The Future that Wasn’t So Bright

An AI generated image of hippies, the generation that sought to change the world for the better and ruined it instead.
An AI generated image of hippies, the generation that sought to change the world for the better and ruined it instead.

I remember when I was a kid and I would look ahead to the year 2000 and do the math to figure out how old I would be. Wow! Well over 30. That seemed old!

Then we celebrated the bicentennial in 1976 and I wondered, how old would I be when the country was 250 years old? I did the math. Over 60? Wow, now that’s really old. Like Grandparent old. Yet here we are, two years away from the country’s sestercentennial, and I am a grandparent. I guess I am old.

I grew up in an integrated school system where we not only had black and white kids with a few others thrown in, but Catholics, Protestants, Baptists, Methodists, Jews, Hindus, and at least three Muslims. Instead of going to college, one of my classmates went to Israel and joined the IDF. Nobody protested her or anyone else.

I started reading science fiction in the 1970s. Books that would be considered “classic” science fiction today. Authors like Jules Verne, Isaac Asimov, Frank Herbert (the youngsters tend to forget that Dune was published in 1965), Harry Harrison, and Robert Heinlein. Throw in watching the Apollo missions and Star Trek on TV, and I thought my future would include space travel. I thought we would be pioneering other planets, not running out of resources on ours. When we had problems with aliens, I expected them to be from other solar systems, not Central America. Boy, was I ever wrong.

Now that my future is now the present, it’s pretty disappointing compared to what I had expected. Our government took what at the time was a pretty great country and ruined it. Sadly, I don’t see it getting any better.

Domestic Problems

I didn’t expect my future to include living in a country where the party in power used the courts to prosecute the opposition. Likewise, I didn’t expect the FBI would sink from being the premier law enforcement agency in the country to being one that affects elections and carried out politically motivated investigations.

I never imagined states would pass laws that directly opposed recent Supreme Court rulings or that politicians who swore an oath to uphold the Constitution would undermine the Second Amendment and many of our other rights. Nor did I foresee a future where non-elected bureaucrats set policy, made regulation and had their armed thugs arrest, or sometimes kill, people who did not follow rules that were never passed into law by Congress.

Sure, we had Nixon and Watergate, so politicians weren’t that much better, but they didn’t seem to be in it solely to enrich themselves. They at least paid lip service to wanting the best for the country. Now they want the best for their party and screw the other guy and the other half of the voting public. Today the pandering is far worse than it was in my memory.

International Problems

When I was a kid, the United States was the clear winner of just about everything except Vietnam. The U.S. beat the Russians to the moon. We won lots of Olympic medals. We were the economic engine of the world. Even when the Iranians took hostages while Jimmy Carter was president, they let them go as soon as Ronald Reagan was elected. Why? Because Regan was stronger than Carter and Iran knew it, just like they know Joe Biden is a weak appeaser. If we are already in the early stages of World War III, I think Biden will be recognized by history as the Neville Chamberlain of our times, times in which we needed a Winston Churchill.

Sure, there were two super powers back in the 1960s and ‘70s, but we made the Soviets back down in the Cuban Missile Crisis, and eventually our actions contributed to the collapse of the USSR. We were the stronger country, and we emerged on top.

Today, our international standing is floundering while China is rising. We are a super power, but we are a fading super power. We grew complacent, and it has hurt us. When our president says “Don’t!” both our allies and our enemies flout him.

What does the Next 50 Years Hold?

I think about my granddaughter, who in 2026 may well calculate how old she will be when we hit our 300th birthday, assuming the United States can hold it together that long. What will she see when she looks ahead? Will flying cars finally be reality, or will everyone live in 15-minute cities where commuting is outlawed because it consumes too much energy?

When my children visit in fifteen or twenty years, will they show up with bottles and 5-gallon jugs to fill up on our free water because it is so expensive where they live? Will they marvel when we burn firewood for heat because it is outlawed elsewhere because of greenhouse gasses?

Already our wars are being fought by drones; will the next ones be fought by robots? And will those robots turn against us? If so, I don’t think my 9mm is going to be sufficient.

All this, of course, assumes we make it 20 more years, or 30 or 50. I question the likelihood of survival of the United States as a country and the vast majority of its population. We may tear ourselves apart, we may be attacked by outsiders, or we may be undermined by outsiders among us. We may collapse, like the Society Union did, or we may break into red states and blue states, with places like California and Texas being independent.

Maybe I am a pessimist, but I was far more optimistic 50 years ago than I am today. And judging from what we hear about this latest generation, they don’t think they have anything to which they can look forward. Perhaps they will change the world, or perhaps they will simply oversee its demise. Either way, I’m not very excited about our future.