union speech every August on the anniversary of the disaster. My ancestors all lived in New Orleans and most of my family was wiped out when that category 7 hurricane hit. So it always stirs anger and shame in me when I hear his words. He walks up and down the aisles of the Capitol flailing his arms, yelling about how God has taken America back. He said that God was punishing America for ignoring his will. It’s funny to me how Pence’s will and God’s will were so closely aligned. God had destroyed New Orleans for her sinfulness and was punishing those who allowed homosexuality to run so rampant on the streets of America. He said it was God’s warning to America to stop tolerating homosexuality. Every year I have to watch as he finishes his speech and all the republicans and democrats stand and applaud him, except for four. Those four brave democrats were later hung for undermining America with their so called, “subversive treason.”
It wasn’t long until America began to recover somewhat in her economy. This was easy because people who struggled and stayed poor were usually labeled as “homosexual sympathizers” or “environmental terrorists” and were thrown into work camps with the homosexual population. It’s been a steady stream of Conservative, anti-homosexual, “pro-America,” presidents since Pence’s reign ended nearly thirty years ago. His four terms forever changed this country. There is still no regulation in this country. Only the super-rich can afford to eat food that doesn’t make them sick. This nation’s new way of looking at its populace justifies this. If one is poor, it is his or his ancestor’s fault. New Orleans in 2031 started all of this, but there have been dozens of environmental tragedies that have destroyed cities, towns, industries, and peoples in this nation since.
Pence’s set up made it possible for every one of these events to be blamed on homosexuals and other “un-American” peoples. I remember when, in the Los Angeles disaster of 2059, when the entire southeastern coast of the state of California was taken out by a tsunami, President Palin quoted her grandmother and blamed trust in science for the disaster. She said that the peoples of California had trusted science rather than God for too long and now they were being punished. There was no aid sent to those affected by the tsunami. Palin said that aiding these people would be ignoring God’s will and going against God’s justice.
I remember what my father used to tell me before he was hanged by Governor Bobby Jindal III for subversive, anti-American terrorism. He used to say, “remember son, there is a God, and there is also justice that comes from human reason, but we’ve lost sight of it as a nation.” He would tell me not to hate this nation but weep for her and pray for her. He said that everything had started going to shit even before Pence became president. Evidently, back in the late 20th century and particularly during the first two decades during the 21st century we had a choice. That choice was whether or not we’d try to compromise with one another. My father used to tell me stories of my grandfather who was a writer during the early 21st century. He was one of the first people arrested for subversive journalism / terrorism against America in 2025. He had been arguing for compromise ever since he had graduated Loyola University in New Orleans in 2012.
Since he went to school in New Orleans his writings have been banned. My grandfather has been labeled as one of those who were likely responsible for angering God with his love for reason. Pence actually mentioned him in his State of the Union in 2033, saying that it was men like my grandfather who had hardened God’s heart against our nation. Pence claimed he and those like-minded to him had done this with their talk of science and religion not being at odds. My grandfather used to say that it would only be through accepting both faith and use of scientific reason and factual evidence that we could move forward as a nation into the future.
Unfortunately my grandfather’s pleas were rejected first by the religious community, and then even by the scientific community. In the election of 2016 the anti-intellectualism and anti-science rhetoric reached a fever pitch in America. The scientific community, save a few, saw no choice but to align themselves entirely against the Christian right wing political groups in this country. This was the breaking moment. I remember seeing illegal speech videos from 2018 and 2019 in which Richard Dawkins would speak to college groups about the need to turn entirely away from all religion and pursue only pure scientific data from a perspective of atheism. This break between the left and right, into reason vs. faith, drove a stake into the heart of this nation’s ability to have any sort of discussion or compromise. It was this election of 2016 where things really took the turn for the worse that they would not come back from.
This world is falling apart; any attempt to turn to science for solutions to the environmental problems we face is considered terrorism and heretical behavior. We now live in a theocracy. This all could have been avoided if we had just been able to compromise with one another and work together. If we had only been able to move forward in a national dialogue that included both faith and reason, we would have been able to actually move forward.
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