Tuesdays are the days I showcase my own work on this blog. I have a new book, The Plain Of Bitter Honey, being released in June, and I thought I would give a little taste of it. Below is the Forward to that story.
At the dawn of the twenty-first century A.D. the United States of America lay dying.
Death permeated the stagnant air: never more visible than when Christian families painfully pretended to keep alive their faith—as though by rouging the face of a corpse they could somehow bring it back to life. The frequent visits to sterile churches, the heart-felt Amen to sermons on the Christian channel, the loud chants of brotherly love and family values and freedom—above all, freedom—had all become purely decorative, a senile grimace before a cracked mirror.
A malignant stench hung in the air, even though the throngs at Dodger Stadium, Madison Square Garden, and the Super Bowl still roared with pleasure.
The specters people witnessed, from the comfort of their cozy living rooms, in Iraq, the Sudan, and Burma became projections of their own tortured souls. But the vast majority of Americans, souls already dead, saw nothing, and had no premonition of the changes already in play.
The fall of the World Trade Towers at the beginning of the century brought a sharp change in the political climate. Politicians still boasted of the country’s military might, the benefits of technology, and increased corporate wealth. CNN still claimed the country was the land of freedom, but outsiders asserted that the U.S. was dying of iniquity, pride and vanity. The people were more concerned with Hollywood’s latest scandal than how many people were being killed in order to keep the nation’s troughs full. But a predatory economy can only flourish for so long. Wars bled the country into feebleness and debt while parasitism ran rampant, eating into the country's vitals. The blinded eagle could neither seize new prey nor remove the maggots feasting in its own flesh.
Countries once allies turned hostile. The very people who profited most from the crumbling culture were also the first to escape. The rich gathered their wealth around them like cloaks and fled to other countries. The middle class, who had once made America great, now overburdened by their debts from wars, the astronomical cost of raw materials, the need for Hummers in every garage and flat-screen TVs in every room, defaulted to their creditors, causing a collapse of the world banking system. Desperate people on the fringe became homeless, forming lawless bands of marauders roaming the countryside, seizing what they needed to survive. Inside the cities alcoholism and drug addiction became the norm while outside it was every man for himself. Farmlands went fallow, the cost of food skyrocketed, and the rate of obesity actually fell for the first time in America’s history.
Those who could afford to flee the country did, so in 2035 when Congress sought to outlaw further exodus, they were talking to empty air.
Public works were visible in the colossal municipal buildings, empty shopping malls, and power plants. Large-scale expenditures for new Christian cathedrals, sports arenas, military spying technology, and monuments to the fallen heroes of war were widespread. These projects were paid for by budget cutbacks in infrastructure maintenance, which hastened decay, and the country began to crumble.
In the face of steady deterioration, the remaining population’s belief in the opiates of “the American way of life” and “a benevolent God who loves and protects us” remained unchanged. They were convinced there would always be a United States of America, that technology and Christian ideals would keep them at the pinnacle of human culture.
So they thought until one man came wandering out of the wilderness, wielding words and ideas rather than guns, to lead them toward a true salvation.