Monday, October 20, 2014

Book Review: The Blue Tent Sky

I can't remember where I found the link to Brian Aitken's Indiegogo site, but I do recall that once I read it, I had to contribute.  His story required it.

The book blurb says, "In 2010 Brian Aitken was sentenced to seven years in prison for possessing firearms he legally owned. He lost everything, including custody of his son, for a crime he did not commit. After spending four months behind bars, Governor Chris Christie demanded his release. This is his story."

For anyone interested in personal freedom, firearms laws, individual rights, or an inside look at an extremely arbitrary and capricious legal system, this book is a must-read.  The early part of Brian's story is immediately recognizable: an acrimonious divorce followed by parental alienation, but it soon spirals into a horribly Kafkaesque nightmare culminating in a seven-year prison sentence for the crime of moving one's lawfully-owned firearms from one residence to another.

While gripping, the book isn't without its flaws.  Some grammatical mistakes, odd phrasing, and disjointed story-telling occasionally mar the narrative; it needed one last pass with an editor before it went to print.  In addition, there's a ham-handed marketing effort to make Brian's story a left vs. right issue, which doesn't fit.  The American left doesn't like guns and wants to outlaw private ownership of them, yes, but this case was about the typical unthinking gun-grabbing that's part and parcel of northeastern liberalism, not a true political effort.  An overzealous prosecutor and disgustingly biased judge wanted to make an example of Brian not because he was a conservative, but because he dared to own guns in their state.

Brian had been gored by two bulls: America's awful family court system (which treats all fathers like disposable potential abusers) and New Jersey's contradictory, even senseless firearms laws.  I can't imagine how terrible it must be to have one's own son ripped away like Brian's, but to be sentenced to prison on top of that for not having done anything illegal is unthinkable.  Despite this, Brian treated the subject matter with admirable grace.

The story hits its nadir with Brian's chilling account of county jail, followed by prison.  As appalling as the experience was, the injustice of it made it even worse, no doubt, and I needed a Silkwood shower after reading it.

Whether or not you can ever see yourself in Brian's shoes, what happened to him was a terrible injustice.  Buy his book.  Read it.  And stay out of New Jersey if you legally own a firearm.

Four out of five stars.

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