I took photos on a 2.5 hour bike ride through Santa Clara and San Jose in the early afternoon using a sunlight-balanced, natural-color slide film – Fujifilm Provia 100F – with the camera automatically metering at the box speed of 100. In short, I was working to get the truest color possible, to document the end times.

Despite me taking these photos at mid-day, it was very dark outside. To achieve shutter speeds of 1/100, the aperture was never slower than f/4, and usually set to f/2. To translate that for non-photographers, where normal brightness that time of day should have set the aperture to f/16, the skies were dimmed about five stops – 32 times darker than usual.

As horrific as this Orange Wednesday was, it's just one part of a bleak and hope-destroying epoch. Everything sucks, and things are getting worse.

We are in month six of a global pandemic that's just passed one million deaths. This pandemic may not have been preventable, but our leaders not only failed to mitigate it, but actively lied about it, easing its spread for political gain. Gone is the traditional American style of political lying – the lie that dances between fact and fiction to soothe and placate and appease, cloaking the power-seeking and evil-doing. The old lying has been replaced by the insidious blatant type of lying, the frightening kind that discards truth and mutates reality, the kind that so violates actuality, fact-checking it has no effect.

There is no coming back from this, no return to normal. There is no more centrism, no more bipartisan initiatives. Those philosophies are meaningless when one side sees themselves as only there to serve their own base, feeling no responsibility to our civilization as a whole.

Those in power no longer believe in the democracy which they lead. They brag openly about manipulating those democratic institutions to steal authority and remain in power. And no matter how much they may claim to hold to religions and ethics, they have distorted them, warping their faith again and again until it no longer resembles its origins. Their true ethic, laid bare by their actions, is nothing other than seeking power for its own sake.

Our lands burn, year after year. We die from novel pandemics, but also from diseases to which we've had vaccines for generations. A legacy of racism lives on in our society, ingrained so deeply that its proponents have mistaken it for culture. Our police are so ripe with corruption that those they are supposed to serve instead seek their disbanding. The laws which they claim to uphold are so byzantine and numerous that they're effectively arbitrary. The infrastructure which gave our nation a century of prosperity is now crumbling around us, neglected and forgotten until it's too late. And the internet – the technology that was supposed to democratize the world – has been subverted into a pervasive and ubiquitous surveillance system, tracking our every thought.

I want to end on a positive note, to say 'everything will be alright,' but it won't, and I can't. Based on the horror we're living in today, there's no reason to believe these problems will be mitigated or lessened in any way. Our leaders feel no responsibility towards that which they lead. They act as monomaniacs, only working to further cement their usurpation of our country.

In mystical times, skies of orange would be an omen of ill tidings. If those ancient days were anything like what's happening now, it's not difficult to understand why.