The GOP’s Dystopian Dream of America’s Future

Photo by Hrafnkell Haraldsson

What are we
making weapons for
Why keep on feeding the war machine
We take it right

out of the mouths of our babies
Take it away from the hands of the

Tell me, what are we making weapons for

-          John Denver, Let Us Begin (What Are We Making Weapons For?)

Dystopian fiction is, and this is perhaps no surprise given the times we live in, increasingly popular. Witness series of young adult fiction like The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, the Divergent series by Veronica Roth, or another one I recently read, Blood Red Road by Moira Young, which posits a future where lakes have dried up and vast tracks of America have turned into a desert. You might remember I, Robot, starring Will Smith (2004), set in 2035, where the scariest things aren’t robots but the dried up bed of Lake Michigan.

Oxford Dictionaries tells us that dystopia is “an imagined place or state in which everything is unpleasant or bad, typically a totalitarian or environmentally degraded one. The opposite of Utopia.” defines dystopian “society characterized by human misery, as squalor, oppression, disease, and overcrowding.” It can have any of these elements, and it can even have the opposite of overcrowding, as in the world no longer supports large populations. And you don’t have to have overcrowding to have squalor and oppression and disease.

Wikipedia helpfully points out that dystopia can also be a “repressive and controlled state.”

Unpleasant is the universal keyword. Dystopia means, after all, “bad place” (dys=bad, topos=place).

It’s as well that young people like dystopian fiction because the way things are headed politically and environmentally (we might add, with a nod to Captain Jack Sparrow, ecumenically), it’s probably going to be their future. Today’s Dystopian fantasy will become survival guides for our children.

Republicans, of course, call their vision, their quest to return to an oppressive and brutal past, Utopia. Similarly, the Nazis called their dreams of a Thousand Year Reich, Utopia. But one man’s heaven is another man’s hell.

I would argue here that for every generation after writing of the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution, going back to a time before, a time our Founding Fathers were happy to be rid of, is not Utopia – it is Dystopia.

Add to the oppression of religious based bigotry the drilling of anything and everything, from Lake Michigan to mountain tops to the Grand Canyon and you can see America not moving forward but backward – it’s stealing our future.

Most people, I think, would not hold out the Inquisition, crusades, holy wars, burning people alive for not sharing your religious beliefs, as exemplars of Utopia, which entered our language with Sir Thomas More’s Utopia (1516), meaning “an imagined place or state of things in which everything is perfect.”

Of course, for most people (if not Catholic bishops and a Nazi-generation Pope), More’s Catholic fantasy would be not Utopia, but Dystopia. On the other hand, who knows more about bad places than a guy condemned for treason and beheaded? Most would agree that the Tower of London meets the criteria of Dystopia.

So, by the way, does Kabul under the rule of the Taliban.

Republicans like to talk about stealing our future when it comes to taxes and the deficit – that’s their big argument – that we’re stealing the future of our children by creating this huge deficit. But our children are going to need more than a solvent government. They are going to need a solvent Earth, an Earth the GOP refuses to provide.

They want it all now. No alternative energy sources until we’ve mined our planet to its core and left desolation in our wake.

If we rape the Earth of all it has now, what is left for later?

Nothing. No water, no air. And no hope.

We need to do better than that. To say we need a new decision-making paradigm is to understate the case. Environmentally, we’ve already tipped the scales. It will take centuries to recover from the damage we’ve already done, say scientists. And that’s if we stopped today.

Which is not going to happen as long as there is a breathing Republican in Congress.

We will likely not have to worry about zombie apocalypses and robots running amok (however, see this) any time soon but the truth and consequences of existing technology and its misuse is far more terrifying.

Why should a debt scare us compared to an uninhabitable planet? Aren’t mountains without tops more frightening than an IUD? How can fracking be less terrifying than a food stamp? What good is money then? You can’t buy clean air or water once it’s all been polluted by mining. And it isn’t as if Republicans are actually all that interested in the deficit, since they are historically the ones who do all the spending.

Add to their disastrous environmental policies ruinous levels of defense spending and a penchant for starting wars and looking for the next one before the previous one is finished, and you have a recipe for disaster. The Washington Post reported in May that the Republicans, despite the wish of voters in both parties to cut defense spending, are determined to increase it, including the spending of $1 billion of our tax dollars “for Israeli anti-missile defense systems.”

Based on theStockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) Yearbook 2011

How does adding a total of $3.7 billion to an already bloated defense budget (we’re spending six times as much as China, which is second on the list), going to reduce the deficit and save our children from our reckless spending habits?

We as a country, Moody’s tells us devote “20% of total annual domestic outlays (and more than half of discretionary expenditures)” and we need to increase this despite ending wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and beginning no new ones.


Can’t we spend at least some of that on the environment? On making sure people have enough to eat, have clean water, medicine, and access to medical care? That we can, I don’t know, cross a river without falling into it with the bridge under our wheels?

Apparently not. Reuters told us in February that even modest cuts put America at risk:

“By any objective assessment, the worldwide threats to our nation, our interests and our ideals are not diminishing.”

“And yet the defense budget before us would reduce the size of our force,” said McCain, Obama’s Republican opponent in the 2008 presidential election.

The logic here is troubling. Either the United States wasn’t spending enough while fighting two wars (because common sense tells us ending wars ought to save money and therefore reduce spending) or John McCain has a new and bigger war in mind that will overshadow Iraq and Afghanistan combined. McCain says he is being objective; perhaps he should try being specific.

It is time Americans started to think about consequences in a more organic and holistic manner.  Everything is related; what we spend our money on reflects our nation’s values and pretending that one thing does not impact another represents a level of naïveté we cannot afford in an era when sustainability has become the most important word in the English language.

To paraphrase what Dennis said here last night, to save America from the GOP’s Dystopian dream, Democrats must vote.

Global Military Expenditures image from HuffPo

17 Replies to “The GOP’s Dystopian Dream of America’s Future”

  1. My sister has for many years had dreams about going out and seeing the bed of Lake Michigan dry and cracked as your photo. I, whose fate was to live in Florida, have had different ones from childhood: sometimes green tsunamis coming in from the sea; sometimes waters quietly rising and the causeways flooded. We are now old, yet we may both live to see it. We have no children who will, yet I am devoutly sorry for those who come after.

    Venus, closer to the sun, was yet once Earth-like. Something raised her carbon dioxide levels; her oceans boiled away, her hydrogen and oxygen escaped into space, and she is an eternal hell-hole now. I almost think that the current Republicans house the souls that somehow escaped the planet they ruined, and they are literally Hell-bent on ruining another. Think about it.

  2. If “we” don’t stop the GOP and their rapist-raider friends, the rest of the world will…eventually, the rest of the world will gang up on us, poke obese “real” Uh’merikans in the gut and put us on a permanent diet…but, not till after they beat us up and make sure the resources are secured under their banners. Unfortunately, “we” will get what we deserve as that is “reality”…

    Bejebus isn’t going to save anybody or come down and make the lakes stop drying up…the faster “we” slap the GOP in the face real hard (and don’t blink) the sooner the rest of the world will put on the brakes…right now, the elephant in the room is going to have to parish or “we” get squashed, one way or the other…

  3. My sister told me this morning that, no, she used to dream about the Chicago River being like that, but for that to happen, Lake Michigan itself would have to be at a lowstand we’ve never seen. There would be dry land very far out from the shore, perhaps narrowing the lake enough to be seen across in places (i.e., about the width of Lake Winnebago)

  4. Last night, on HBO, there was this Documentary called “Birders”. It was about those people who watch birds, and the location for this bird watching was in Central Park in NYC. Wonderful program with lots of pretty birds to see, but, there was a very disturbing piece of information that was also told in this Documentary. There has been a very steep decline in the number of birds seen.
    In December, there is a census taken of the bird population of Central Park. It has been going on for over 100 years so they know what they are doing, and what they have found is that there has been a very steep decline in the number of birds counted for the past several years. This is a formal study, but the informal study is what is really frightening.
    There were a group of “Birders”, guys who have been watching birds in Central Park for years and all of them said that they have seen a steep decline in the amount of birds over the past 5 years since they have been watching birds. Most of these guys have been doing this in Central Park for 20 plus years.
    Our planet is getting sicker and it will eventually run out of resources to support humans, and the reality of dystopia will be upon all of us. This is not something that is going to happen in the future, it is happening NOW, TODAY, right in front of all our eyes.
    Fracking is destroying our water aquifers, carbon emissions are destroying our air and affecting our weather (heat wave anyone?? Where was this past winter?? Where did it go??). Our food supply is being destroyed because there is no rain…I could go on, but the human race is destroying this planet every minuet we continue to rape it for more energy.
    It’s not “a matter of time”, it IS time!!!
    I have always marveled at the way this planet seems to be reshaped every few million years. The last big upheaval earth had was when the dinosaurs died because of a catastrophic celestial event. This time around, it’s going to be a human event. We will destroy ourselves and our oceans and land. The earth will die, then it will “cook” for a few MILLION years, and something else will happen, a new life form will take place.
    The steep decline of our bird population is a message that no one seems to be paying much attention too these days. There are countless other messages and signals being sent to us to let us know we are messing with our home. If we don’t pay attention NOW, we won’t have a home, and it will happen in my life time, and I am over 60 years old, but I may witness the absolute destruction of our planet before I pass over. That’s a hell of a legacy to leave my children and look forward too.

  5. The scientists also say THERE IS NO HOPE.

    That’s what the top person connected with “Global Warming” said to me… personally. The solutions I’ve heard are just as hellish to me as the problem. I was told we all needed to ride bikes. Another suggestion – ban vacations. No air conditioning (try living in this God Damned hellhole without AC… it’s NOT POSSIBLE). I’ve heard some of the most terrifying things coming from the very people who yell the loudest about “the problem”.

    I can’t ride a bike. Medical conditions – and no, exercise won’t “fix” me. I also would be unemployable and unemployed, because there is nothing within reasonable “bike” range of our home… and we can’t afford to move. My body, because of those same medical conditions, cannot acclimate to heat and humidity (and it’s not fun having your clothes mildew in the closets anyway).

    The GodDAMNED “Good Christians” stole 25 years of my life and only now am I dreaming of a future… of having a career. The “Global Warming” crowd want to come along and take that away from me, just as the GODDAMNED “Good Christians” insist they have the right to do so.

    I don’t see much difference. Hey, I need some HOPE. Enough of the Damned bad news.

    Come up with some solutions that won’t hurt the poor… like US. Harping on the problem is starting to drive people away – like me.

  6. Hoop, hold it there. I’ve lived in hellhole for most of my life, so here goes.

    Before the mid-Seventies, most houses did not have central air. They had, at most, one or two room units. Courthouses actually used to close in August for all but the most pressing cases. So:

    Do as we did. On days when you must stay home, use one of those new, small, high-efficiency AC units in the room you work or study in. Use blackouts in the room to keep the heat out. If you own a home and can afford it, mount one of those jalousy fans in the center of the house. I have seen one render a 100° day quite habitable.

    As nearly as possible, wear only cotton or wicking nylon. Polyester will kill you.

    Plan your itinerary so you can get as much done per trip as possible. Plan your day so as much of midafternoon to night is either working in air conditioning or resting.

    People have temperature spots on their bodies. For many, it’s the solar plexus. For me, it’s between the shoulder blades. Applying a half-frozen towel or an ice pack there will cool you immediately.

    Drink liquids, of course. But if you’re not holding them and feel thirsty all the time, eat something slightly salty.

    More later, but this helps. Good luck!

  7. Are you saying Democrats don’t share the responsibility?

    Republicans this, Republicans that. Democrats are just as guilty.

  8. I found what worked best for me during our recent outage was an ice pack at the back of my skull, which limited what I could do while I cooled off but then, I couldn’t do much anyway at that temperature. I was wiped out.

  9. Democrats are not without guilt, but no they are not “just” as guilty. This “both parties do it” crap is just that – crap.

    Remember who is selling Global Warming as a “liberal plot” – it ain’t liberals.

  10. All already done – otherwise we wouldn’t be here (alive). The problem is, the “Global Warming” people (the ones who push it locally) don’t want ANY A/C, and insist on things like banning cars and only using bikes. I was able to explain to one of them that their “heaven” was my hell, and why – and he now realizes that his Utopian ideas were less than appropriate for others, especially the poor. People think in terms of their own lives but do not consider how their ideas impact others… a fact well known to environmental anthropology but lost to many others.

    Part of the problem is that I keep encountering evidence that goes against the “Global Warming” theories… or at least the man-caused part of it. Another part is that it used to be that one could enjoy nature shows without being nagged about it… watching Nature shows USED to be one of the things I did to try to escape reality for a while, but I haven’t been able to watch a single one in a long time… ALL nag and rant about the subject.

    I’d also like to hear about what people are doing to help… and successes. In the last 20 years, I’ve seen one – ONE such show, and it was short. People are just too addicted to bad news and nagging others. People such as myself don’t need to be told any more about it and pushing the issue will only drive us away.

    In fact, I’ve heard of things that could help… breakthroughs in solar panel design, etc.. As soon as they come out you’ll hear screams against them… because people have these Utopian (dystopian to me and the poor) ideas about how to solve the problem and they don’t want anything that COULD – except their vision. Their vision that would be nice to them (someone who loves to ride bikes, for instance and lives within a few miles of their job), but hell for anyone else.

    Climate change… that’s a given. Human-caused, still not universally accepted (by scientists, I don’t give a damn what the “Good Christians” think). Yeah, we have an impact on climate and things need to be done, but the thing is, everything I keep encountering is bad news. For someone whose life is almost constant bad news (survival is a struggle is an understatement), you get sick and tired of the death, doom and destruction. In fact, I commented to my other half this morning how the “Global Warming” sounded so much like “Last Days”, especially in the way it took away hope.

  11. The fact is, the more I learn, the more I realize that Republicans… and their “Good Christian” supporters, are probably to blame for EVERYTHING that harms others. Maybe that wasn’t true in years past, but in the last three or four decades it’s pretty much held true.

    Greed is the cause of misery (You’ve heard or read “The love of money is the root of all evil?), and Greed is the essence of the (recent) Republican party. I can also argue that greed has been the essence of it for generations.

  12. Sounds like you’re in Cranktown, stuck between two grous of fanatics.

    Without going there overmuch (am in law library) we are surely adding to the problem, and any measures (such as you and I have taken) are better than none. Also, to either paint the roof white, off-white, silver, or pale green, and/ or plant a roof vine. Patio and driveway pavement should be light.

    In summertime, cold showers are both cooling and energy-saving. A graywater rain barrel is good for those who garden; I’m planning to put one in.

    In India during the Raj days, tattis- rush or bamboo screens- used to be hung over the sun-exposed windows and wetted. They had to be changed often because of mildew, but I’m told they were wonderfully cooling.

    Of course, bicycles are good for those who can use them, but locally, a lot of people use golf carts for short jaunts. Gas or electric, they use a lot less fuel than a car, do not stress the body, and even carry a passenger or two and light loads.

  13. There is something called a “Florida Air Conditioner”. There are several designs I have seen. It has been a couple of years, but it goes something like this. If you dig down about a foot into the earth, the temperature is a consistent 55 degrees F. (I am not exactly sure of the depth, but 12 inches is good for this example).
    So, the idea is to build a big enough hole and fill it with lava rocks (they have this uncanny ability to absorb heat or cold, but you could use bricks, the idea is to have a mass that is at 55 degrees that air flows over) and to use some sort of fan or blower to create a current which flows over these rocks. The current is then fed back into the house, and the temperature should be about 55 degrees. (This is a rather simplified example, but you get the idea).
    There are all sorts of designs on this that I researched about 20 years ago but I found a house in Colorado that used the air to heat the house. The reasoning behind it was that heating air that is 55 degrees up to, say, 72 degrees, requires a lot less energy then raising the outside temperature of -20 degrees below 0 to 72 degrees. A 17 degree raise instead of a 92 degree raise.
    I don’t have a solution to the transportation problem(YET) but I am sure there are solutions out there, depending on the distance you have to travel.
    I could go on, but solutions should have been designed after the 70’s gas crunch, but big oil and auto industry lobbyists were able to halt any real innovation then, and it continues today, only today we are seeing the catastrophic results of all that greed.
    Just some solutions to your very uncomfortable dilemma.(I do not, in anyway, want to minimize your health issues, they sound very serious, just trying to suggest solutions).

  14. I’ve got quite a few ideas that I’ve thought up, but they all take money to get or build… and right now, as the joke goes, I can’t even pay attention!

    Such as a solar powered air conditioner (do-able, although not very efficient). I’ve thought about putting in a whole series of shallow wells and pumping water from one area to another – using the ground as a giant heat sink (maybe even with the heat pump). Since it’s mostly sand here, it should work. That’d take a heat pump… but I know a fair amount about Sterling engines/pumps.

    Some of the things I actually started looking into (but put on hold because of lack of $$$), but when those bastard “Good Christians” torched my workshop… all of the parts and information I’d collected for experimenting went up in flames (along with the other ideas I’d been working on).

  15. I agree on the bee and bird issue. There has been 2 or more reported cases in this state where several hundreds or thousands literally fall dead while in flight, one such incident was observed by students I think in paducah. Then the fish in the Arkansas river and out on the west coast. If these occurences happened in the past, I have not heard of them, however I would like to have more information, especially on the bee situation, as they pollinate a lot of our food crops.

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