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  • Writer's pictureerikaraskin

Where'd You Get That Idea From?



Writers write. Worriers worry. I am quite adept at doing both. You know, simultaneously.


I penned my first book, Close, while partaking in a seasons-long guilty-addiction to a certain TV show that featured vulnerable families receiving "therapy" from a bombastic, self-righteous and accusatory host -- for entertainment purposes. As I watched, I grew increasingly concerned for the struggling teens and parents having their pain exploited for ratings. So I made up Kik Marcheson and her three daughters who learn first-hand the dangers of inviting the country into a counseling session.


My next novel, Best Intentions was about medical malpractice of the institutionalized variety. It detailed the upshot of grinding young doctors into the ground while still expecting them to be able to provide quality care. (Ever witness an overtired pediatric resident fast asleep in a rowdy cafeteria - only to take the elevator up to your child's room and make high-stakes decisions? I have.) Check out the number of duty hours residents work a week. Seriously.


Allegiance grew from a longstanding fear of strongmen that has hitched its wagon to current events.


I wrote my college thesis on Jonestown. Sitting hour after hour behind the library's microfiche machine reading the newspaper clippings, I was horrified by how so many normal seeming people who'd just started off searching for Something Better, could fall victim to deranged evil; many going on to commit it themselves. The members of the People's Temple in the 1970s had joined the Church looking to live in an equal, integrated community. They unwittingly followed their power-hungry, narcissistic leader to the jungles of Guyana, where he employed conspiracy theories and violence to amp up their paranoia and malleability.


What I learned about the rise of totalitarianism was that would-be dictators first anoint their followers for participating in 'a higher purpose' -- and then constantly up the ask. (The psychology of 'in for a penny' is no joke.) They divide everyone into Them and Us teams. They use shape-shifting to keep their people off-balance, saying one thing Tuesday morning and its opposite after lunch. They also distort reality by employing projection, making viscous allegations that are actually confessions.


Eventually to cement control, they employ terror and debasement to keep people in -- and over -- the line. Opposition is outlawed. And we all know how that turned out in Jonestown.


A few decades passed. I remained on-guard against American strongmen. My love for family expanded generationally.

 

Enter Trump stage right and a rough plot for Allegiance would eventually outline itself. The novel asks what do we actually do to protect loved ones from a dangerous political cult? One that is hellbent on stripping them of their rights?


I freaked out as Trump tapped into a generalized discontent among White voters, reflecting and amplifying the ugly -- throwing violence in as acceptable behavior to achieve anti-democratic goals.

 

After Super Tuesday in 2016, I dug out my old thesis and wrote a piece for the newspaper comparing Trump to Jones. Certain people (you know who you are) called me crazy. But every time he opened his mouth my blood ran cold. Seeing his movement take off was like watching a cancer metastasize on the body of a dear friend. Inch by inch.

 

Though most of us weathered his four years in office, it could have gone either way. And his resurgence has me seriously alarmed for the future of my loved ones (and yours.) I've seen seemingly normal looking people interviewed at mass rallies calling for a violent civi war - shrugging off the blood-shed of their neighbors as "collateral damage."


As my worry intensified, so did my word count.


While I couldn’t organize my way out of a paper bag in terms of truly planning a Plan B if Trump were to win again, I was able to sit on the couch (with a soundtrack of terrifying cable news playing in the background) and write a novel about what it could actually mean.


Allegiance is told in two voices. That of a grandmother who must decide what to do to ensure that the kids she loves don’t grow up under a dictator with policies of forced pregnancies, violent otherization, and mass arrests ---- but instead live in a country committed to human rights, school lunches and health care for all. The political thriller is also told by her son, a podcaster deep undercover in a White Nationalist compound where retribution is both a buzz word and a goal.

 

My hope is that the novel will encourage redoubled efforts to save democracy. Before it's too late to do anything at all.




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