Black is the New Orange


Originally published in Applied Arts Magazine, 2017



What could Brand America look like in 10 years?

For the last 70 years, it has been the leading brand in its category. It has held this title globally. It has been admired by many, hated by some, but respected by all.

Until last week.

I’m talking about Brand America. What seems unassailable one day can unpredictably, shockingly and swiftly fall off a cliff the next. And that’s what happened last Thursday,  June 1, 2017, when President Trump stood in the White House Rose Garden and proudly announced that America would renege on its commitment to the climate accord called the Paris Agreement (the moment was later assailed by late night comics as no small irony “while we still have roses and gardens”). One small step for Trump, one huuuuuuuuuuge step back for Brand America.

But rather than wallow in despair at this historic reversal of fate, imagine for a minute that Trump’s exit from Paris becomes the first step down the road of outlawing not only investments in renewable energy, but any other form of innovation. How would Brand America look 10 years from now?

It’s 2027. The dream of driverless cars died with the signing of the “Rollin’ Coal” bill into law back in 2018. Almost no one in America was willing to give up their autonomy behind the wheel, often the only thing left in their lives over which they had any control. So vehement was their resistance to self-driven automobiles that it became enshrined in the constitution, along with gun ownership (which became mandatory for all Caucasian Americans in 2020 after the revived Black Panther party won its first five seats in Congress.)


Soon after that, an amendment to the same law made electric cars illegal, and in response, Ford, GM and Chrysler all converted to coal-fired internal combustion engines. Their new models all sport rear-mounted boilers, which necessitate the attachment of a coal tender towed behind the main body of the car, manned by a prisoner with a shovel. Owing to the massive internment of illegal immigrants, there is no shortage of orange-clad shovellers, making former President Donald Trump’s promise of bringing back coal jobs a wild success. Peeling billboards everywhere proclaim: “Black is the New Orange!”

Meanwhile Google, hobbled by the outlawing of public access to the Internet in 2025, has replaced its online search engine with call centres. Now it handles all three trillion annual searches by phone, creating jobs for many of the women and children of illegal male immigrants, who are of course busy shovelling coal 24/7 for white middle-class car owners. 

Ever since the radical right transformed the Republican Party into the Lord’s Holy Warriors, drones have been outlawed for anyone but the NSA, limiting their use to 24/7 surveillance of every human in the United States.

As a consequence, Amazon Prime has merged with Union Pacific, BNSF, CSX and Norfolk Southern to create the largest rail-born delivery service in the United States. Ten-week delivery guarantee is the new norm.

Silicon Valley is the new Death Valley. Now every stop along the Caltrain route from Santa Clara to San Francisco is a ghost town, complete with tumbleweed. All the tech companies and venture capitalists have long ago decamped to locations in Canada, which has become a safe haven for innovators from Boston to San Jose.

I could do this for hours, but you get the picture. The exposure of Brand America to the caprice of one megalomaniacal fossil fueller and a gaggle of greedy hyper-capitalists is all it takes for democracy’s most powerful champion to revert to a state of semi-fascist decline, while the rest of the world goes about the business of addressing the future. God help Brand America! wn

will novosedlik