And so when he zipped forward 30 years, from 1985 to 2015, he was at once thrilled by the America he saw around him: all that neon, the automatic zip-up boots, the flying cars, the hoverboard.
Yet at a deeper level – so deep he was barely conscious of it at first, and even in later years he has never really been able to, or had the desire to, articulate the feeling into anything as robust of a political philosophy – there was this gnawing sense of unease. Something about the consumerism, a claustrophobia brought on by all that advertising, would eventually trigger a longing in Marty for open spaces, for shrubbery, for national parks.
It was a longing that would eventually pitch him and girlfriend Jennifer sideways into the disjointed politics of America’s Green movement.
When they returned from their time travels, politics was the last thing on either Marty or Jennifer’s mind. As they set about building their lives, and eventually their family, in Hill Valley, the same Californian community their parents had called home, politics would remain a sideshow to them, something for other people to think about. Marty would vote for Reagan in ’88, largely because of family pressure from the cousins. Neither voted in ’92 or ’96, though Jennifer was tempted to cast for Clinton in the latter election because of the hypocrisy of the campaign against his sexual mores.
But 1996 saw both Marty and Jennifer have a political awakening of sorts, as a friend from their children’s school encouraged them to get involved in a local battle to save a rare species of frog, threatened by one of the many southern Californian housing developments that seemed to be springing up everywhere about them.
They had started on the fringes of the frog campaign, but by 1997 Marty and Jennifer were quickly finding more and more species to concern themselves with. Jennifer started cycling again, for ideological reasons this time. Marty sold his truck and began skateboarding to work. They took their holidays in Yosemite. And while they had started to become political – more political than the average American family – their politics were determinedly local. They voted for Ralph Nader in 2000, but not with any real expectation he could help. You could not look to Washington for answers, they thought. Families like the McFlys had to create a greener America for themselves.
Jennifer’s perspective started to broaden after the invasion of Iraq. You could not stop this injustice in the local scout hall, she thought. So she seriously considered becoming a human shield, and even went so far as to attend training courses in San Francisco. But Marty talked her out of it, and she was glad that he did. Disillusioned with national politics, they would remain resistant even to the charms of Barack Obama. They have not voted since 2000. But they are still finding more species to protect, and have recently begun pouring their energies into designing sustainable project homes.