This last election left us reeling as a nation. We’ve always been a divided land. Go back to the Revolution and you’ll find the colonies divided between those loyal to England and those ready to split away. We were divided enough in 1860 to have a full blown Civil War. World War I had us divided along the lines of isolationists and those ready to embrace the world. Then there was Prohibition dividing us along religious lines. The Depression divided us along class lines. World War II divided us between hawks and doves. Then anti-nuke vs pro-nuke. Hippie versus Establishment.
We like to look at our own time and say, “Things have never been worse.” And in fact, they are pretty bad right now. Each side has its solutions, and each side believes the other’s solution is the road to ruin. Think about it: what one side feels will fix the nation, the other side believes will destroy it. Each side must work against the other to save the nation. I even had a friend in this last election cycle tell me he didn’t really want to speak to me anymore. I’m sure this isn’t an isolated incident. And while this may not be the most our nation has ever been divided, it is the most it has been divided in my lifetime. And since it is my lifetime it is the most important to me.
When I set out to write The Silla Project, I didn’t know where I was going to set it. It’s a story about an American nuclear scientist abducted by a nation with nuclear aspirations so I could have easily put it in the Middle East. It would have been easier to write. It would have been easier to sell. But I’m glad that I didn’t because I have learned some tremendous lessons from researching and writing that book, and therein lies the power of fiction.
North Korea is a nation defined by a monolithic ideology. For those of you unfamiliar with the word ideology, as I was when I began studying the Workers Paradise, ideology is your world view and political beliefs put into practice. Ideology is law in North Korea. Law with a capital ‘L’. The Law in a Biblical sense. Written Law with penalties. In fact, one of the key principles of North Korean education is to place the main stress on ideology. Indoctrination of the youth. They spend as much time studying Kim Il-sung’s hundreds of essays and religion of Juche as our kids spend studying math and english. More, in fact. But unlike our laws, North Korean law doesn’t just carry penalties, it also carries rewards. Rewards for right behavior, like say, reporting a friend who made negative statements about the regime.
I had heard of places like that but until I researched this book I didn’t understand what that meant or what it can do to a people. Like my friend (I still consider him a friend) I once made and broke friendships based on ideology. But studying a place where ideological connections determine everything from your job, to your housing, to your kid’s schooling, and can even get you sent to a prison camp, shocked me into the realization that most people are deeper than their politics. And while I am passionate about my ideology, and vocal, I will not determine who is my friend, and who is not, by their ideology. It is a dangerous trend and one that is, quite-frankly, un-American, especially with this creeping reward system. More and more industries, with the media at the center, hire and fire based on ideology. In North Korea you can’t get a job unless your ideology is Red. Are we as Americans going to embrace this, too? Do we understand what that will do to us as a people?
I heard an interesting comment related to the recent North Korean missile launch. Actually, I read it. It was on Facebook I think. A friend noted that if the North Koreans were to launch a missile at the United States it would probably hit a Blue city: a city that voted Democrat in the last election. He’s right. All of our major cities voted Blue, even in states that otherwise voted Red. But you know, I’m not really worried about that. I’m not worried about Kim Jong-un launching a missile at us and, being a rocket scientist by profession, I’m in a pretty good position to make that assessment. I’m not worried because if he does launch a nuclear missile at one of our Blue cities, it will be shot down by an interceptor designed and built in a Red city. When our early warning satellite detects that missile launch there isn’t going to be an ideological comparison like Kim Jong-il would do. Our BMC3I will track the threat, compute a firing solution, and salvo the interceptors.
Our military discriminates between friend and foe with the colors red and blue. Video games pit the Red team against the Blue. Manchester United is red, Chelsea is blue. Alabama is red, Auburn is blue. And our political maps draw stark comparisons using red and blue. Sure, political beliefs are important and it’s good to be vocal about them, it is our right as Americans, but if we are going to continue to be a nation we better stop thinking in terms of Red and Blue for the things that matter. Because if we don’t, some third color is going to come in and take over and we’re going to be left wondering why we were at one another’s throats.