Independence Day

by J.T. Ellison

For the two hundred and thirty-second time, we celebrate our independence today. Independence from tyranny, from oppression, from religious persecution. We celebrate our rights to free speech, revel in the joys of living in a nation that encourages diversity of thought, faith and action. We are the United States of America, and we are mighty because of our tolerance.

So can we get real for a second?

I had two events this week that left me infuriated, frustrated, and ultimately pumped full of righteous indignation. Once I was done seeing red, the strong feelings trickled down into actual courage. Please forgive my rant, but as a writer, it would be disingenuous not to talk about it.

I read a spectacular book this week called THE MONSTER OF FLORENCE, by Douglas Preston and Mario Spezi. Many of you recall the situation two years ago, when Spezi was arrested in Italy and Doug launched a campaign in the press to get him released. The book details not just the botched investigation into the sixteen murders in the hills surrounding Florence, but goes into detail about how close Doug came to being imprisoned along with Spezi. Doug was taken into custody, interrogated and indicted (under Italian law the term is indagato, which means you have been formally named as an official suspect of the crime.) He was damn lucky to get out of the situation without being thrown in prison, and he was forced to leave Italy.

His writing partner, Mario Spezi, wasn’t so lucky. Spezi was the lead journalist who covered the Monster of Florence for twenty years for La Nazione, an Italian newspaper. When the official investigation got mired in ridiculousness, he did what any good journalist does — he questioned the heads of the investigation and their single-minded pursuit of anything but the real truth. What happened next was the most specious display of judicial malfeasance I’ve ever seen. He was charged with the murders, accused of being Il Mostro. For a journalist and a thriller writer to be indicted and jailed because they question the actions of the government is beyond frightening.

I won’t ruin the book for you by revealing more, but I highly, highly recommend this incredible story. The Monster of Florence has been on my radar for quite some time, and I was fascinated by the behind the scenes story Doug presents in this book.

The second incident that upset me this week was finding out another fellow thriller writer, Brad Thor, has received death threats from the Muslim community because of his new book, THE LAST PATRIOT. It smacks of the fatwa placed on the head of Sir Salman Rushdie by the Ayatolla Khomeini in 1988. Brad has been on television this week talking about the book and the measures he’s had to go to to protect himself and his family. It’s absolutely unreal to think that you could write a book and people would want to kill you.

Forgive my strong language, but this is utter bullshit. As Brad so eloquently put it, there are no laws that cover being offended. These are fiction writers, thriller writers, being threatened because they MADE UP A STORY. We’ve moved well past censorship, my friends. This is called fascism. And it has no place in our modern society.

So today, this beautiful, fine day where we Americans celebrate our independence from fascism and tyranny, I urge you to buy both of these books and send a statement to the very people who think that they are within their rights to call for the death of a writer. To imprison journalists. To infringe on our very freedom because of their fears. No more. We need to stand up as a community and shout these people down.

Buy Doug Preston’s THE MONSTER OF FLORENCE here.

Buy Brad Thor’s THE LAST PATRIOT here.

God Bless America.

Wine of the Week: An American wine with an Italian name: 2005 Francis Ford Coppola Rosso

9 thoughts on “Independence Day

  1. Chuck D.

    How very lucky we are to live in this land–the one I take for granted most every day. My thoughts and prayers will be with Thor, Spezi and Preston.

    I served five years as a U.S. Army paratrooper, and for all of our differences, I think most every American can rally behind the ideal that our country is based upon.

    Thanks JT!

  2. Chuck D.

    Sorry–I hit post instead of preview. When I was in the Army–I think it was the summer of ’92–we were tasked with guarding and helping at the refugee camps, in Germany, for the escapees of the war of Bosnia & Herzogovina. The refugees, thousands of them, had fled their homes and families to escape ethnic cleansing by the Serbs. It was horrible, as you can imagine.

    My friends and I would spend nights speaking to the English-speaking refugees, trying to make them laugh and forget their predicament. To me, as an American, it was such an unimaginable situation.

    So many examples just like this one. We’re truly fortunate.

  3. Judge

    Well said JT. Everyone reading this today will be hard pressed to find a better display of what our country is about. It seems now more than ever we all need to read these few hundred words and appreciate the strength and the fragility of our freedoms that need our constant watch.

  4. J.D. Rhoades

    Excellent post, JT.

    Maybe Brad should talk to Dan Brown, who also got death threats over THE DA VINCI CODE. There are some truly nutty people in this world.

  5. Pari Noskin Taichert

    J.T.,Excellent post.

    When it comes to the ideals upon which our country was founded, those stated in our Constitution, we are extraordinarily fortunate to live in the U.S.

    Free speech (spoken and written) needs to remain a cherished cornerstone in every democracy.

    Thanks for this post on THIS day.

  6. Fran

    I too read Doug’s book, JT, and it is truly chilling, not necessarily the Monster part, although that’s pretty grim, but the total frightening mess of Italian pseudo-justice that’s going on there. And it hits close to home here in the Pacific Northwest because the prosecutor who went after Doug and Spezi is prosecuting a local girl. Considering where the prosecutor gets his information, she’s in deep, deep trouble.

    I didn’t know someone was after Brad Thor! That’s beyond ludicrous!


  7. JT Ellison

    Thanks, everyone! I’ve had spotty internet today, so I apologize for not participating more. But I appreciate each and every comment today.

    Happy 4th of July!!


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