Thursday, January 19, 2006

Futureworld, Part I: Elapsing into Midnight

Come with me, if you will, to the cozy home of Megan Singer, 29.

Single, Megan works as a temp during the day, a Wal-Mart stocker by night. It pays the bills, including those student loans. Pretty useless, all things considered, but Megan hopes what CNN says is right: new jobs, better jobs, work in nanotechnology and alternative fuels, is on the rise.

Her chemical engineering degree, OSU Class of 2005, sits on the desk, a layer of dust obscuring the sheen of a cheap plastic protective layer. Right next to her Wal-Mart nametag. Still, she's proud of it. The loans are no picnic, to be sure, but back then you could still get Federal Grant money to make it easier. That was the last year most student aid was offered to people like her, and before the Education Verificators hit the campus, sitting in on classes and monitoring the professors' statements.

The year is 2010.

John McCain, our 44th President, appointed Janice Rogers Brown to the Supreme Court and Brown has sailed through the confirmation hearings, refusing to straightforwardly state her views on typical hot-button issues: executive power to appoint, rather than vote on, appellate and trial level judges; dismantling social security completely, abortion. The usual stuff.

In the first case facing her since being appointed, Brown joined Chief Justice Roberts, Antonin Scalia and Sam Alito to strike down Roe v. Wade and turn the issue of abortion to the states.

A year later, Ohio joined 22 other states in abolishing abortion.

Megan got her last prescription of birth control pills at a discount from Planned Parenthood six months ago, right before it closed. Like most low wage earners, she hasn't had healthcare coverage for three years. Besides, Wal-Mart and Target pharmacists won't fill birth control prescriptions, citing their religion prohibits such practices.

Later that month, Concerned Women for America, after a lengthy PR campaign highlighting the horrors and dangers of condoms and how 13 year old girls are frequently caught using the Pill, gathered enough signatures to bring the matter to vote. After the Diebold machines finished tallying, birth control pills were outlawed. Pre-marriage Preservation, a new law based on abstinence, was signed.

Megan spends her free evenings with friends.

They switch meeting spots from house to house, allowing one another to turn off their own furnaces one night a week. With gas and electric prices rising 27 and 47 percent respectively since she first moved into the apartment five years ago, every little bit helps.

Besides, this makes them less likely to get caught.

Megan, along with her friends Lily, Christine and Joan, started self-publishing a montly newsletter for single women, called Birth Control Review.

It started as a lark, a way to release some of the pressures: jobs, boyfriends, husbands, pregnancy scares. Four months later, their little project has a readership of 45,000 women in their state, and is filled with cartoons, poetry, reader contributions, letters and recipes. Not their mothers' recipes, exactly.

Distribution would be easier online, the women agree.

Unfortunately, weekly Internet records are collected by the federal government from the two ISPs serving America.

For National Security purposes, all IP addresses are vetted and then registered with the government. Failing to keep personal information updated on IP request forms can, and often does, result in imprisonment.

Also inherently dangerous: writing and distributing literature about women's issues. Considered subversion of the law, it's included in the section of the Patriot Act addressing disruptors .

In 2006, the label became a criminal designation strictly for those who would attend political rallies.

Over the past five years the Unitary Executive, then Bush, expanded the definition to include any citizen of the US who speaks or acts against any state or federal Civil Rights Freedom Law. Should a citizen be labeled a disruptor, they can be sent to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to await trial. Sometimes for years.

Included in the Civil Rights Freedom law is the right for a state to be Baby Proactive and Free Speech Aware. Writing a woman's birth control newsletter isn't in line with these statutes. It's considered seditious.

No law is too sacred to break, not even now.

That's Megan's oft-repeated motto whenever one of her friends starts worrying. It used to be comforting to them, hearing that from her. Now that the group's branched out into more dangerous activities, she's not so sure.

....To be continued
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