As I approached the grocery’s checkout lane, a magazine cover’s words greeted, “51 REASONS FOR HOPE.” Hmm, hope. The pessimism I feel, not only about the present but also the future, shaped my reaction, “I can think of at least 52 reasons for despair.”
That I have to send my children a list of fruits and veggies containing the highest levels of pesticide residue is an outrage. That I have to send them another list distinguishing conventional foods that are safe to consume because they contain less residue is an outrage. That I have to alert them to drugs they must avoid because of complications (including dementia and death) from side effects is an outrage. That I have to tell them about clothing, certain athletic wear, that sheds dangerous chemicals is an outrage. That I must advise them not to use soap products containing certain ingredients that are toxic is an outrage. That some prepared foods contain plastic is an outrage.
And that my sons have begun to delete the email warnings without reading them is an outrage.
Jeez, years ago I learned that a favorite and popular sandwich bread contained an acceptable amount of mice droppings, yet today I’m wishing mouse turds were the only thing worrisome about food.
My imagination holds a scene. Futuristic, dystopian.
I see smoggy, sunless cities. I see cities thirsty, scorched by the sun. Extreme weather events. Swaths of parched land. Dead cattle, rotting in fields. Flooding, fires, extinctions. Superbugs. New viruses. Mutations.
I see war zones. Rivers of blood. Amputees. Brain injured. Wounded children. Dead Children. Mass graves. Refugees.
Night is day and day is night.
The 1-to-3 percent are fortified, as they are now, but they have relocated. Rising sea levels impose their resettlement, just as famine dictates the migration of millions of Africans.
People are separated by race. Within race, they are separated by ethnicity. Within ethnicities, they are segregated further by occupations, by medical conditions, by behavior. The categories include:
Security, Surveillance, Military (SSM).
Workers/Scientists (WS) are those tasked with researching cures for diseases caused by exposure to industrial wastes, pesticides. Tasked with developing new pharmaceuticals. New pesticides. Tasked with developing more powerful weapons. Tasked with developing new food sources.
The Sick and Dying (SD).
Zika Colony (ZC), housing microcephalic children and microcephalic adults.
Lead-Exposure Colony (LEC).
Autistic Colony (AC).
Nameless factories punctuate the countryside. Within, the no-longer-useful-to-society-but-disease-free elderly are sanitized, pretreated, and freeze-dried. After packaging, this nutritional product is distributed to the military and to charter school cafeterias throughout the country.
Rogue Colonies (RC) arise, groups of young and old revolutionaries. They don’t stand a chance.
Missy Comley Beattie has written for National Public Radio and Nashville Life Magazine. She was an instructor of memoirs writing at Johns Hopkins’ Osher Lifelong Learning Institute in Baltimore. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.