Monday, August 15, 2011

"An Act of Self-Defense" offers literal take on term limits revolution

Readers of Erne Lewis' "An Act of Self-Defense" who have also read Vince Flynn's "Term Limits" will not be able to help comparing the two. For one thing, both novels revolve around frustrated Americans who target -- literally -- Congress members in a revolutionary attempt to get the federal government under control.

In Lewis' version, the four-person rebel cadre call themselves the Term Limits Revolution and threaten to kill one Congress member per day until a 8-year term limits amendment is passed and sent to the states for ratification. Once they do that, the TLR promised to stand down and the states are free to ratify or reject it.

In the TLR's initial threat to Congress, they argue "Thomas Jefferson believed the failure to include term limits in the Constitution was a fatal error. He predicted another revolution would be necessary to regain the individual rights lost to the power-loving politicians who would, over time, increase their power at the cost of our liberty. Jefferson could not have foreseen that the federal government would today be capable of tracking our every move and communication..."

This last sentence provides much of the suspense that makes this Lewis' first novel a page-turner. The book shows, rather dramatically, how the Patriot Act and other Congressional excesses can be used not only to track down legitimate threats like the TLR, but also misused to harrass innocent Americans by overly aggressive law enforcement or, worse, for purely political reasons.

In one dramatic example, a no-knock warrantless raid on the president of a national term limits advocacy organization -- yikes! -- goes awry with tragic results. And it turns out the target of the raid had no connection or knowledge of the TLR.

Lewis has done his homework, both on the term limits issue and on the new-fangled powers government has usurped by exploiting people's fear of Muslim terrorists following 9/11.

Much like with the Flynn book, the reader finds himself identifying a little too closely with the revolutionaries. Fortunately, in the real world, we may indeed need a term limits revolution, but not one armed with guns and bombs.