November 16, 2014: The State of the Union
As I mentioned earlier, the United States – and most of the rest of the civilized world – had been on a downward slide for months … years, really. In June of this year things really dropped off the edge.
When the federal government couldn’t borrow any more money, federal services and payments stopped. It didn’t happen all at once but it happened pretty quickly. In one last commendable act, congress actually established a set of priorities in the hope that the economic crisis would reverse itself and essential services could hold on until the debt could be refinanced. The Graham-Nelson Act of 2014 essentially laid out the order in which the federal government would stop providing services.
Foreign aid was one of the first things to go. Ironically, even though we couldn’t pay the bills at home, the U.S. was still sending millions of dollars a year to other countries that were “less fortunate” than we were. No one got too upset about shutting down foreign payments.
Next on the list were development projects. After that, all maintenance came to a halt. By mid-June the federal faucet for entitlement payments and welfare programs dripped dry. That was when things really started to get bad. The inner cities turned into war zones almost over night. Government buildings – and buildings that looked like government buildings – were burned to the ground. Government employees were assaulted and, sometimes, killed. The Internet and other electronic communication means were still running, for the most part, at this point. When the welfare checks didn’t show up, the recipients of federally-provided smart phones jumped on the Web, looked up their representatives’ home addresses and went knocking on doors.
It was a bad time to be employed by any branch of the government. The National Guard was called out to quell the riots. The fiasco began in earnest at this point. Quite a few Guard units had been deployed to Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, the Sudan and Egypt. Most of the deployed units still hadn’t been called home at this point. Of those units that remained in the States, quite a few had a significant portion of their soldiers AWOL when they were called up for duty. Consequently, it was largely a skeleton crew that showed up to try to stop the rioting. Let’s just say it didn’t go well. Casualties were heavy on both sides. While the Guard troops had the equipment and heavy artillery, the rioters had the numbers. Blood, quite literally, filled the streets.
So, by late June, pretty much anyone that lived in an urban area was either locked inside their home (if it was still standing, un-burned or un-bombed) or leaving the city like rats from a sinking ship. The interstates, freeways and major highways were virtual parking lots. Vehicles ran out of fuel. Road rage was rampant. Every day, the local news (still going, amazingly) reported dozens or hundreds of people shot, stabbed, run over, beaten up and generally left for dead on every single major arterial in the state. Reports over the short-wave indicated that the same thing was happening nation-wide as well as in other countries.
By the beginning of July the federal government declared martial law. Happy Independence Day, America! With relatively few troops to enforce it, martial law was more of a desperate gesture than anything else. The Executive Branch was still grasping at straws – still hoping to hang on to some semblance of civilization. It didn’t work. After the rioters overpowered a few of the troops and stole their weapons and equipment, the surviving members of the guard units backed off and got out of Dodge.
We stopped receiving over-the-air TV signals the second week of July if I recall correctly. Prior to that, we mainly watched the near-constant news coverage to see if the death and mayhem were moving in our direction. Generally speaking, the number of lives lost and dollars of property destroyed dropped at a fairly regular rate as one got farther from the larger cities inNebraska– Lincoln and Omaha. We hadn’t seen any national news for a couple weeks by this point in time, but the pattern seemed to hold out on a national basis as well. The farther you lived from an urban area, the better your chances were for survival in those first few weeks.
By the time August rolled around, any updates that we received came via our short-wave radio. While they weren’t distributed by news organizations, they were probably just as reliable – maybe more so. I’m pretty sure that at least no one on the short-wave was deliberately trying to mislead whoever was listening. It seemed that the riots and looting had calmed down to a great extent. The fury was spent and the rioters realized they needed to focus on more productive activities to survive. Looting began in earnest. It was rumored that the federal, state and local governments had reached the point where pretty much all services would come to an end in a matter of days or weeks.
Grid-based electricity began to falter in September. While most of our power is generated by PV systems, we also had grid-based electricity at the farm. By October, the power grid was down for good.
Our thoughts turned to friends and extended family that lived in more urban areas. We prayed for their … survival. Some of them, we knew, were more prepared and resourceful than others. Others, we suspected, were truly struggling for life – or already gone – by now. We wished we could have brought each and every one of them back to our sanctuary, but we knew that wasn’t possible. We were well-equipped and well-supplied for the number of people we had but not for many more.