You have gone back in time to the year 1950. You’re on a street corner in Fredrick, Maryland, a relatively small town, at the time, north of the Potomac, south of the Mason-Dixon, and about a twenty minute drive east from Antietam, the site of the bloodiest day in American history which, in 1950, had only happened about eighty-eight years before. The last veteran of that battle, James Hard, wouldn’t die for another three years. He’ll see his eleventy-first birthday before his expiration.
You find yourself talking about what’s to come with a middle-aged gentleman who happens to live in town. You’ve explained to him that you’re from seventy years in the future, from the year 2020. He doesn’t believe you at first, but after showing him some credit cards, a few quarters you happened to have, and your transition lenses, he warms up to you and admits that you’re a pretty eccentric fellow. As the conversation gets going, you ask him what he thinks the future is going to look like. Humble enough to admit that he hasn’t the foggiest idea, he gradually opens up and starts spouting wild fantasies.
“The future,” he says, “will have transatlantic flights that take only a couple hours to complete. Computers will run everything. Nuclear power will be ubiquitous. Trains will service most of our transportation and cargo needs. The Stars and Bars will be recognized around the world.”
What he probably can’t imagine in 1950 is that in less than twenty years, Stalin’s successor would change the relationship that existed between the US and the Soviet empire, communism would spread, and the world would be on the brink of nuclear war several times. On the other hand, commercial industrialization would result in an American lifestyle more luxurious than ever before, supersonic travel was right around the corner, and Americans would plant a flag on the moon before his kid would finish college.
You mention the Concorde and the crash that destroyed its chances. You mention Chernobyl and Three Mile Island. You briefly mention the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956, but since the guy likes trains so much, you don’t go into much detail. You don’t even try to explain the internet to him.
But you aren’t really here to talk to him about the future of 1969. You’re here to talk to him about the future that you come from: 2020.
In the future, you begin, two men will be able get married to each other. Not only could they get married to each other, but starting in the eighties, they’d have full blown celebratory parades glorifying themselves in most major cities. Corporations like Coca-Cola and IBM will stand in solidarity with the organizers of these events by draping their products and advertisements in rainbows. And if you thought that children shouldn’t be scandalized by the sight of men dressed in bondage gear—a term your friend from 1950 probably wouldn’t even understand in this context—you’d be called a bigot, risk losing your career, and possibly face hate speech lawsuits.
In the future, hormone blockers could be prescribed to kids in preparation for surgery that would destroy their genitalia, and while this will have been recognized as a mental illness, butchery was a commonly prescribed remedy for it. Serious efforts will be made (and won) to get men who call themselves women to dominate women’s sports, be allowed in women’s bathrooms and locker rooms, and to otherwise be a general nuisance. Like the gay pride stuff, if you point out that this seems like it could be a huge cause for child abuse, or just that this is a horrible manipulation of public trust, you’ll again be called a bigot, run the risk of losing your career and possibly face massive lawsuits.
“That sounds horrible,” he might reply. He’d probably show visible signs of disbelief, in part because such a future, despite your description, is still utterly beyond his imagination.
“It gets worse,” you console him.
In the future, every major city in the country will be majority black and/or Hispanic, and nearly a third of the country will be immigrants or children of immigrants from South and Central America. There will be elementary schools in states like Florida, California, and Texas where the primary language spoken in class is Spanish. The revolution to industrialized farming will be accompanied by a cheap labor demand so high that a new term will be invented for border jumpers who weren’t even supposed to be in the country. This will occur during a simultaneous period in which the white working class will evaporate and become addicted to opiates at such a scale that it would constitute a national emergency, if the government ever bothered to care.
In the future, trade agreements will allow massive, multinational businesses to ease their ability to run factories in third world countries in order to sell products in the United States. While this will lead to a manufacturing revolution that will make retail stores the norm—still something of a novelty to our gentleman from 1950—it will also exacerbate the emptying out of rural and quasi-rural communities because these stores will belligerently price-gouge small business on Main Street out of the market. But this will happen in the nineties, you explain, and by twenty-twenty, the year you’re from, these retail giants would be facing financial ruin due to internet behemoths. But you start to lose him trying to explain that one. “Basically, the same thing happens to them, but this time with sophisticated delivery services.”
“Sort of like the Sears catalogue?” he asks.
“Yeah, except you can actually find what you’re looking for, and they carry literally everything.”
In the future, you continue, there will be a number of economic downturns. In the seventies, the president will remove the last measure holding the dollar to a gold standard, thereby absolving the Treasury of its actual purpose and handing the reigns of monetary value over to the Federal Reserve. You skip over a lot of this because it’s hard to explain, but you’re able to get the point across. The economy becomes an engine driven by financial investment, and no one’s really sure how the money supply works. This means that the crashes get progressively worse but the damage incurred by them becomes increasingly targeted toward those who have savings, pensions, or retirement funds.
“Isn’t that almost everybody?” he asks. “Doesn’t everyone save their money?”
“Not in the future!” you happily reply.
In the future, a majority of American households will have less than a grand in their savings account. Before he can utter how that seems like a lot of money, you mention that a thousand dollars when you’re from is about the same as a hundred bucks in 1950. “Because of inflation?” he asks, taken aback.
“Yeah, more or less.”
In the future, desegregation of the South will mark an end to the unjust implementation of the Jim Crow laws. This will begin in the fifties, and it will culminate in a 1965 law, with others to follow. It will be hailed as a great triumph over America’s unspoken-of and deeply racist past, which our friend from 1950 responds to with a quizzical stare. The race riots will come afterward, you explain, rather than before, and they’ll be organized and led predominately by leftist radicals, some of whom have direct ties to Moscow.
In the future, racial tensions will last for generations after the passage of the civil rights reforms. Attributed to past racial injustices, programs favoring minorities will be implemented at almost every level of government, affecting financial relief, loan forgiveness, mortgage applications, banking availability, education, and university admissions, to name just a few. These programs, in addition to the welfare initiatives, will heavily favor blacks on paper, but will instead place them collectively at a disadvantage in the long run. Affirmative action programs will make them less competitive, as the standards will be lowered according to their race, and an ostensibly unintended consequence of welfare will result in a large population of broken families, rampant gang-related crime, unstable urban areas, and metropolitan regions that have no hope of recovery.
In the future, roughly half of the American public will be on some sort of prescription medication, and chances are it’ll be either for blood pressure or some sort of anti-psychotic. He doesn’t know what that is. Pharmaceuticals will come to dominate a large share of the American market, both in terms of research money and product. Less-scrupulous doctors will happily prescribe powerful and addictive pain medications to lower-income whites throughout rural regions of the United States, which, combined with the economic hollowing-out of middle America, will lead to the opioid crisis mentioned before. The single family most responsible for exacerbating this crisis will face plenty of lawsuits, but they will never see a day of jail and will remain one of the wealthiest families in American history. In the mean time, and partially as a result, heroin, a drug our ‘50s gentleman may not have even heard of yet, will be so mainstream that it can be found in the bathrooms of upper-crust Connecticut high schools.
In the future, American forces will occupy the richest poppy seed farms in the world in order to secure a source for the opioid trade, and they’ll be there for twenty years under the auspices of a war intended to liberate the Middle East. In practice, our forces, bases, and technology over there will only serve as a buffer security force for Israel, and the twenty-year-long occupational war will be little more than a sinkhole of lives, funds, and misery for Americans. We’ll have almost nothing positive to show for it.
“But this is probably the worst part,” you preface:
In the future, abortion will be legalized by judicial fiat, and starting in 1973, for every three or four children born, there’s one missing who will have been aborted. This practice will continue well through the 2020s, and after fifty years of the practice, more than sixty million American children—most of whom will have likely been barely into their first trimester—will be dead, and millions of women will have been brainwashed to believe that the practice is a staple of their women’s rights movement.
“Women’s rights?” he asks, “like voting? What?” You sympathize with his incredulity.
“Yeah, like voting.”
“Is there any good news?”
“Well,” you say, thinking for a moment, “the Fender Stratocaster will be invented in a couple years,” you mutter to yourself, “and that’ll usher in a new age of popular music that you might enjoy for a while.”
“But let me guess…”
“Yeah, it all gets co-opted by revolutionaries and occultists who just end up singing about drugs and perversion for twenty years, before the whole industry shifts gears to this stuff called hip hop. You probably don’t want to know.”
“But what about books? Movies? Sports?” He asks. “Is there anything to look forward to?”
You think for a moment and remember something actually good. “Yeah, Lord of the Rings will be published in the middle of this decade,” you reply. “Although it’s partly responsible for an entirely new genre of pulp fiction that gives rise to a class of people we call nerds. There’s a lot of bad stuff that goes on with them, but Tolkien can’t be blamed for any of that.”
In the future, you continue offhand, these nerds, as a class, will also end up being some of the most powerful people in the country due to the technological revolution coming at the end of the century. The most powerful billionaires in the world, by 2015, will also all be nerds.
Oh, and in the future, you add, the media will be a hundred times as powerful as it is today, and almost singularly monolithic, and it will craft stories and narratives with the specific intent to make us all believe the opposite of reality. They’ll convince the entire country to stay home for three months due to a virus only slightly more virulent than the seasonal cold. They’ll have half the country demanding the impeachment of a sitting president over unsubstantiated rumors. They’ll shame and humiliate targets at their leisure, which isn’t that uncommon for media at any age, but they’ll do it with impunity and, for some reason, most of the country goes along with it. You consider mentioning Pravda, but you realize that he probably doesn’t know what that is yet.
“Did we lose a war? Who occupied us? Americans wouldn’t do this to themselves!” He clearly doesn’t believe a word you’ve said, and you can’t blame him. You sort of wish, secretly, that you could trade places with the guy, but you know that wouldn’t solve anything. “We won two world wars, built a nuclear bomb, rebuilt Europe and Japan!”
“We’re going to go to the moon, too,” you mention, hoping to lift his spirits. “But after a couple trips, we don’t go back.” Noticing him deflate, you also add, “We’re going to defeat the Soviet Union in forty years, too.”
He waits for you to continue.
“It completely destabilizes the world, Russia gets pillaged by foreign oligarchs, and for about a decade or so the country is run by the mafia. Their nukes and weaponry end up all over the planet.”
“How does this happen?”
You ask him where the nearest bar is. As the two of you start walking to his truck, you begin: “Let me tell you about the—”