I just finished reading a fascinating book, A War of Shadows, by Jack L. Chalker. The first sentence reads, “The shadow of death passed through Cornwall, Nebraska, but it was such a nice day that nobody noticed.”
Small town America was being attacked by a biological agent, bringing death and/or chronic illness to such a degree that the President of the United States had Congress declare martial law. Our government’s response to the attack by unknown assailants was to completely suspend civil liberties.
As the narrative unfolds it becomes clear that the biological agents being used were manmade, developed for the purpose of creating sufficient fear among the general population that no measures taken to counteract the menace would be questioned.
The forces behind the plot consisted of a group of very wealthy liberals and progressives, under the control of rogue elements in the government, going all the way to the highest offices in all three branches. Their end purpose was that of transforming the United States into a totalitarian regime, forever to be under their collective thumb.
Quoting from the text of the novel, “Using the idea that we had a mysterious enemy controlling a horrible fate, we scared the American people half to death. They were willing to do just about anything to feel safe from this dreaded disease. It was much worse than soldiers of an enemy. It was silent, invisible and permanent in its effects. They demanded protection from Congress, Congress gave extreme emergency powers to the President, and we had the military state of emergency.”
A phrase often used when a work of fiction or entertainment seems to hit upon a subject currently existing in real life, “ripped from the headlines,” would seem to be appropriate in reviewing Mr. Chalker’s novel. Appropriate until one takes into account that the novel, “A War of Shadows,” was written in 1979, over forty years ago.
I am not a great fan of coincidences but barring such an occurrence it would seem that Jack Chalker was either prescient to a degree rivaling Nostradamus or someone reading his work saw it not as science fiction but as a blueprint for achieving a political end impossible through the use of any ordinary legal and ethical means.
No matter what your take on the subject, Mr. Chalker’s fantasy is far too close to our current reality for comfort and complacency. The parallels are uncanny.
Perhaps the answer to why we are where we are lies in identifying the true architects of the events that have caused our lives to imitate Chalker’s art and then taking all appropriate action to bring them to justice.