From the behavior of certain politicians to the war in Ukraine to the leaked draft of the Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe vs. Wade, the real world and the fictional world of The Fellowship Dystopia series are moving closer and closer together. When I started writing this series, it was fun shifting reality into fiction. Today, it appears we are shifting reality again. History became fiction and now fiction appears to be shifting into reality. You may see it too when you know the actual history that I shifted and sifted into a fictional world for my books, My Soul to Keep and If I Should Die.
World War I, often called the Great War, began when a Bosnian Serb nationalist assassinated Franz Ferdinand, the Archduke of Austria, and his wife, Sophie, on June 28, 1914. Back then, most Americans believed the nation shouldn’t get involved in foreign affairs. They watched the conflict uneasily but weren’t concerned because the war was an ocean away. Then On May 7, 1915, an Imperial German Navy U-boat sent a torpedo into the passenger ship, the RMS Lusitânia, sinking it and killing 1,198 passengers, including 128 Americans.
This unprovoked attack on civilians raised the concern of some Americans. In addition, news reports of atrocities perpetrated by Germans against Belgian civilians reached American papers. Some reports were accurate, some were exaggerated. They stirred anti-German sentiment in the United States. A sentiment that concerned President Woodrow Wilson, who believed the nation shouldn’t get involved.
On August 4, President Wilson gave a speech about how he felt the nation should react to the growing conflict in Europe.
The United States must be neutral in fact as well as in name during these days that are to try men’s souls. We must be impartial in thought as well as in action…”President Woodrow Wilson
The nation’s policy may have been neutrality, but that didn’t stop commerce. Over the next three years, American businesses and banks made huge loans to the Allies fighting the Germans.
As the war dragged on, it was clear that America would lose a lot of money if Europe lost the war with Germany.
The End of Neutrality
In January 1917, the British intercepted and decoded a telegram from the German Foreign Secretary sent to the German diplomatic representative in Mexico. It proposed a secret alliance between Mexico and Germany should the US enter the war. “The British passed the document to Washington, and it appeared on the front page of American newspapers” on March first.
During February and March 1917, the Germans resumed their aggressions at sea. German submarines sunk several US cargo vessels without warning.
On April 2, 1917, President Wilson asked Congress for a declaration of war. On the fourth, 82 of 88 U.S. Senators and 373 of 423 members of the House of Representatives voted to declare war.
The first US infantry troops landed in France on June 26, 1917. And so the U.S. entered the Great War.
The End of the Great War
World War I, the Great War, ended on November 11, 1918 (now called Armistice Day or Veteran’s Day in the U.S.)
Some experts estimate that military and civilian deaths on both sides combined reached 24 million people. Of those, about 117,000 were Americans. The numbers are arguable, but the fact is a massive number of people died and the property loss was tremendous.
Many veterans and survivors of the war suffered disabilities or were “shell shocked.”
It should be no surprise that by the 1920s, many Americans swore their nation should never enter another foreign war.
In 1928, the United States signed the Kellogg-Briand Pact renouncing war as a part of national policy.
The Isolationist Movement
During the 1930s, the losses of the Great Depression (1929-1933) and the physical, mental, and emotional scars of the Great War visited most Americans. Many of them vehemently advocated non-involvement in European and Asian conflicts and international politics. Called Isolationists, they felt the US needed to focus on issues at home like rebuilding the nation’s economy. By 1941, they held America First Rally’s across the nation.
The Isolationists had historic precedence to bolster their position. America’s founding fathers saw the ocean separating them from Europe as an ideal situation to create a new nation. Even President George Washington had advocated for non-involvement in European wars and politics.
The Isolationists also had the support of many powerful Americans. Pilot Charles Lindbergh strongly and vocally supported isolationism. Former Presidents Herbert Hoover and James Monroe each voiced support for isolationism. As the Isolationist movement grew, another movement was sweeping through America.
The Third Great Awakening
The Third Great Awakening (1850-1920s) was a period of religious activism in America. Dwight Moody (1837-1899), Billy Sunday (1862-1935), and Father Charles Coughlin (1891-1979) were some of the major players.
During his 1932 bid for the presidency, Franklin D. Roosevelt welcomed Father Coughlin’s support and influence over urban Catholics. But Father Coughlin soured on FDR after the president did not give Coughlin a position on the president’s cabinet.
In 1933, Adolf Hitler became Chancellor of Germany and Dachau, the first concentration camp, opened.
FDR worried about the rise of fascism and totalitarianism and wanted the US to be more involved in Europe and Japan. Most Americans were overwhelmingly against such action.
In 1935, Congress passed the first of a series of neutrality acts to protect the United States from world problems.
Father Coughlin began expressing anti-capitalist, anti-banker, anti-Wall Street, and anti-Semitic views. He blamed those ‘forces’ for America’s entry into World War I and worried those same forces would involve America in the turmoil in Europe.
Shifting Reality to Create a Fictional World
In the Fellowship Dystopia’s history, Giuseppe Zangara assassinates FDR before he can take office. This empowers the Isolationists and the Third Awakening. They join and become a religious-political machine, the Fellowship.
In tents and on the streets, a preacher’s sermons are full of the message that the Great Depression is punishment for America’s sins. People desperate for relief flock to his revival tents. The Fellowship seizes the idea and opportunity. They declare the preacher a prophet and “the way” to peace and prosperity. The Fellowship becomes a source of solace, a source of rules guaranteed to bring relief. With each passing year, more and more laws remove the people’s power and freedom.
America never enters World War II. Europe struggles valiantly, but the Federation of Germany assumes power. Japan rules Asia and the Pacific. And in America, the Fellowship and its Councilors grow more and more powerful.
Miranda, daughter of America’s premier preacher-politician, lives a charmed life as one of the Fellowship’s elite. Until she faces a life that will rob her of all rights.
The story of the Fellowship Dystopia is a story of a fight against tyranny in all its forms. The fight isn’t easy. It ranges from tiny and very personal to national to global. Miranda’s fight starts small and grows in My Soul to Keep. But it frightens her, so she chooses another path and in If I Should Die, events force her to choose different paths. And every path is a test that costs her dearly.
Pre-order If I Should Die now.
And The World Goes Round
At first, the changes in American sentiment over the past handful of years surprised me. I was shocked by how we seem to be on the way to creating a theocracy in reality. Reviewing my notes, reviewing our actual history… I am no longer surprised. I am saddened that we can’t seem to learn lessons bought with blood and tears.
The Pendulum Swings
To anyone who studies history, it is apparent that human behavior and belief systems, especially political ones, swing from one extreme to the other. It’s a pattern we follow to the detriment of us all.
Perhaps that’s where we are in today’s shifting reality. Perhaps we’re being tested. Will we pass these tests?
What choice will our nation make? What choice will you make?
- Illustration of a torpedo hitting the Lusitania: Winsor McCay, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
- Front page of newspaper, Houston Post, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
- President Woodrow Wilson on Navy ship: Naval History & Heritage Command, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
- Flyer for 1941 America First Rally: America First Committee, Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons
- Father Coughlin on Time Magazine Image: Keystone, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons