A Look Back at……..Today
December 31, 11AU
Today was Jim’s 12th birthday so he was a little excited as he got home from educational training. Every year his parents did something special for Jim and he hoped this year would be no different, in fact he hoped this year would be the best since his Grandfather has just moved in with them. Grandpa had just retired and since he was no longer a useful member of the work force it was left to the family to take care of Grandpa if they chose to, in the case of Jims family they still felt that persons that had worked their whole life deserved to be respected, cared for and allowed to live out a natural life. Many families these days did not believe in taking care of the elderly after they left the workforce, they felt they had lived out their usefulness so they wanted nothing more to do with them and just left to them to fend for themselves. Some families could not afford to take care of them since they did not qualify for upgraded living spaces in the committee provided apartments, upgrades were given to those that had more desirable skills and both of Jims parents had desirable skills so they qualified for an extra sleeping room in their apartment. But this was not what Jim was thinking about when he came home, he was trying to guess what special surprise was waiting for him. One year because of his Fathers standing in the workforce he had been allowed to actually look inside of a Personal Vehicle of Conveyance, some used to call it an automobile. These days only the Elite, the members of the Committee themselves were allowed to own or even ride in PVC’s. This year he was hoping to be taken to the living museum of wildlife, it was said that the museum actually had dogs and cats in it and that supposedly people had once domesticated dogs and cats and kept them as companions, Jim found this very hard to believe since he had never even seen one alive. Jim hoped that his parents had been able to save up enough credits to take him, most families only earned enough credits to redeem at the nutrition distribution center but Jims parents had more desirable skills so they earned a few extra credits. Needless to say Jim was a bit surprised when he walked in and saw Grandpa sitting with a book in his lap, Jim knew what a book was from some information he had come across on his e-tablet, but that information had said that they were now illegal and were to be turned in to the Illegal Artifacts Committee when found. Jim was real curious why Grandpa had an illegal book but he was more curious as to what was in it.
“What’s that Grandpa?”
“This is your birthday present; it’s called a scrap book. Your parents and I decided you were old enough to have this now, we’ve been keeping it for you for a very long time.”
Jim had completely forgotten about the Museum at this point, instead he was becoming increasingly curious about the book. “What’s in it?” he asked.
“In here is a small piece of history, history of my life and your Fathers before the Great Collapse. There are even things in here about a country that you were never allowed to know and a way of life that you are not even allowed to know about. Do you want to look at? You don’t have to, we can turn it in for destruction if you feel that is the right thing to do.” Grandpa knew this would just heighten Jims curiosity, Jim had always shown signs that he felt there was suppose to more to life then just educational training and then working for credits.
“Of course I’d like to look at!” Jim exclaimed.
“Before we open it you must understand that by just looking at you are breaking the law so you can never tell anyone that you saw this, much less that we have this. Can you live with that secret?”
“Yes” Jim answered now so excited he could hardly wait to see what was so horrible that they could go to prison for just looking at it.
Jim sat down beside Grandpa and Grandpa set the book in his lap. It was an odd feeling that came over Jim, not one of fear for getting ready to break the law, but one of power. Jim couldn’t figure out why just a book would give him this feeling. With his hands slightly trembling Jim slowly opened the book, a very strange feeling since he had never opened the cover of a book before, for that matter he had never seen or touched paper, everything was done by computers now that were linked directly to the main computers at the Unification Central Headquarters. Even the control of the lighting and heating of their apartment was done by computer and monitored at UCH to ensure they were not using more then they were allotted for.
The first thing that Jim found was a small rectangular piece of cloth like material that was blue in one corner with white stars on it and horizontal red and white stripes covering the remainder of the rectangle. “What’s this?” he asked.
“That is an arm patch of the Flag of the United States of America. It was worn on uniforms of the military and civil servants to show both pride in their Nation and to show what country they represented when on a field of battle. Before the collapse the areas you now know as the States, such as the Unified State of America were Nations. Each Nation had a Flag that was unique and held great meaning to the people of those Nations. Within each Nation their were smaller areas called States, each State had it’s own Government, it’s own Flag, it’s own history, it’s own way of life and even it’s own personality. What you now call District 21-544 of the Unified State of America was once called the City of Jamestown in the State of Virginia in the United States of America. This was the first settlement of what later became the American Colonies and then the United States of America.”
“When did all of that occur?” asked Jim.
“Jamestown was fist settled in 1607 by men and women that came across the Atlantic Ocean in great sailing ships from Great Britain, what you know as the Unified State of England. Why do you look so confused Jim?”
“What is a sailing ship and what do you mean by 1607?”
“Sorry, I forgot that you only know the dates after the collapse and Unification and you were never taught about how things were before the collapse, at least not the truth. You have seen the Elite of the Committee out in the river on their fancy sailboats, well sailing ships were great big versions of these that were built by hand from real wood from trees, not the manufactured wood that is used today. These ships would hold a couple of hundred people and used great sails to move through the water. To make the trip from England to the Americas, as this State was called then, would take months to complete and many would not make the entire voyage due to the harsh conditions they had to endure. It took hardy men and women to take a chance like that, leaving what they knew to go to a place that was wilderness filled with animals they knew nothing about and natives that we thought to be savages. But many made the voyage in hopes of making a new and better life for themselves, one where they controlled how they lived. 1607 was the year which would have been about 420 years ago so you would know it as 420BU, before Unification. The truth is that it was called 1607AD, AD meant After Death. I know you are going to ask after death of what but hold onto that thought for another day, which is a long and important story in itself.
When Jim turned the page he found a piece of paper that said “Birth Certificate” with his name on it. Jim wasn’t sure what it was or why it was in there since he had a Certificate of Birth and Citizenship that had his name, date of birth, number and bar code already on it. “What’s this Grandpa?” he asked.
“Before the Unification everyone had Birth Certificate. It showed when you were born and where. It showed who your parents were and even had your foot prints and finger prints on it. After the Unification all births were accompanied by a Certificate of Birth and Citizenship, it also came with a chip that was implanted in each baby that would contain all information for that person from birth to death. Since you were in the last generation to be born in a free country you were not initially implanted with a chip and you did not have a Certificate of Birth and Citizenship. After the Unification persons already living were implanted and issued a Certificate. If you look at your Certificate you will notice that it only states your First Name and number and which District you were born in. No longer does anyone care who you were born to and the finger prints and foot prints are no longer important since all the information on the implanted chip is linked to the bar code on your Certificate. All the original Birth Certificates were destroyed, I have this one because I made a copy of your Birth Certificate when you were born, you see when your Father was born I was so tired and excited that I lost your Fathers original, I just wanted to make sure that your Father didn’t do the same thing with yours. By no longer including last names and parents names the Unification Committee ended any link a person might be able to find to their family tree, any individualism. They are even talking about doing away with names at birth and just going with numbers. The only reason children are still allowed to live with their parents is that it’s easier to have parents responsible for caring for the young then it is to put them all in youth care facilities. That may come later too. Since the Unification they have also required married couples to apply for permission to have children. If they institute the youth care facilities they are going to outlaw marriage all together and go with only non parental births. Doing away with marriage and parenting will allow the Committee for Housing to open the barracks style living quarters they have been trying to push for reducing the area they need for housing.”
“Why is it important to know who your parents are Grandpa?”
“You know your parents right? You know me right? Knowing us means you know who you are and why you are who you are. It helps you to understand why you think and feel the way you do, why you were excited about looking at the book instead of following the Committee rules and turning it over to be destroyed, it’s why you wanted to look at it instead of turning me in. Knowing who you are in a lot of ways means you need to at least know who your parents are, the more you know about your heritage the more you understand who and why you are. Even adopted children want to know who their birth parents are many times, but what was more important to them was to know the parents that raised them, to know the ones that helped to form them.”
When Jim turned that page there was nothing but pictures. Jim knew what pictures were but he was used to the ones that he found on his e-tablet, these were actually printed on paper of some sort. There were pictures of Grandpa holding a gun with some kind of animal hanging up, he thought it was a deer from e-pictures he had seen, and sitting in a boat holding up a fish, again he knew what that was from e-pictures. There were pictures of Grandpa and his Father sitting in cars and riding on things that had only 2 wheels, both motorized and non-motorized, only the Elite members of the committee were allowed to ride or own PVC’s so he couldn’t figure out why Grandpa and Dad were in them not to mention that he had no idea what those 2 wheeled things were but they looked like fun. There were pictures showing his Father doing something around plants that were actually in the ground, nowadays all the plants were grown in the hydroponics facility.
“What are all these pictures Grandpa? And what are those things with 2 wheels?” Jim asked.
Grandpa laughed and turned the book so that he could better see the pictures. As he looked at the pictures and started to tell his Grandson about them his eyes got a little misty and a funny look came over his face. “What’s wrong Grandpa?” Jim asked.
“I was just thinking Son how you will only know these things in pictures, you will never be able to experience them yourself. At least you will know what these things are which is something most children these days will not have. So let’s look at these and I’ll tell you all about them. Many of the things you will see here have been outlawed by the Committee; they have decided that these things were either to dangerous or that only the Elite shall be allowed to do them. Take for instance the picture of me holding the gun. The only guns you have seen are the ones the Protection Committee is allowed to have. It used to be that law abiding citizens were allowed to have guns for both recreation and protection. Some people just like to go out and target practice, just to see how good they were and to compete against other people. Others liked to get out in the woods and wilderness and to actually hunt for food, not necessarily because we had to, just because we wanted to. Many of us also believed that we were responsible for our own protection so we had guns, not to try and do the job of the Police, that’s what the Protection Committee was called at that time, but to help them. This picture here of me in a car, actually that was a truck that I had dreamed about owning for years. That was a 1958 Chevy Apache. I always liked the old trucks so I finally was able to get one and fix it up. Your Dad on the other hand always liked Sports Cars so that picture is him sitting in his 2010 Dodge Challenger, that was only a couple of years before you were born. You see at that time anyone could have a car, as long as you could afford it. There’s something else you need to know about, money. It used to be you would go out and get a job, a job of your choosing, and you were paid for your work, in money, money that you could hold and play with. You could spend the money in any way you wanted. Most people were responsible and paid all their bills and put food on the table before they started spending it on frivolous fun things. Now we are paid in credits, something on a computer that you never actually see or hold, usually just enough to redeem at the Nutrition Distribution Center for that stuff they now call sustenance. Now only the Elite members of the Committee are allowed to own or drive cars; or as they call them Personal Vehicles of Conveyance. The rest of us are required to use the Citizen Transportation System. Just like the picture of me in the boat, I was out fishing. We used to be allowed to do that just like we used to be able to own a boat if we wanted. Boats used to come in all different sizes and styles. There were boats that were small and you had to use a paddle, a long flat ended piece of wood, to move it through the water. There were boats that used engines that ran on gasoline, these came in all sizes and you could use them for all types of things. Then there were the sailboats, the modern ones were used mainly for recreation. The Committee For The Environment outlawed all boats initially coming up with all kinds of reasons saying that they were causing damage to the environment either by pollution from motors or from the people themselves or even by damage to shorelines from running boats on shore to get in and out of. They later decided that sailboats with electrical auxiliary motors and solar charging panels were OK but only for Elite members of the Committee. You had a question about the 2 wheeled things, well; the one your Dad is on is called a bicycle. Just about every kid had a bicycle, we used them for playing and getting around on, they gave kids freedom. When you were out flying through the streets of town you felt like you were on top of the world. The other picture is me on a motorcycle. They were just like cars except they had 2 wheels, in fact some of them even had 3 wheels. We could use them for transportation but more importantly they were just fun, another form of freedom. The Committee for Child Safety outlawed bicycles must after the Unification because they said they were unsafe for children and the Committee for Transportation outlawed motorcycles all together when they outlawed the use of motor vehicles for citizens other then the Elite members of the Committee. What a sad day that was, the one I was on was just a standard street bike, there were all kinds and people would customize them to reflect their own personalities. Now we don’t even have pictures to display on walls or even paint our walls to display our individual personalities.”
“You haven’t told me about the plants. From what we have been taught all plants are grown using hydroponics since dirt carries all kinds of germs. Why is Dad messing around in the ground with that plant? Did he have to get immunizations later to keep him from becoming ill from the dirt?”
“They only tell you that to make you scared of dirt, and grass, and trees, and anything else that has to do with being outside. Truth is with the Committee for Health sanitizing everything around us most people do not have any natural resistance to germs of any kind, which was the plan from the start since the Committee for Pharmaceutical Supplies was working with the Committee for Health to try and push more immunizations on the public. Well it worked; we get immunizations on a monthly basis now don’t we? It didn’t use to be that way, we rarely got immunizations for anything, we played in the dirt, we worked in the dirt we even ate dirt accidentally while playing sports. Your Dad loved roses, he was growing his own and that picture was him working around it. We also had our own garden where we grew our own vegetables, in fact they were healthier for us since they had more vitamins and nutrition in them then the ones that are now grown in the hydroponics facility and have all the nutrition processed right out of them before they are mixed together into that mush they called sustenance for us.”
Jim turned the page and there stuck in between the pages was another smaller book with a soft cover and pages starting to fall out of it. “What is this?” he asked.
Grandpa picked up the book and opened it carefully, again that funny look came over Grandpa, only this one seemed to have a reverent look to it, one of respect for an old book that was falling apart. Jim knew that this book meant a lot to Grandpa, Jim wasn’t sure if he even wanted to touch the book, he was afraid he would damage it even more. Grandpa handed the book to Jim in such a way that it seemed the book was fragile or it was the most important thing in the world. “This is a pocketbook version of the Constitution of the United States of America. It was written in 1787, or if you prefer 240BU. This was the document that established the United States of America; it brought all the original colonists and colonies into a United Country. This document established the initial laws for the Nation. This was a Nation established on the idea that the People were the most important thing; they had unalienable rights from their creator that could never be taken away from them. Creator? Oh yea, they don’t teach you about that anymore do they, well that too is for another day. The People that started the United States of America were independent people, people that would rather suffer hardships and either fail or succeed on their own then to have it given to them; there was no value in having it given to them. I don’t know what has happened to the original document; it used to be a revered document that was kept safe for all to see. Since the Unification I have no idea what happened to it, the Committee may have destroyed it. This is one of the documents that gave a whole Nation independence and established a Nation that believed in what was originally called the American Dream. The story and history behind that document is to long to go into, much of it is in there, read it, just don’t let anyone know you have it.”
Jim held the book carefully then gently placed it back where it had been. The look on his face was a mixture of sadness, information overload and a desire to learn more. Grandpa decided this was enough for today so he closed the book and reverently laid the scrap book in Jim’s lap. Placing his hand on the cover of the book Grandpa looked at Jim and said “This is yours now. In here there are many things that you will not understand. It used to be that there were books of all kinds, this was a scrap book, a book that started out as blank pages that you put what you wanted to on, whatever was important to you. There were books that were full of history, before the Committee for History decided to start writing history to fit the Unification Committees goal. There were books that taught you how to do things and books that were meant for entertainment only. Now everything is on the e-tablets, no one even remembers what it was to write with a pen or pencil, everything we are allowed to read is controlled by the Committees. This scrap book will give you a look at a time before that, it will show you what you are missing and that is why all the different Committees out there would say it is illegal. Guard it carefully, that has become the legacy of your family, something generations from here on out will be like other things, lost in the past.”
Jim rose holding the book; he then turned and looked at his Grandfather. “Thank you Grandpa, this is the best birthday I’ve ever had.”
Is this the conversation you want to have with your own Grandchild some day; is that the world you want to live in, to bring children into? Sure this is fiction and an exaggeration, or is it?