In the future from which I'm writing this letter, the United States has become a totalitarian Christian fundamentalist state.
Of course, there's no such thing as a letter from the future. The future doesn't really exist, except as choices to be made in the present. If you who are reading this can respond in your own way to what's happening in your time, then this letter will remain an empty piece of fiction.
As you've probably already supposed, it all began when the US government created a Department of Homeland Security, which became one of the fastest growing government agencies in US history.
It quietly and steadily expanded its jurisdiction to cover any activity that it judged to be a threat, direct or indirect, to national security. At first this was done in the name of blocking terrorism, but eventually expanded to areas much further afield.
One of those areas was censorship. The Homeland Security Department began to reserve the power to censor the press for any ideology that it judged to threaten national security.
In a few exemplary cases the Homeland Security Department seized assets and suspended operations of media entities.
Lawsuits were filed, but the Department resolutely flouted legal pressure and public opinion.
The effect of those showcase incidents was enough to neatly chill the press. Most media firms complied voluntarily just because they didn't want to risk attracting the attention of the Homeland Security Department.
The next move had hugely significant consequences. Within the Homeland Security Department a committee called the Council for the Defense of Christian Family Values was created.
The underlying motive for the council was a belief that if a nation was God-fearing it would invite divine favor and protection, and if not, God would punish the nation for its lack of faith. For that reason, Christian faith was seen as intrinsic to national security. No real justification for this was given publicly.
The Christian Family Values Council began working to systematically align the Homeland Security Department with the interests of radical fundamentalist Christians, who had for many years been gaining immense political power in the Republican Party by playing down their radicalism.
Although the threat of censorship had largely muted the mainstream press, the country was deeply divided over the Christian Family Values Council. Many people naturally began seeing parallels with the rise of the Nazis during the 1930s.
There was trouble at the polls as a result. Despite the fact that the Republican Party, which had always been the principal sponsor of the Christian Family Values Council, had itself begun to splinter and appeared to have lost, election results still showed Republicans to be hands-down winners.
Suspecting outright election fraud, the public demanded an official investigation into the election. When the investigation began to uncover evidence that the election had been blatantly tampered with, the Homeland Security Department abruptly halted the investigation.
That provoked large demonstrations and isolated instances of civil unrest. The Homeland Security Department stepped in vigorously to suppress the unrest, using its now formidable surveillance network and the national police force that it had been building.
The Christian Family Values Council had meanwhile been building up alliances with the US military. Several high-ranking officers were now associated with the Council, and the Council itself had become a bastion not only of the religious right, but of a rapidly growing culture of militarism, also a reminder of Nazi Germany.
As the general population began to understand that the Christian Family Values Council was a threat to democracy, large numbers of people began to organize themselves to oppose it across the nation.
Supporters of the Christian Family Values Council also organized themselves, however, meeting in churches and schools in communities that were sympathetic to what the Christian Family Values Council stood for.
They set up local and regional councils for the defense of Christian family values, mirroring the national Council, and those amounted to a de facto political party.
Civil unrest grew as organized supporters of the Christian Family Values Council occasionally clashed with organized opponents.
In the South, where the Christian Family Values Council has strong local roots, any opposition to the Christian Family Values Council was dealt with in a few highly publicized incidents by local thugs using the sort of violence reminiscent of the Nazi brownshirts.
As the situation deteriorated, the nation was so deeply divided and the threat of civil unrest had grown so acute that the presidential administration, which was by then completely dominated by the Christian Family Values Council, took advantage of the situation to preemptively suspend the upcoming congressional elections, to dissolve Congress, and to declare martial law.
The coup was accomplished. The US constitution was rendered useless.
The military was thrown into crisis after the coup. Many high-ranking military professionals were still loyal to the US constitution and considered the Christian Family Values Council to be treasonous.
A power struggle ensued and at first it looked like the coup would be rolled back.
A second American Civil War between the military partisans loyal to the Christian Family Values Council versus those loyal to the US constitution briefly seemed likely.
Ironically, this second civil war would essentially have cut across the same regional boundaries as the first one did.
In the end, the Christian Family Values Council and their partisans prevailed, mainly due to their brutal determination. Professional officers and troops still loyal to the US constitution were required to swear allegiance to the Christian Family Values Council or else be expelled from the military.
Immediately the Christian Family Values Council established a set of regulations similar to Islamic sharia but based on the Judeo-Christian bible.
Among other changes, that meant that women's rights outside the home were dramatically curtailed.
The First Amendment rights to peaceable assembly and free speech were of course vigorously suppressed. Likewise any armed resistance by citizens loyal to the constitution was ruthlessly put down by forces loyal to the Christian Family Values Council.
The threat of civil war had provoked the Christian Family Values Council to demand that all citizens surrender their arms unless they had a license from a local Christian family values defense council.
The First Amendment was now thoroughly defeated.
Almost four years have now passed since the constitutional coup, and the US is a completely different nation. Today it is in precipitous economic decline.
The infrastructure is rotting due to neglect, disorganization, and lack of capital. Roads are becoming unusable in many places, electric power shortages are routine, communications networks are failing, bankrupt municipal governments are unable to provide many essential services, and the medical system is breaking down.
Even before the Christian Family Values Council overthrew the constitution, Wall Street saw trouble coming and began paving the way for quickly moving capital out of the US to safer havens.
After the coup, US treasury bonds sank to junk status, which briefly caused financial turmoil internationally. The dollar is weaker today than some Third World currencies.
The torrent of capital fleeing the United States during the past four years has significantly reshaped the world's economy, to the detriment of the United States and the American standard of living.
China has become the new center of enterprise and technological achievement as well as a source of new military might. Europe and Japan provide a cultural counterweight to a wounded America with its still potent military.
As China has grown more powerful, old conflicts in Asia between China, Korea, and Japan still flare up, and all-out war has been narrowly avoided on several occasions. China has already seized its opportunity to re-annex Taiwan.
Since the Christian Family Values Council first began to strangle the cultural and spiritual life of the US, the brightest and most vibrant citizens have have been fleeing to Europe, Asia, and even Latin America.
Because open dissent has been extinguished in American universities, many top academics have migrated to Europe, where universities have taken the opportunity to regain the preeminence they lost to the US during the 20th century.
Many of the best engineers and scientists in the US, many of whom are Asian anyway, have moved to Asia and to China in particular.
The only nations friendly to the new regime are the fundamentalist Islamic ones, such as Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq (which became fundamentalist shortly after US troops withdrew), and Israel (where orthodox fundamentalists have also completely overwhelmed the liberal secular democratic roots of the Jewish state).
Ironically, Iraq and Saudi Arabia were countries from whose quarters allegedly came the terrorist threat that led to the creation of the Homeland Security Department.
Our only hope today is for some kind of counter-revolution that will restore the US constitution, with its wise separation of church and state, and with its First Amendment protections that the religious fascists rescinded the moment they seized power.
A counter-revolution seems nearly impossible at the moment. The military is present everywhere, on guard for any whiff of resistance to the regime.
Fully armed soldiers patrol the streets and quickly break up any public gatherings not approved or orchestrated by officials of the Christian Family Values Council.
All males are conscripted into the military at age 17 (women have been expelled from military service) where they are indoctrinated to think along the lines of the Christian Family Values Council. They have daily prayers and sermons by thought leaders of the religious regime.
Television and radio now pump out Christian propaganda. Even what's left of Hollywood cooperates with the propaganda requirements of the Christian Family Values Council.
Only the internet is relatively free, although websites inside territorial US are strictly censored. The Homeland Security Department confiscates web servers at the slightest hint of anti-Christian sentiment. IP addresses blacklisted by the Christian Family Values Council intelligence apparatus of Homeland Security are blocked on internet trunklines running into or through the US.
The Christian Family Values Council has taken aggressive steps to purge American culture of anything that it deems to be "secular humanist". Obviously public schools are strictly managed by fundamentalist Christians at every level.
The professional class in America has been greatly affected, cowed into submission by Christianized thugs.
Corporations have been moving out of the US as quickly as is practical and allowable. Employees of those corporations still operating in the US hold mandatory morning and afternoon prayer sessions to appease the Christian Family Values Council apparatus.
The middle class is disappearing. Among the lower class, the face of abject starvation has appeared in the United States for the first time.
Meanwhile, global climate change has been causing serious disruption for this new Christian Republic of America, along with much of the world, with frequent floods and hurricanes. The interior of North America has become increasingly arid.
Christian fundamentalists interpret all those events to be signs of the imminent return of Jesus Christ. The United States is in the grip of apocalyptic panic and millenarian fever.
How could a constitutional coup have happened in the United States, whose government had been a model of stability in contrast to the paroxysms caused by fascism, Stalinism, Maoism, and other extremist political regimes during the 20th century?
The answer seems partly to be that the stability itself was a major cause. It gave rise to a politically stultified population that was easily overwhelmed by the focused determination of a relatively small group of zealots.
As with fascism and other rightist political movements, the Christian Family Values Council is backed by people who yearn for the "One Truth" in the face of an otherwise bewildering diversity of choice.
Many people in the United States had simply grown tired of freedom. They were uncomfortable with the ambiguity and the cacophony of voices that make up a healthy democracy.
The Christian fundamentalists offered simplicity. Even easier than offering it, they imposed it.
In a society that had grown fat and flaccid in a cocoon of hyper-consumerism, the raw energetic appeal of unconditional truth foisted by the Christian Family Values Council proved irresistible.
The Christian Family Values Council also benefited from having a ruggedly disciplined and charismatic leadership at a time when conventional politicians were largely opportunistic and insincere.
Here I send to you this letter from the future, from your future, or at least one of your possible futures.
If you've somehow come across this little message in a bottle, I hope it stirs you to make a difference in your time and place, so that my letter will someday seem quaint and silly to people living in a different, much better future than the bleak one I've written about here.
Michael Webb, September, 2005
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