What if the presidential candidates were assassinated?

It’s weird. Since I started working on this post this morning, my brand new laptop crashed and all the appointments on my iPhone calendar have been wiped. Strange. Or is it? Maybe someone doesn’t want me asking this question. Where’s Jessie Ventura when you need him?

Assassinations are nothing new in the world of presidential politics. Four presidents have been assassinated since the birth of our country. There have been an assassination attempts on every president since I’ve been alive. I remember when Reagan was shot. I came home from elementary school to find my mother crying in front of the TV. When I asked her what was wrong, she said that the president had been shot. We spent the rest of the day glued to the TV and praying for Reagan to be okay. I also remember that during that time when we didn’t know whether he would make it or not, everyone in my neighborhood was in shock; even though we were all young kids, all my friends at school were scared. We all wondered what would happen to us if the president died?

While assassinations on presidents is nothing new, the only assassination attempt on a presidential candidate was George Wallace. And there are plenty of conspiracy theories out there that Nixon had something to do with that attempt. Even though Wallace wasn’t killed, he dropped out of the race and most of his votes went to Nixon.

So, what would happen if a presidential candidate, or all the candidates, were killed? What would that do to each party? What would that do to the country? Certainly, federal, state and local governments would continue to operate. But what would it do to our collective psyche? In this era, during this election, which is perhaps the most divisive on record, would the deaths of the people fighting to be our leader cause a divide that would forever alter our country? Would it lead us into a tailspin, one that we couldn’t recover from? I don’t know. In my latest thriller, The Campaign, I follow one scenario that could happen. Check it out for $0.99 and let me know what you think.

Could the assassination of our presidential candidates really occur?

We all know that in politics, there are no simple answers. But the answer to the question above is yes. As I stated in my last blog post, there’s been an attempt on every one of the eight presidents in my lifetime. While some attempts haven’t even come close to the Leader of the Free World, (think of the nut who fired a gun at the White House when the Obamas weren’t even home) others have been extremely close (Ford was almost shot two different times and Reagan was shot but survived). In fact, when you think about it, while presidents have an incredible amount of protection with Secret Service agents, bulletproof vehicles and every part of their public appearances mapped out and planned, they are still in positions where making connections with other people will make or break their candidacies. And making connections means making contact. And making contact means you can’t hide behind bulletproof glass and five inch thick steel. So they have to come out from hiding, and that’s when the crazies get their shots at the prize, pardon the pun.

Americahas always been defined by our violence. We love football, war movies, and millions of us will only give up our firearms when someone tries to take them from our cold, dead hands. But when you look at violence against our presidents, or all political figures for that matter, we are relatively tame compared to the rest of the world. Assassination has been one of the oldest political tools in the history of time. According to Wikipedia: “The Old Testament story of Judith illustrates how a woman frees the Israelites by tricking and assassinating Holofernes, a warlord of the rival Assyrians, with whom the Israelites were at war. King Joash of Judah was recorded as being assassinated by his own servants,[9] Joab assassinated Absalom, King David‘s son [10] and King Sennacherib of Assyria was assassinated by his own sons.Other famous victims [of assassination] are Philip II of Macedon (336 BC), the father of Alexander the Great, and Roman consul Julius Caesar (44 BC).[13] Emperors of Rome often met their end in this way, as did many of the Muslim Shia Imams hundreds of years later. The practice was also well known in ancient China, as in Jing Ke‘s failed assassination of King Qin Shi Huang (227 BC).

“In the Philippines, the assassination of Benigno Aquino, Jr. triggered the eventual downfall of the 20-year autocratic rule of President Ferdinand Marcos. In Israel, Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin was assassinated on November 4, 1995. Yigal Amir confessed and was convicted of the crime. In Lebanon, the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri on February 14, 2005, prompted an investigation by the United Nations. The suggestion in the resulting Mehlis report that there was Syrian involvement, prompted the Cedar Revolution, which drove Syrian troops out of Lebanon. In Pakistan, former prime minister and opposition leader Benazir Bhutto was assassinated in 2007, while in the process of running for re-election. Bhutto’s assassination drew unanimous condemnation from the international community. In Guinea Bissau, President João Bernardo Vieira was assassinated in the early hours of March 2, 2009, in the capital, Bissau.”

These are just a few of the examples of how assassination has been used as a tool to affect political change throughout the ages. InAmerica, we have been relatively insulated to the detrimental effects of assassination. But when they happen, watch out. Two out of the four assassinations of our leaders, Lincoln and Kennedy, are touted as being instrumental turning points in the history of our nation, in a bad way. So, can assassinations occur? Yes. Do they have the potential to change our nation? Yes. The sad thing is that if a presidential candidate were assassinated, much like Robert Kennedy, we would never know their full potential and thus, how they could have influenced our nation would never be known; it would only be left up to speculation.

 

How do you write a suspense novel?

When I go to book signings or when I give lectures to local groups about how, “Yes, you too can write a novel in 3 Easy Steps!” (Just kidding with that lecture title, there’s actually 4 steps) I’m always asked “How do you write suspense?” Is there a formula for success? Some crazy method? A secret sauce you sprinkle on the pages to get that right mix of action, drama and suspense on every page so your reader will keep wanting to turn pages?

First, I am no expert. But I do think that people waaayyy over-think the notion of writing suspense. Leaving your audience in suspense could be as simple as ending the chapter with a knock at a door. Or it could be as complex as having some unknown villain appear throughout the novel (think “The Teacher” in Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code). When I started writing suspense, I would read whatever I wrote out loud to myself and if it sounded suspenseful, if it left me wanting to turn the page, I thought I nailed it. Then I got up the courage to share my scribblings with a small critique group (something I highly recommend doing). Some of it they thought was suspenseful. Other parts were about as suspenseful as a trigonometry textbook. Finally, I’ve come across my secret winning formula for ultimate suspense writing success, which I will now share with you.

Are you ready for it?

Do you think you can handle it?

Once you know what it is, what will you do with it? Will you be able to control it? Or will it control you?

Okay, you asked for it, so here it is: it’s my kids.

It doesn’t happen every night, but most nights I try to dream up stories to tell my kids at bedtime. At first, I was telling them stories about how much trouble their Uncle Mike got into when we were kids and how their father, an angel who never got in any trouble, tried to set him on the straight and narrow path. But as their hunger for new and different stories grew, I started telling them stories I knew best: suspense stories. As I let my mind wander dreaming up the most awful creatures of evil and the most awesome heroes to fight them, I had this breakthrough moment: if I could entertain my kids, and hold their busy minds in suspense where they hung on my every word, then I could certainly use that same “formula” in my novels. And you know what? I think it’s worked.  My last two suspense thrillers are much better than my first one. And my writing continues to steadily improve with each new three-headed alien, turbo-charged dragon and, the most evil of all, ponytailed girl (ewww!!!) that appears in the stories I tell my boys.

So, how do you write suspense? Practice it. Let your mind wander. Read your stuff out loud to yourself and see if you can’t wait to turn the next page. Then read your stuff to a critic. It might just be me, but it helps if they’re between the ages of 5 and 8 years old.

How do conspiracy theories get started?

Many people ask this question about how a conspiracy theory is born. I think that wherever and whenever there is a large event, one that has the power to shape history or influence millions of peoples’ lives, there is the inevitable creation of a conspiracy theory. If conspiracy theories exist to try and give meaning to random events, then they have always been around and they will always be with us. For it is human nature to try and control the uncontrollable and to interpret the chaos of the world.

So if conspiracy theories are as common as the air we breathe and the water we drink, maybe instead of the question “how do conspiracy theories get started?” the more important question is, “Are there certain types of people who are prone to believe in conspiracy theories?”

Dr. Jovan Byford of The Open University had this to say about developing psychological profiles of conspiracy theorists: “Researchers have explored the relevance of more general demographic factors like gender, socio-economic status, educational level or ethnic background and so on, but also things like disenchantment with political authority, sense of powerlessness, political cynicism, authoritarianism or alienation from society. They have also looked at personality factors and aspects of cognitive functioning (resistance to disconfirming evidence, tendency to circular thinking, attributional styles, etc.) to see whether conspiracism is underpinned by some intrinsic perceptual or reasoning deficit which leads people to misunderstand or misinterpret causal relations in the world. Overall, this quest for the psychological profile of conspiracy theorists has yielded modest results. Conspiracy theorists have been shown to be quite similar to skeptics in terms of cognitive functioning or personality. In fact, the only consistent finding is that believers tend to be disenchanted with authority and cynical about the mainstream of politics.”

So, are conspiracy theorists just cynics? Do all conspiracy theories get their birth from some form of cynicism about the status quo? Dr. Byford also suggests that in trying to analyze the psychology behind conspiracy theorists, researchers are going in a wrong direction by analyzing individuals. Conspiracy theories, by their very nature, only exist when they are shared by many people; if one person thought that JKF was assassinated by the mob, it wouldn’t be news, but since thousands, maybe even millions believe it, then it becomes a full blown conspiracy theory complete with thousands of websites devoted to it and hundreds of books written about that awful day in Dallas.

How do conspiracy theories get started? What kind of people believe in them? Both good questions. I think both can be answered by one word: mistrust. It is whenever something life-changing happens and when we mistrust our leadership that deals with it is when a conspiracy theory is both born and we become believers.

How do conspiracy theories play out in politics today?

How do conspiracy theories play out in politics today?

george washingtonFake birth certificates. Fudged tax returns. Swift boats. The 2000 election was rigged. And climate change isn’t real.

Conspiracy theories have plagued recent presidents and presidential candidates, but presidents going back to the days of our forefathers had to deal with their fair share of controversy. Here’s just a taste:

George Washington was suspected of having been born in England, not Virginia.

Thomas Jefferson was accused of having a role in the alleged murder of famed explorer Meriwether Lewis.

John Wilkes Booth was allegedly part of a plot to kill not just Lincoln, but also his vice president and secretary of state, which would have crippled the government, giving the south a chance to rise again.

But are conspiracy theories when it comes to politics, and specifically presidential campaigns, a bad thing? Yes, there’s all sorts of mudslinging going on in today’s political realm. And yes, it seems that our parties are more divisive than ever. But the circus that is our political system, really any political system in the world and throughout history, makes people sit up and take notice. I mean, don’t we all know when the circus comes to town?

We all know that a certain amount of policy which influences our everyday lives was either conceived or shaped in a smoke filled backroom…scratch that – this is the 21 century…on some resort golf course or private suite in Vegas (which the taxpayers paid for) beyond the watchful eyes of the media. Combine that with the fact that we as a collective nation have the attention span of a gnat hopped up on snickers bars and Yoo-hoo. If we didn’t have conspiracy theories that made us care about what when on in government, then I for one think we’d be much worse off as a nation.

The Powers That Be would have been able to slip a lot more by us. Just like hurricanes in hurricane season, conspiracies come along with every election season. Some are weak winds that barely blow enough interest in one direction or another. Others are monster storms that gather so much strength our collective attention can do nothing else but pay attention to it. And whether it’s a monster hurricane that threatens our homes and towns or a conspiracy theory that threatens our way of interpreting the world around us, being forced to deal with them always seems to bring about our best sensibilities. We build stronger levees and better houses after the storms. We think about policies and scrutinize our leadership after a good old fashioned conspiracy washes over us.

So I say the more conspiracy theories the better. From George Washington to George Bush and beyond, they make us pay attention to politics, and that’s always a good thing. And so is having a Self-Powered AM/FM/NOAA Weather Radio with Flashlight and Cell Phone Charger. It is hurricane season, after all.