Ah, Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible.”
Dripping in subtext, rife with political statement hidden in the clothing of historical drama. Superficially, it was about the witch trials. Subtextually, it was all about McCarthy, the modern American witch hunt.
Writer Robert Ferrigno’s new novel “Prayers For The Assasin,” is just as full of subtext. While I don’t care much for the novel itself — the storyline is servicable, the characters almost compelling in a straightfoward way, the situations and plotting and pacing all competent if cliched and stereotypical — I was interested in Ferrigno’s hidden story.
In 2040, America has had a civil war, triggered by backpack nukes detonated in Washington, D.C., and New York City. The north and west is now and Islamic state, with the south a Christian nation — peopled with stereotypical and easy to write rejects from “Deliverance,” which annoys the shit out of my vague southern-ness…not all of us in the south or in Texas are redneck squirrel hunters who suffer from massive homophobia and like our women barefoot and pregnant while our blacks are in the back shack or the fields.
But the hidden story of Ferrigno’s novel — that of the fundamentalist religious police the Black Robes — tells the tale here.
The religous police in this book are what Americans have come to expect from fundamentalist Islam: women told to stay indoors unless they have a male relative for escort, women beaten for not obeying, women stoned to death for having sex outside of marriage even when that sex was rape, men with multiple wives, men pulled off the street — disappeared in the vernacular of Auguste Pinochet’s regime — for idle speculation, for speaking against the religious or societal edicts of Islam.
But at the same time, those religous police are our burgeoning cadre of religous police. In the book, the Black Robes are extreme in both thought and belief and action against those who disagree with them.
Take a look around.
Look at this place where a thirty year Marine veteran is called a traitor and coward for asking questions about the war, where a former attorney general spends nearly $7,000 on a robe to cover the bare breasts of Scales of Justice statue because he’s embarrassed to have those boobs in pictures of him at press conferences. (I guess the robe was less expensive than simply moving the press conferences to another part of the building.)
Take a look at a place where, even if you supported the war in Afghanistan but question the war in Iraq, you are called unpatriotic, “dishonest,” “reprehensible,” a place where corporations are terrified of, and refuse to, sponsor the Museum of National History’s Charles Darwin exhibit because that exhibit would take a long look Darwin’s work and his legacy, where auto makers are forced to abandon advertising in gay magazines because of threatened boycotts.
When did it become okay to say, “You disagree with me so I’m going to post your personal email and home address on my website so you can get harrassed and threatened?” (as Ann Coulter to a woman who had the temerity to question her).
When did it become okay for your beliefs to take precedence over mine and for you to attack me personally because of it?
How much longer will I be able to say what I want? How much longer will I be able to write what I want?
There is a great chill in the air.