Friday, July 4, 2008

TWILIGHT'S LAST GLEAMING: A History of the Future (short version)

[The following is the short version of my book-length fictional future history, Twilight's Last Gleaming . I made a few changes as I expanded it into a novel length work, and so have made revisions in this short version to bring it in line with the full-length chronicle. Copyright© 2006, 2008 by Charles Hoffman]

As America prepared to celebrate its 300th birthday in 2076, the greatest external threat facing the United States was the Islamic Federation of Europe. The Islamic Federation of Europe had existed as a formal political entity for only a few decades, but its roots went back much further. At the dawn of the 21st Century, sizable Muslim minorities already existed in such European nations as France, Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands. As the indigenous populations dwindled, the Muslim population expanded, both through considerably higher birth rates and additional unchecked immigration. Muslims also made remarkable inroads into Spain --formerly ruled by the Moors-- and Sweden, socially experimental as always and open to social engineering schemes.

Able to vote and hold office in their adopted countries, European Muslims began to sway elections and determine government policy. Achieving greater and greater prominence in all areas of public life, Islam also succeeded in winning many converts among the younger generations of indigenous Europeans. By 2060, the only countries in Western Europe to remain outside the Islamic Federation were the United Kingdom, Ireland, Italy, and parts of Scandinavia. The Islamic Federation of Europe had grown vine-like upon the framework of the old European Union, inheriting an efficient bureaucracy already in place and gradually consolidating power within a stronger central authority than had previously existed. More ominously as far as the western hemisphere was concerned, the IFE also inherited the formidable arsenals of both the former NATO powers and the Warsaw Pact nations.

In the meantime, Islam was roaring its power in its ancient homeland as well. Representative democratic government, which had been successfully transplanted to regions formerly ruled by shoguns, Kaisers and czars, failed to take root in the sands of the Middle East. It had gained a tenuous foothold in places like Afghanistan and Iraq due solely to considerable exertions and patience on the part of the US and its allies, but within a few decades these nations reverted to Islamic theocracy. At first the frameworks of representative government were kept in place, so as to lull the West into complacency and forestall further intervention. However, religious control of those regions returned in swift increments. Elected officials all-too-soon became figureheads placed in power to rubber-stamp the decrees of religious authorities.

The Islamic nations of the Middle East formed a powerful coalition with Iran at its center. Interfaith squabbles between Sunni and Shiite factions in the Mid East gradually ceased to be a significant problem due to the cool guidance of the religious and secular authorities of the Islamic Federation of Europe, who soberly arbitrated disputes and fostered cooperation throughout the region. Mid-East oil now flowed freely to Europe, fueling a robust European economy and enriching the nations of the IFE.

In the second half of the 21st Century, Islam dominated the Eastern Hemisphere. At this time all of Africa, with the exception of South Africa, was Muslim. The continent as a whole, however, remained impoverished and of marginal importance. Islam also made remarkable inroads in areas of the Far East where it had not hitherto flourished, in India, and also in North America. In the northeastern United States, African-Americans converted to Islam in great numbers, as did many whites.

In the US, both officialdom and average citizens viewed the growing power of Islam throughout the Eastern Hemisphere with alarm. Unfortunately, the United States had failed to break its dependence on Mid East oil. Sizeable petroleum reserves in Alaska and off the coast remained untapped due to ecological concerns. Alternative energy sources never got off the ground due to the shortsightedness of business leaders in the private sector. The price of crude oil continued to skyrocket, touching off a series of recessions, panics, and depressions that plagued America throughout the first half of the 21st Century. Widespread unemployment and poverty tore at the social fabric. Yet while the man in the street wept in helpless fury, government found that its hands were tied. Europe and the Mid East held all the aces, and impotent saber rattling was never even considered.

One political measure the US did undertake in reaction to Islamic hegemony was to strengthen ties with Catholic Latin America. This entailed pursuing amicable relations with the growing powerhouse that was Mexico.

Mexico had grown prosperous in part by adapting an alternative energy plan pioneered by Brazil. Brazil’s primary alternative fuel was ethanol, made from sugar cane. By 2005, seventy-five percent of Brazilian cars were running on flex-fuel, accepting gasoline, ethanol, or a blend of both. Early attempts by Mexico to manufacture ethanol from corn resulted in food shortages. However, Mexico achieved greater success with ethanol derived from sugar imported from Cuba. The economies of both nations benefited as a result. Unprecedented prosperity enabled Mexico to beef up militarily. Mexico’s chief supplier of arms was China, who had since the early 21st Century been expanding its military assistance to Latin America. In this, China was only filling a vacuum left by the United States, the former arms supplier to the region. The US insisted that client nations conform to restrictions in regard to human rights, ecological, and other concerns as a condition for military assistance. China made no such demands.

In addition to growing power and prosperity, Mexico also gained in international prestige. Italy, isolated from Muslim Europe, was desperate for support from Catholic Latin America. In due course, the first Mexican pope was elected.

In regards to relations with Mexico, US policy was also heavily influenced by an ever-increasing Hispanic population within its own borders. Since the 1970s and earlier, illegal aliens from Mexico had been swarming unchecked across the border in increasingly massive droves. Security at the border was scandalously lax. Border Patrol agents found themselves spread thin and hamstrung by government officials who steadfastly ignored the problem until it was too late.

By the year 2000, the population of these “illegal immigrants” had swelled to between ten and twenty million, according to various estimates. The majority of those who crossed the border illegally were ordinary people who were just seeking a better life. Even so, they placed a tremendous burden on education and social services designed for US citizens.

In California taxes soared, driving businesses and longtime residents to relocate northward and eastward. By 2025, the entertainment industry formerly centered in Hollywood and environs had been completely transplanted to Vancouver. The economy of Southern California was dealt a crippling blow from which it never fully recovered.

The other Southwestern border states also experienced difficulties due to the strain placed on government services. Still the flood of illegal aliens continued unabated. A series of amnesty programs, under various guises, served to entice more and more Mexicans to illegally enter the United States. As Mexican and other Latin American immigrants gained legal status, they came to wield increasingly greater political clout.

The Hispanic population of the United States was largely Mexican, though not exclusively so. An expanding segment of the population of southern Florida was Cuban. Many of their number arrived as refugees from the oppressive regime of Fidel Castro. The Castro regime had at the outset been abetted by the now-vanished Soviet Union. With the death of Fidel Castro, Cuba turned away from communism. Long-established sanctions against Cuba were lifted as a more progressive government was established there. Even so, few of the Cubans who had been residing in Florida for so long returned to their native soil.

Birth rates were also an important factor in the Hispanic population boom. The children of illegal aliens born on American soil were automatically deemed US citizens. The Catholic Church frowned on any sort of birth control, let alone abortion. Hispanic children benefited from the support of large extended families. Meanwhile, birthrates among Anglo-Americans plummeted. Disenfranchised and facing an uncertain future, many men in “rustbelt” areas and elsewhere were reluctant to start families. During the so-called “baby bust,” birthrates among Anglos fell to below replacement levels. Anglos in the Southwest became a minority.

A huge percentage of the illegal immigrants failed to assimilate and were, in fact, discouraged from doing so by political leaders that arose in the Mexican-American community. Mexican culture was lauded over American culture. The MEChA movement was active on all University of California campuses and at many other colleges and universities throughout the Southwest --indeed, throughout the United States. The ultimate goal of MEChA was the restoration to Mexico of all territory that had been part of it prior to 1846. The Mexican War of 1846-48 was seen as a blatant land-grab by the US. Activists ignored, or dismissed as irrelevant, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo signed on February 2, 1848, in which Mexico had been compensated $15 million for its vast, sparsely settled hinterlands. Also ignored was the fact that Mexico had never truly held sway over Arizona and West Texas; in the 1840s these were still the domain of the fierce Apache and Comanche.

In any event, a separate culture took shape in the western United States during the early decades of the 21st Century. It was a Hispanic culture that revered both the Spanish culture of Old Mexico and, paradoxically, the Aztec and Mayan civilizations that it supplanted. The Hispanic culture of the West was as different from the Anglo-American culture of the East as the antebellum South had been from that of the industrial North prior to the Civil War of 1861-65. Hispanics came to be regularly elected governor of western states. Representatives and senators from the West were also increasingly Hispanic as time went on. When they went to Washington, many of these staunchly advocated Mexican national interests as well as those of Hispanic Americans. The last Anglo governor of California left office in the late 2020s. In 2046, the MEChA flag was raised at the state house in Sacramento, and at several other western state capitals as well. It was an ironic --and to some ominous-- development that was duly noted at the time.

In the portions of the United States where Anglo-Americans still predominated, there was an upsurge in religious fervor among Christians. This was true among Protestants and Catholics alike. Denominational differences were set aside in the name of Christian solidarity, although fundamentalists in both camps began to eclipse more moderate factions. Commentators deemed the phenomenon an inevitable historic reaction to the worldwide rise of Islam. The philosophy, history, traditions, and art of Christianity was embraced and celebrated. The downside of this trend, however, was a growing fundamentalist stranglehold on various topics of discourse, with a consequent chilling effect on dissenting points of view. Both fine and popular art assumed a uniform blandness. Certain avenues of scientific inquiry and research were abandoned, causing America to lag behind in the sciences. Yet despite these drawbacks, the renewed prominence of
Christianity in public life often gained the support of even those with no strong religious beliefs. Many such persons viewed it as a matter of pragmatism, a robust Christianity was seen as a necessary counterbalance to Islam. “It takes a faith to fight a faith” was a frequently heard maxim.

However, Islam was alive and well in America. Nowhere did this make for more bitter controversy than in the African-American community. Black Americans in the southern states remained the staunchest of Christians, while inner city blacks in the Northeast and Midwest were increasingly drawn to Islam. White American Muslims also became more common in these areas, joining with the Black Muslims and those of actual Mid-Eastern origin or descent. Muslims from other parts of the nation relocated en masse to the Northeast and Midwest, further swelling the Islamic populations there. They were able to swing elections and influence public policy. One result was a weakening of the nation’s defensive and intelligence capabilities.

Inevitably, the more radical Islamic factions also made their presence felt. Suicide bombings occurred with mounting frequency in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Detroit and Chicago. These were followed by anthrax outbreaks in several cities, as well as a nerve gas attack in the New York subway that killed over 700 people. Other atrocities ensued. The end result of this activity was a “white flight” from these urban centers so massive that it was referred to at the time as a “rout.” Businesses and the middle class fled like rats from a doomed ship. The municipal tax bases were eroded, setting the stage for urban decay on a scale never before seen in America.

In the meantime, the Southwest was making a modest comeback, after a fashion. Traffic had been flowing freely back and forth across the Mexican border for some time. The southwestern US and northern Mexico were evolving together into a semi-autonomous region --at least as far as the US was concerned. In 2060, a Congress in large part Hispanic overrode a presidential veto to declare the border officially open, citing “commerce” as a rationale. Previously, Spanish had been declared an official language of the United States.

And so it came to pass that the American Tercentennial of 2076 was celebrated, where celebrated at all, in a lackluster half-hearted fashion. Some wag wryly noted that this in itself was something of a tradition. The Centennial celebration of 1876 had been marred by bitter memories of the Civil War that ended little more than a decade earlier, and the Bicentennial of 1976 had been observed amid the malaise that followed the disastrous Vietnam War and a major political scandal. Even so, the United States of America was, at least in theory, still “one nation indivisible” in 2076. However, the cracks and fissures in the nation were now all too plain to see. One good jolt was all that was needed to shatter the Union into fragments like a piece of cheap crockery.


That jolt was not long in coming. Just a few years later in 2079, Iran celebrated the 100th anniversary of its Islamic Revolution. It was a milestone that heralded dire events. Before the year was over, the worst fears of western intelligence agencies were realized when Iran and its allies launched an all-out attack on their mutually despised foe, Israel.

The state of Israel had been a thorn in the side of the Islamic Middle East for over a century. Iran especially longed to wipe it from the map. Iran was held in check at first by the deterrent effect of America’s military might, and later by the Islamic Federation of Europe. The IFE counseled patience and restraint, bidding Iran to bide its time even as it helped Iran prepare for the day of reckoning. The Islamic world consolidated its power, watching and waiting as America was corroded by internal strife.

Iran’s first attack wave came in the form of carefully coordinated air strikes and non-nuclear missile strikes that took out Israel’s defenses. The tiny nation was pounded by further air strikes that paved the way for a later invasion by ground forces.

American military response was swift. Aircraft carriers rushed to Israel’s rescue. They could not arrive in time to intercept that crippling first wave, but subsequent Iranian air attacks met with fierce resistance. In an effort to take the fight to the enemy, the latest generations of stealth bombers and cruise missiles struck deep within Iran and its allies.

Then, in a lightning move that bespoke much prior anticipation and planning, the Islamic Federation of Europe issued a formal declaration of war against the United States of America. This declaration was so worded that any and all allied of the US were included in this drawing of the battle lines. The battle was quickly joined. Nations around the globe were drawn into the fight as the regional conflict escalated with appalling rapidity into World War III.

Within hours of the IFE war declaration, the eastern seaboard of the United States found itself under aerial bombardment. European forces were able to swiftly reach American soil by striking from Greenland. Even before the creation of the Islamic Federation, Europe had begun to establish military installations in Greenland. The IFE subsequently busied itself for decades completing this task. Throughout that period, many warned that Greenland was becoming a huge dagger aimed at the heart of North America. However, this issue was never adequately addressed.

In the wake of the first attack, the US Air Force scrambled to neutralize Greenland. The Labrador Sea northeast of Newfoundland became the scene of fierce aerial combat as the air forces of the United States and Canada sought to hold the Europeans in check. The second European attack wave targeted Canadian as well as American defensive installations. Greenland also allowed the European Navy to dominate the North Atlantic. Here epic sea battles were waged on a scale not seen since Jutland.

Both on the sea and in the sky, the Europeans were better prepared and more effective. America was essentially fighting blind due to the destruction of its intelligence satellites at the outset of the war. In general, America lagged woefully behind Europe technologically. On one hand, defense budgets had been gutted in favor of social programs and failed social engineering schemes. On the other, distrust of scientists by powerful religious leaders had been influential in retarding technical advances.

The British Navy was quick to come to America’s aid in the North Atlantic. No sooner had it set sail than an invasion force from France swept across the English Channel. Britain was now fighting for survival as never before, not even during the Battle of Britain in the Second World War. Not since 1066 had an invading army overrun British soil, but one did so now. Ferocious bloody combat took place in London and other urban centers and throughout the countryside.

It did not take long for the conflict to spread to a Pacific theater, making it a true world war. Australia declared solidarity with its English-speaking brethren and at once found itself at war with Indonesia. At this point India became a factor. India joined with Pakistan in backing Indonesia. Boasting a formidable arsenal and an enormous population, India stood poised to deliver the coup de grace to Australia and New Zealand. It was forestalled from doing so only by the timely intervention of an even greater giant, China. China vowed severe consequences should India pursue its present course. India backed down, and soon afterwards hostilities in the Pacific gradually began to subside.

In the main theater of operations, the United States was being forced into an increasingly defensive posture. Enemy attacks remained unrelenting, even as America was being crippled from within. Sleeper cells were activated and went into action, striking at military installations and their support facilities, as well as civilian population centers. Most significantly, key areas of infrastructure were targeted for destruction. Highways, bridges, railways, power plants, reservoirs and food supplies were demolished or rendered useless.

Within weeks of the outbreak of hostilities, America was fighting wholly on the defensive. The US Government had retreated to the vast, underground Liberty’s Fortress complex in Virginia. In the meantime, Israel was left to fend for itself. Though it resisted valiantly, it was no match for the combined might of Iran, Iraq, Syria and their allies. After weeks of punishing air strikes, ground forces moved into the beleaguered nation. The invaders dealt death and absorbed casualties with the grim fatalism of their creed. At length, every Israeli man, woman and child found alive was put to the sword. Then all temples and monuments, indeed any structures of any type, were demolished. The conquerors of Israel razed it to the ground and salted the earth.

Subsequently, an IFE invasion fleet was launched to menace America’s east coast. A portion of the fleet was detached to launch an assault on New York City. The battle plan for this attack was designed to maximize civilian casualties. New York was the epicenter of the American Jewish population. At the behest of powerful clerics, the forces of the Islamic Eastern Hemisphere intended to purge Jews from the New World as they had from the Old.

Yet while the eastern United States was ravaged by attacks from within and without, the western states remained virtually untouched. The USA and the IFE traded blows from opposite sides of the Atlantic, but the western US remained protected by the vast Pacific and the absence of a formidable Islamic presence in the Far East.
Even so, there was a reluctance to leave the back door unguarded. Valuable troops and materiel sorely needed to defend the besieged eastern seaboard were left in place out west. This caused anguished and indignant voices to be raised among Easterners. The Hispanic Americans of the West had thus far not been threatened, while Anglos in the East were being decimated. [NOTE: The term “Anglo” as used in this account refers to English-speaking Americans regardless of race.] Never was the cultural divide between East and West more glaringly apparent. Over 80 percent of all Americans spoke some Spanish, but the majority of Hispanics spoke only Spanish. Nevertheless, fluent English was an essential prerequisite for service in the US armed forces. Clear communication was always of paramount importance in any sort of military organization or operation. The technical nature of much 21st Century warfare only served to emphasize this. A century earlier Hispanic Americans had been a backbone of the US military, but now they served in scant proportion to their numbers in the general population. Anglos bore the brunt of the fighting, and their bitter memory of the disparity bore repercussions in the post-war period.

As the American situation grew more desperate, fears arose that the war would spiral out of control and result in some sort of thermonuclear exchange. Fortunately, nuclear weapons were never utilized in World War III. The time of greatest danger from atomic weapons and other Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs) such as chemical and biological agents was actually the early 21st Century. Atomic and hydrogen bombs, though the object of considerable angst, were never deployed during the long Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union. A nuclear strike by one superpower would bring retaliation in kind, inevitably escalating to global Armageddon. This stalemate was commonly referred to as “Mutually Assured Destruction” (or “MAD”), and actually had a chilling deterrent effect that decreased the likelihood of the USA and USSR sliding into a shooting war.

After the internal collapse of the Soviet empire, the chief threat from WMDs was in their potential use by terrorists. Various rogue agencies espousing Islam aimed to break the will of their ideological foes, rather than seize territory or capital as in traditional warfare. Terrorists operated outside the auspices of any nation, although nation-states could and did support these networks covertly. An invisible menace without borders, terrorist networks were immune from similar retaliation. Thus it was now possible for an American city to go up in an atomic fireball without it sucking the rest of the world into a nuclear conflagration.

Ironically, this danger decreased as radical Islamic factions came to power in more and more nations. Now that these formerly outlaw elements were “on the map” with clearly defined borders and political centers, they could be targeted for a counterstrike. Therefore, when World War III broke out, nuclear weapons were not deployed. As in the previous century, no one wanted to open that can of worms.

Nevertheless, the mere fact that everyone dreaded the specter of nuclear warfare didn’t remove it from the realm of possibility. As America found itself reeling, nuclear options began to be considered. As these murmurs reached the ears of its enemies, a ceasefire and armistice were conveniently proffered by Europe. IFE representatives sensibly pointed out that the original root cause of the war was now moot. Israel was no more, and the Jewish voice in America had been muted. Few were left to champion the cause of Israel. The Islamic powers could afford to be magnanimous. They stood to gain considerable concessions from a chastened America. Even if these concessions fell short of Islam’s ultimate ambitions, the compromise was an acceptable one. There would be other wars and Islam was patient. The guns fell silent and peace talks began.


The Third World War had been short, swift and vicious, like the whirlwind of fangs and claws that ensues when two wildcats fight. The talks that followed dragged on longer than the duration of the war itself. Still, the dust finally settled and a new world order was in place.

The United Kingdom was forced to accept the yoke of Islam. Britons were faced with the choice of conversion or becoming second-class citizens of their own country. Most accepted the latter indignity as an alternative to complete capitulation. Britain became a minor satellite of the Islamic Federation of Europe.

China, on the other hand, emerged from the war with its stature enhanced. It took full advantage of the opportunity to reclaim Taiwan. The United States, having been brought to its knees, was in no position to interfere, and no one else was terribly concerned about the matter. Before long, China also assisted North Korea in its conquest of the South. Ironically, however, it was the capitalist culture of South Korea that was subsequently nurtured by China. China had long viewed the rise of the Islamic world with wariness and growing displeasure. A thriving Pacific Rim was seen as an essential bulwark against the further spread of Islam. Therefore China came to encourage capitalistic enterprise in Korea, Taiwan and Japan, which became a vassal of China.

America emerged from World War III torn and bloodied. Much of the Northeast lay in smoking ruins. The infrastructure was fragmented. Many regions were without water and power. Foodstuffs rotted in warehouses because they could not be transported to starving areas. Much of the nation’s navy had been sunk, and its arsenal had been depleted. Postwar America was weakened and vulnerable.

The armistice that America was obliged to accept included the provision that the citizens of states with heavily Muslim populations be “allowed to” vote to establish an autonomous region in which Islamic law was the highest legal authority, superseding the Supreme Court and even the United States Constitution. Such elections were held in a dozen states in the Med Atlantic and Great Lakes regions. The measure passed in all but a few of these states.

This development did not go unopposed. Trouble first flared up in Southwestern Pennsylvania. Angry citizens there were loath to accept a condition imposed by a popular vote tipped by populous Muslim strongholds like Philadelphia and other cities in the eastern part of the state. The southwestern counties flamed in riot and open rebellion. Rebel leaders issued a manifesto declaring that states opting for Islamic religious rule had for all intents and purposes seceded from the Union; if secession were the order of the day, then they would secede from Pennsylvania. All the counties south of Meadville and west of the Alleghenies soon separated from the rest of Pennsylvania by mutual agreement. The secession movement spread like wildfire as other affected states followed suit. The southern rural regions of states like Ohio and Illinois broke away from the more urbanized areas of the North.

What would become the Islamic States of America included all of New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and New Jersey, as well as vast parts of Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Michigan. In the meantime, the hardy Southwestern Pennsylvanians joined with the equally stalwart West Virginians in the formation of a semi-autonomous buffer zone insulating the Christian South from the Islamic North. In time this would include all of the Ohio River Valley and environs, and become known as the Border Region.

These momentous developments sent shockwaves through the West as well. The citizens of the Southwestern states overwhelmingly favored leaving the Union and joining Mexico. They made this known both through their elected representatives and by taking to the streets in protest. Mexico itself added its voice to theirs, politely insisting that citizens of those states be allowed to “determine their own destiny.”

Back east, editorial cartoons of a weeping Abraham Lincoln failed to move many. The West had come through the war relatively unscathed, to the resentment of many in the East. America’s loss of the war was blamed on the nation’s lack of cohesion. Critics were quick to point to Southwesterners’ longstanding embrace of Mexican, rather than American culture. If these states left the Union, they would take their representatives in Congress with them; their influence on American policy would vanish.

Within a year the entire states of California, Nevada, Arizona, and New Mexico left the United States to join Mexico. Of the Southwestern states, only Texas split in two as Pennsylvania had. The Big Bend area of West Texas that included El Paso joined Mexico, as did all the regions south of Austin. The rest of the state remained in the Union. Before leaving San Antonio, Anglos there dynamited the Alamo to prevent it from falling into Mexican hands.

Both the secession of the Southwest and the establishment of the Islamic States came to be seen as a blessing in disguise by certain commentators. The Northeastern states lay in ruins and the cost of rebuilding would be staggering. If they left the Union, however, they were no longer America’s problem. Let the Europeans help the Northeast to rebuild, some reasoned; after all, they were the ones who wrecked it in the first place.

These commentators regarded the “downsizing of America” in a positive light. It was thought that America could get back on its feet faster if certain problem areas were no longer parts of it. “Smaller is better” and “leaner and meaner” became popular mottos. Others simply snorted “Good riddance” in regards to the departing states.

Unfortunately, secession did not end there. Within five years the northern New England states of Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont, cut off from the rest of the Union by the Islamic States, were clamoring to leave the Union and join Canada. A weary Federal government caved to their demands. In due course Oregon and Washington, along with the northern panhandle of Idaho and the upper peninsula of Michigan, were joined to Canada. However, Canadian gains of US territory were offset by the loss of Quebec. Secession fever had spread to Canada, and Quebec finally realized its long-sought goal of independence. Quebec had long been the world center of French language and culture, now all but extinct in France.

Canada and Mexico were not the only nations to gain from the break-up of the American Union. Apart from the Southwest, the largest concentration of Spanish-speaking Americans was to be found in southern Florida. These were of mostly Cuban descent. In 2093, all of Florida south of the Panhandle left the US to form a union with Cuba.

Throughout the final decade of the 21st Century, what was left of the United States continued to struggle to haul itself out of the abyss into which it had been plunged. In doing so, the nation redefined itself along the way. Almost half of its former territory had been lost. What remained consisted of the Southeastern states, with the notable exception of Florida, and the still sparsely populated central states such as Montana, Wyoming, and the Dakotas. The political, economic and cultural life of the recovering nation centered in what had been the Old South of two hundred and fifty years earlier.

It became common to refer to the South, and by extension the downsized nation as a whole, as “the New American Confederacy.” The term was spoken with a tone of irony at first. It was frequently observed that this new “Confederacy” had not seceded from the Union --rather, the Union had seceded from it! And unlike the old Confederate States of America, the new Confederacy was not built on the rotten foundation of racism and slavery. Rather, the new nation that was being erected on the ash heap of the old was the work of both black and white --brothers and sisters all, united in Christ.

One thing the New Confederacy did have in common with its predecessor was a lessening of the power held by the central authority of the Federal government, with greater autonomy being retained by individual states and regions. As a result of this trend, certain states became, for all intents and purposes, miniature nations. In Utah, the population was overwhelmingly Mormon and elected to return to their old ways. Polygamy was reinstated with nary an objection from the Federal government. Since such once-unthinkable concessions had been granted to American Muslims, not much of a case could be made for denying the same considerations to the Mormons, who were at least Christians. Alaska also began to function more and more independently of the central government. In the meantime, a whole separate culture was taking form in the Ohio River Valley’s Border Region. Places like Utah, Alaska, and the Border Region were neither wholly in nor wholly out of the Union, or rather the Confederacy, as it increasingly came to be called.

As the map of North America was redrawn, the populations of various areas were uprooted and transplanted to different locations. Asian Americans on the West Coast had been drifting northward for decades. Those of Chinese, Japanese, Filipino and other Asian descent formed enclaves in the northernmost regions of California, now part of Mexico; in Oregon and Washington, now part of Canada; in British Columbia and in the southern panhandle of Alaska. Christians in Michigan migrated to the Upper Peninsula, which seceded from the state and the nation to join Canada. The Amish of Eastern Pennsylvania joined those in the sundered western part of the state to occupy the northeastern fringe of the Border Region. In time the Amish came to adopt a more militant stance, becoming the watchmen along the border with the Islamic States of America.

Hawaii loosened its ties to the rest of the country, now without a west coast, as it became a thriving crossroads of the commerce conducted by the nations of the Pacific Rim. In time Hawaii became a protectorate of Japan. More notable, however, were the formal declarations of nationhood on the part of the Islamic States of America and the New American Confederacy.

For twenty years the Muslims in the former northeastern US labored to create an Islamic nation in the Western Hemisphere. For a time they were governed from the various state capitals by local religious leaders who worked with their counterparts in the other states in an informal committee. The actual rebuilding of the war-ravaged areas was accomplished, as predicted, with foreign aid courtesy of the Islamic Federation of Europe. In the meantime, leaders worked to construct a more permanent government and draft a constitution. This constitution was ratified in the fall of 2100. A fully independent Islamic States of America now took its place among the nations of the world. A yearlong celebration concluded on September 11, 2101, when a monument commemorating the martyrs of a century earlier was unveiled in New York at the former site of the World Trade Center.

To the south, in what only the elderly still insisted on calling the United States, there was a growing movement calling for a new constitutional convention. The old fifty-star flag still flew on flagpoles across the land, but to many it seemed a mockery --a symbol of ignominious defeat. A whole generation had now been born and grown up in a fragmented Union. Those a little older, who had been children when war came, remembered the fifty-state Union only dimly. So it came to pass that the constitutional convention was held, that the nation might officially become what it had long been in fact.

In 2105, the New American Confederacy was formally adopted as the name of the reborn nation. Optimists referred to the period of the constitutional convention itself as the “Era of Rebirth.” The terms “reborn” and “born again” were used frequently, since America had been “born again” in Christ. The New Constitution mandated that citizens at least pay token service to some form of Christian faith. This was in some measure a matter of practicality; the few remaining Muslims in the Confederacy were obliged to relocate to the Islamic States. Persons of other faiths, free thinkers and nonconformists found new homes in Alaska and the Border Region. Alaska did not ratify the New Constitution, opting instead to become an independent republic.

The Confederacy flag retained thirteen red and white stripes to acknowledge an esteemed past, but in the blue field all the stars were gone. Instead, the blue field was divided into four quarters by a white cross. This was not the only break with the past. Throughout the tumultuous post-war decades, the Federal government had been conducted from Liberty’s Fortress. An elaborate complex called Liberty’s City was constructed adjacent to it. Liberty’s City was now designated the new nation’s capital.

In Washington DC, the monuments and artifacts of the Old Union were preserved and honored. Yet latter day tourists visiting the former capital often felt as if they had come instead to Cairo, a place of museums housing relics of a long-vanished empire. They felt stained by the dust of antiquity, and came less and less to visit. Washington became a necropolis.

The whole world had changed. It was entering an age of warring faiths. Islam had already established a formidable beachhead in the Western Hemisphere. Islam may have even encompassed the whole globe in time, but here the vision grows hazy. It made little difference to the passing generation of Americans. With the adoption of the New Constitution, with the unfurling of the new flag, the last feathers had fallen from the molting American eagle. The United States of America, as it had been known to history, had ceased to exist.

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