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…notes from the perimeter
by Mike Palecek
Mike Palecek just doesn’t seem to run out of heartrending stories about small-town America. His heroes feel like people we’ve known, or at least been around, all our lives. They’re not the successful businessmen or politicians we might envy on some level for their material wealth, nor are they likely to be street people. They are typical Americans who’ve worked all their lives to keep up with those around them. they’ve always wanted to belong. They’ve been proud of their lives, their kids, their accomplishments and their America.
Charlie Johnson was like that. When “Terror Nation” first looks at him, he’s sitting in his home, staring out the window. An autographed photo of Ronald Reagan is gazing right back at him. He’s comtemplating the recent events in his life, the ones that have put him where he is–waiting for his daughter to pick him up and take him to the local loony bin for ‘testing’. Testing. Right.
Who thinks Charlie is crazy? His family? His neighbors? The government? Or do they just dislike that his open criticism of the accepted and popular political opinions? Is Charlie’s voice of dissent just a little too inconvenient?
Charlie’s story is told against a backdrop of an America that has probably progressed a little further down the road to Amerika. There are hotbeds of rebel activity where radical college students are fighting the private armies of the rich and powerful. None of it gets in the papers; perhaps it is really going on today and we just don’t know. The Red Sox and White Sox in real life are baseball teams, not opponents in guerrilla warfare. Aren’t they?
What happens in this book to Charlie and his family could happen to anyone who cares in America today. What happens is a warning for all of us that it is dangerous to fight the status quo. What happens is a challenge to stand up against oppression and bigotry and lies. What happens is an indictment of inaction even as it warns us that action can get us killed.
Mike Palecek started his writing career in 1974 by sending a letter to the editor of the Norfolk [Nebr.] Daily News. He has been to prison, written for small newspapers and run for Congress.