At 127 years of age, Stewart Adler, the last living citizen of the former United States of America, is invited to his hometown university to speak about his once-great nation's fall into a state of complete and total societal and economic collapse. But more interestingly he describes its transformation back into a new and very different country.
A 12,000 word short story from THIS SIDE OF CENTER.
Excerpted from THE PROMISED LAND, Stewart Adler addresses a question from an audience member about the federal government leading up to the fall of the United States:
"The United States’ system of government at that time - the time of The Awareness - was best described by some now-forgotten journalist in a now-forgotten article from a now-forgotten, and most likely defunct, newspaper or Internet blog - as a cesspool.
The metaphor went something like this: The system of government was a cesspool in which the politicians in Washington lived, swam, frolicked and excreted. The voters, who still believed that their vote actually meant nothing more than just a majority/minority statistic, a blue/red map, kept on voting, thereby keeping the pool filled. And every four years they threw in a life preserver-their vote, their only token symbol of power- to keep those swimmers afloat.
The point to the whole scenario was that it didn’t matter who caught the life preserver because they all came back to the surface eventually, holding onto one another’s float, in the same cesspool over and over and over again. It was a trade-off. A game with one rule: Don’t question anything. Just vote. Keep us afloat.
The moralistic conclusion was that the pool needed to be drained, cleaned, repaired and then filled back up again with clean water that kept circulating, changing in temperature and Ph levels, adapting to the conditions of the climate in which it was located. And more importantly, this hypothetical time, the pool was open to the public and was not populated by the legalistic elite and well-funded.
The country was founded by families who braved the wilderness and fought hardships that few today or at any time could ever imagine. Initially, adversity is what kept families together; fighting and struggling side-by-side brought a unique closeness and common sets of values. Eventually, political and social differences and technological and transportation development broke them apart. Economic hardships, forcing all adult members of the family to have jobs, had tended to split families apart.
Social media hive minds replaced individuality and even acted as a higher power creating a sort of cyber-theocracy, where people who once internalized personal plight through family circles, now threw it out to the collective, garnering the attention they lacked and opinions they sorted through, finding the best solution to their problem, a solution that was shared repeatedly based on success, and became a common and oft-used dictum method of coping-psychotherapy for the individual by an amateur committee of millions. The avatar had spoken. The pack had heard and obeyed unquestionably. Real leadership ignored or contested, as needed and required. Like minds sharing like ideas and liking it.
All was good - for awhile."