My dears,

It’s hard to believe now in 2030, but once we were a brave and optimistic people.

When “live free or die” was more than a slogan on a license plate, your ancestor Thomas left a hilltop farm in New Hampshire at the age of 50 to fight the British army and its mercenaries at the Battle of Bennington. In the 19th century, Chase and Theodore helped to build our railroads, the great technological achievement of the age. In 1918, Ralph sailed off with the Yankee Division to France to make the world safe for democracy.

A generation later, your great-grandfather fought on an island in the Pacific called Guadalcanal. You have heard the quaint stories about my own days of lecturing to Africans about the inevitable triumph of democracy around the globe.

Historians trace our decline to the presidential election of 2016, when Donald Trump became the chief magistrate of our venerable republic. He did not last long, of course. His self-dealing and the crooked antics of his family and his billionaire cronies soon disgusted the country.

When he tried to remove the Internal Revenue Service commissioner for questioning his tax returns and replace him with Rudy Giuliani, that left the Senate no alternative but to vote his impeachment. These days he lives quietly with his fifth wife, Brittany, on an island patrolled by attack dolphins off what was once Florida, most of which was submerged by the sudden collapse of the Antarctic ice sheet.

The clueless Mike Pence served out the rest of Trump’s term, but by then the damage had been done. Reckless tax cuts led to unprecedented deficits, and at the first stirrings of inflation Trump’s appointees at the Federal Reserve raised interest rates sharply. Trade wars followed Trump’s denunciation of NAFTA and the World Trade Organization, and a global recession took hold, with soaring unemployment everywhere.

Since then, the New Nationalism has replaced the discredited doctrines of free trade and globalization. America First was followed by France’s La Patrie d’abord, Russia’s New Rome, England’s New Jerusalem and Germany’s Deutschland … well, you know. When, in a swift and largely bloodless invasion, Vladimir Putin annexed the Baltic States – his pretext was discrimination against Russian minorities – neither we nor the Europeans had the heart to invoke Article V of the Atlantic Treaty, and NATO was undone.

In the Far East, we gave tacit assent to the Chinese invasion of Taiwan rather than risk a military confrontation with our principal creditor. Untethered from the United States, Japan developed its own nuclear deterrent, and the militarism that has taken hold in Tokyo looks a lot like the one your great-grandfather fought almost a century ago. A Sino-Japanese war seems inevitable, with tactical nukes Japan’s only hole card.

In the Middle East, Trump’s abrogation of Barack Obama’s accord limiting Iranian nuclear ambitions led within a few years to an Iran with nuclear warheads aimed at Tel Aviv – potentially capable of reaching our shores, too. Israel rules a sullen Arab majority with an iron fist, its democratic institutions a memory.

The Arab states have collapsed into sectarian statelets and a condition of permanent war. Without a diplomatic presence in the region, we content ourselves with targeted killings by special forces in an effort to keep terrorism at bay. Many people argue that the internment of American Muslims has helped, though I have my doubts.

Here in Maine, of course, there are some bright spots. The growing season is longer, thanks to global warming, and now there are two Maines, divided along ideological lines, after Nigel Farage, the pro-Brexit campaigner who moved to Boothbay Harbor in 2017, led a successful effort to create a rump state in the former 2nd District.

Known as “Free Maine,” it bars the entry of people of color at the border crossing in Waterville. The People’s Republic of Portland, however, is a proud nuclear-free zone, and the restaurants and bars are still full along the seawall that will protect Fore Street for a little while longer.

As to the future, I wish I could be more hopeful, but I’m feeling out of touch. The collapse of the internet under the pressure of cyber assaults from all sides has left us a bit isolated. Amazon’s drones deliver a daily newspaper known as the Good Old Times to a few of us, and its columnists still fulminate against the parlous state of our affairs, but nobody pays them much attention now – if they ever did.

My virtual reality headset keeps me grounded in the halcyon days of October 2016. How I love to revisit Nate Silver’s confident predictions, savor Hillary Clinton’s unsurmountable lead in the polls and read about the imminent collapse of the Republican Party!

Good luck, my dears. My generation of self-absorbed baby boomers bears some responsibility for the mess you are in. Please accept my apologies, and don’t forget where you came from.

Your loving grandfather,

Laurence Pope