SIDEBAR Winter 2017-18 - 14

MONTGOMERYBAR.ORG

BOOK REVIEW:

Blood Republic
by James R. Duncan
Review By Jules J. Mermelstein, Esq.

I

magine an America divided by ideology
- neither side concerned with facts; each
side believing anything on the internet
confirming its beliefs; each side disputing
anything on the internet contradicting its
beliefs. Indeed, one does not need a great
deal of imagination for this; just log onto any
social media site and follow the conversation.
Our civil society seems to be getting less civil
and more accepting of fake news while less
accepting of facts.
As lawyers who deal with facts every day
and use them to convince clients of their best
courses of action, or juries to find for our
clients, this should concern us greatly.
Now imagine an America where
conspiracy theories are not only believed, but
might actually be real. An America where the
government uses the term Islamic terrorists to
define any group it wants to either deny rights
to or commit acts of violence against. An
America where alternative conspiracy theories
cause people to react with violence against
those they perceive to be anti-American.
Again, given the recent violent clashes between
white supremacists and anti-fascists, one might
not need a great deal of imagination for that.
Imagine the whole country divided,
fighting, killing relatives on the "other side."
Yes, another civil war. Now you have the plot
of Blood Republic, one of the most intriguing,
scary, and realistic-to-a-point political thrillers
this reviewer has ever read.
Blood Republic was originally published
on July 4, 2016, before the results of the 2016
presidential election were known. It revolves
around a presidential election in which the
Democratic ticket wins the popular vote
but there is an apparent tie in the electoral
vote as we head into actual voting by the
electors. Given the Republican majority in the
House of Representatives, it is assumed that
if the electors tie, the House will award the
Republicans the win.

14 SIDEBAR

As an aside from someone who taught
the Constitution, I could not help but notice
that the novel assumes one ticket or the
other would win, ignoring that the House
picks the president and the Senate picks the
vice-president. The vice-presidential candidate
on the Democratic ticket is the president
pro tempore of the Senate, indicating the
Democrats have a majority in that house. Of
course, by tradition, the president pro tempore
is the most senior member of the majority
party in the Senate. In our novel's case,
however, it is a 36-year-old senator. Aside
from these distractions, the plot is believable
and scary.
The novel's Republicans have a "Make
America Great Again" slogan, and its
Democrats champion a program they
call voluntary, but those who elect not to
participate suffer a heavy tax burden for their
choice. The Republican presidential candidate
is an elderly man with a large mop of blond
hair who became famous through television,
although as a televangelist, not by hosting a
reality television show.
Duncan does a masterful job of describing
people on social media, so we can immediately
identify with the descriptions, while also
recognizing their similarity to real-life
counterparts. Two examples:
@jessejameskickass was a thirty-two year
old steelworker in Birmingham, Alabama.
. . . He was white, had one brown tooth,
lived in an apartment from the 1980s
that reeked of fungus, and every night saw
examples in television beer, car, and phone
commercials of how glorious his life was
actually supposed to be. . . . He had never
considered himself a racist, but did have a
Confederate flag on his main social media
page, a symbol of his favorite country band.
. . . . [Strangers on social media] claimed,
as a white man, he should be more grateful
and respectful for everything he had in life,

but @jessejameskickass was pretty sure what
he had sucked. He was beginning to suspect
someone was intentionally screwing him, but
he didn't know who. Black people? Liberals?
Foreigners?
@socialjusticewarrior was a young,
Buddhist, semi-pro Frisbee player in Seattle,
Washington, who tried to stay current on the
most enlightened, progressive, and socially
redeeming thoughts and trends despite the
incessant rain. He often saw beer, car and
phone commercials showing how his life was
supposed to be, and suspected he was getting
screwed.
This dystopian novel of what our country
may be becoming is eerily realistic, even if one
does not buy the conspiracy theories within
it. The solution to prevent it is in our power,
especially as attorneys who still have some
credibility as a profession. Without giving
away any plot lines, here is what one character
says, which might very well be the moral of
the story:
You may think you know God DOES exist,
but you don't, and even if you did, it's not
your place to judge. Everyone needs the free
will to make mistakes, travel their own path
toward truth. And you may think you know
God does NOT exist, but you don't KNOW
that either. And even if you were right, then
personal responsibility matters even more.
With technology evolving exponentially, it
won't be long before almost every individual
has the ability to destroy us all, so if we
don't have faith in a moral code beyond our
personal interest, we're done. So it's just about
your sincerity to that higher truth, only up to
you and you alone.
In short, I highly recommend this novel
to anyone with any ideology who is concerned
with the level of discourse in the United States
today.


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