Wow. I just finished reading John Grisham's latest offering: The Appeal. I have to admit, I'd seen a few reviews by others who thought it wasn't his best work - they didn't like the ending, blah, blah, blah. To me, the ending was fine. Actually, the whole read was pretty good - if you like books that appeal to the masses, are easy to follow and have a bit of intrigue to keep you going. None of Grisham's books are earth-shattering, and yet, they are bestsellers. But I digress... ANYWAY.
I have to hand it to him - the guy knows how to weave a plot. I think his characterization could use a little more work, but I'm not a critic, what do I know? Oh, wait, I was going to talk about The Appeal!
Okay - here it is: that book scared the crap out of me. I'm almost afraid to consider the possibility that our government, our justice system, and our elected officials are THAT influenced. Basically, in a nutshell, a heavy-hitter corporation loses big in a liability trial, and throws around the mega-bucks to make sure the appeal goes the opposite direction. This includes both legal and illegal methods, and implies that big, big money is what really runs our nation.
So what can one say? "That's not fair!" Well, it isn't, but what can we do about it? Get out and vote? Ummmm, that's what the people in the great state of Mississippi did (in the book). They came out and voted in droves. For the bought candidate. The one with the funding to run a wink-wink campaign. The one who smeared the incumbent with falsehoods and misleading propaganda. The one who didn't even know he even wanted to be an elected official until big business coerced him with an offer he couldn't refuse.
Now I know this is a work of fiction...but really, how much is truly fiction, and how much of this could (and did and DOES) really happen? Congressmen hosting $1000 a plate dinners for a heavily guarded list of attendees, Gulfstream 5's paid for by the mega-rich hauling around our elected officials, hush-hush meetings taking place in the oldest and most elegantly decorated steakhouses that have private, red-boothed rooms that only a fraction of a fraction of a percent of our citizenry even know about.
Or maybe this truly is just a work of fiction and I'm a damned fool. Maybe Grisham's a better writer than I give him credit for.
Nah. I don't believe it. Why? Because of the underlying premise. Money. Read the book. Every one of the characters, from the lawyers, the judges, the plaintiffs, the corporate stiffs, heck, even the PREACHERS; all they cared about, all they laid their lives on the line for, all the sacrifices: Money. And lots of it. And here's where maybe Grisham is a genius. He never has them admit it openly, but at the mere mention of big bucks, his characters show it. I'm not going to give examples. There are too many. But the way these characters seem to respond to the idea that big money is coming their way reminds me of the Grinch when he gets the idea to raid Who-ville, and he smiles that smile: that evil, twisting, self-satisfied grin.
I never had a doubt that money is what really runs this country, from the top on down. But to read such a chilling example of how EXACTLY money can (and probably has) done this makes me nervous. And it makes my skin crawl.