The other day I ran across the film trailer for a movie that will be released soon called ‘Elysium‘. It is set around 140 years in the future where the few, very rich live very well on a luxurious satellite that orbits the Earth called ‘Elysium’ while the rest of humanity lives on an extremely overpopulated and desolate Earth suffering from a Malthusian catastrophe.

Today, it seems that most of our science fiction foretells of a future that is awful and horrible: feral zombies roaming the countryside to eat us, oppressive government, and/or going backwards in technology.  (In fact, can anyone tell me a recent film that presents a bright future for humanity?) I believe much of that is a reflection on us because we are much more pessimistic about the future than we used to be. Man walked on the moon exactly 44 years ago on tomorrow (July 20, 1969). How many of you can imagine us going to the moon today? I just wonder how many people believe that some form of Elysium is what the future holds for us.

I thought about my youth and what a difference these films are from when I grew up. I loved science fiction as a child and I especially loved reading Star Trek novels. My little friends and I would pretend to be Starfleet Captains that explored the far reaches of the galaxy or Buck Rogers out in space defending the earth. We figured that in the future there would be flying cars, like on the Jetsons. Much of our science fiction reflected our belief that the future would be filled with wonder as humanity would continue to advance and invent all types of new gadgets, build moon bases, continue to discover new things, travel to the bottom of the sea and even to other parts of the solar system and beyond. Yes, there were some science fiction that was dystopian, but most of it was bright and I believe that reflected our attitudes at the time.

I have thought about this deeply and yes, at times things DO look grim – especially since our brains are trained by the news media today to see the bad. However I still think that we would should try to maintain positive attitudes because what happens on the net does not necessarily reflect our local communities. It starts with us as individuals. I feel that far too many of us are waiting for this perfect President, with a perfect Congress, that will pass all the right laws. This is why talk about 2016 really irks me. It betrays a thinking (that is mostly promoted by “professional conservatives”) that we on the grassroots level must continue to seek this “conservative” Messiah that will come to cleanse the nation and run the massive Leviathan government the “right way” when there is no such thing.

Shakespeare asked in Coriolanus, “What is the city but the people?” (or in our case, the county)

The people are what makes a place great to live – or not so great. A local neighborhood strongly motivated to have strong schools will have strong schools. A neighborhood dedicated to safety will have safe streets. And so on. Very few of those things come from the Capitol building, but from the people working on the ground in their neighborhoods to make their communities strong. Brambleton, for example, is a great place to live because of the people and not the beautiful homes and shopping (which is great). Change the people and the place would change irrespective of the homes and infrastructure already in place. Other places throughout Loudoun are similarly great places because of the people.

As far as I’m concerned,  it really doesn’t matter a whole lot which party or personality controls the national political apparatus. It is all about what we are doing on a local level. For that reason I tell all who will listen that are looking for a path forward, that we need to continue to direct our efforts into putting our own homes, extended families, neighborhoods, churches, and local communities in order. This is something that all of us can agree on regardless of ideology or affiliation. And here in Loudoun, that is the largely the way it is and we should work to preserve that for our children. When I go to my children’s local events, I see Obama bumper stickers alongside Romney bumper stickers in the parking lot. Some of the most active members of my son’s school PTA are Obama supporters. They are good people, even if we disagree on the issues discussed across the river. Everyone can somehow come together to make a better community for everyone at the local level. It is times like this – the real times – that make me more optimistic about the future – at least of our own local community. We don’t need to wait for a magical reformer to come into DC to clean it up.

I believe that this “acting local” is the road to renewal; everyone acting on a small, local scale, repeated in countless communities across the union, with each addressing its particular circumstances. If we work in our local communities, embrace hope, and reject resignation to the prevailing zeitgeist, then perhaps we can avert the zombie apocalypse predicted in our current films.