Saturday, June 28, 2008

Sample Chapter: Part One, Twilight's Last Gleaming

[This chapter is from Part One: O'er the Ramparts We Watched. The opening third of the book concerns events transpiring from the present day up till the outbreak of World War III in 2079. This chapter is preceeded by 9. Religion in 21st Century America, and followed by 11. Changes in American Society. Copyright 2008 by Charles Hoffman.]

10. Violence and Decay Plague American Cities

The relocation of most American Muslims to the major urban centers of the Northeast and Midwest was pretty much complete by 2055. Unfortunately, the more radical Islamic factions also began to make their presence felt there.

Suicide bombings occured with mounting fequency in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Cleveland, Detroit and Chicago. Populare restaurants and nightclubs were bombed, as were various other sorts of small businesses. This had a chilling effect on the local economies.

Sporting events and holiday celebrations were favored targets of suicide bombers, snipers, and other terrorist operatives. Major sporting events, such as playoff games and championships, came to be patrolled by small armies of security personnel. While effective, these measures caused terrorists to shift their attacks to taverns and restaurants hosting game-watching parties. A sniper attack on New York's Thanksgiving Day parade caused the event to be discontinued. Occuring at the start of the Christmas shopping season, the attack hurt holiday sales at retail businesses nationwide and caused their fourth quarter profits to evaporate. On July 4, 2062, the fireworks used in a display at a public park in Philadelphia were sabotaged so as to spread toxic agents when ignited, poisoning the crowd of several hundred spectators. Most were sickened and many died. After a similar attack in Boston two years later, fireworks displays were banned in favor of laser light shows in all parts of America where the Fourth of July was still celebrated.

Other atrocities ensued. Outbreaks of anthrax in the Great Lakes cities of Buffalo, Cleveland, Detroit, and Chicago wreaked havoc with the shipping industry. These outbreaks also effectively ended honeymoon and other tourism to Niagra Falls. On May 10, 2063, simultaneous nerve gas attacks on the New York subway and the PATH trains linking New York and New Jersey killed over 700 people.

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. Due to diminished revenues, police and sanitation services were for the most part reserved for such affluent areas that remained. Elsewhere, those services were spotty at best. Inner city neighborhoods became haunted no-man's-lands by night. Vicious gangs roamed the streets while citizens cowered behind locked doors and barred windows. Abandoned buildings were taken over by squatters. In time, outlaw factions formed de facto governments in blighted areas.

In New York, die-hard native residents hung on despite the city's perils. Upscale sections of Manhattan such as the Upper East Side evolved into tightly controlled gated enclaves where motor traffic was limited to specially authorized vehicles. In the outer boroughs, Italian and Irish American gangs warred incessantly with Arab-American gangs who congregated in such strongholds as the Atlantic Avenue area of Brooklyn.

Similar scenarios played out in other Northeastern and Midwestern cities. Throughout the crises of the `50s and `60s, leaders in the mainstream Muslim community worked tirelessly to rein in the radical elements and stem the tide of chaos. Their exertions did eventually help to bring that troubled era to a close, but not before many corporations and middle class taxpayers had commenced to pull up stakes and take their leave of the major metropolitan areas in the region. With the local tax bases so greatly reduced, city and state politicians felt they had no choice other than to lobby for Federal assistance.

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