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Writing for Change in a “Bold Little State”

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“So far, my book has reached one hundred people, maybe one thousand. I want it to reach one million,” Montpelier author Mark Laxer said in August, only a few weeks after he digitally self-published his third book, “Rama Trauma Trump: I Left the Cult and Now Look What Happened.”

A 32-page nonfiction graphic novel illustrated by Vermont artist Marcie Vallette, “Rama Trauma Trump” recounts the story of a young man who leaves a destructive cult only to look around and realize that the current United States president seems an awful lot like the narcissistic, deceptive, totalitarian cult leader he just escaped.

This storyline is reminiscent of Laxer’s first book, “Take Me for a Ride: Coming of Age in a Destructive Cult,” in which he describes his first-hand experience of “watching a cult leader rise to power.” Soon after he published “Take Me for a Ride,” Laxer was sued for $30 million. In response, he made the entire memoir free on the internet hoping to further expose the group. “It did not silence me, it did not scare me,” Laxer said. 

Author Mark Laxer, Courtesy photo.

“Rama Trauma Trump” is also free of cost. Instead of earning money off the book, Laxer hopes to “warn the American people that we are in danger,” he said. “Our president is not a destructive cult leader, but he looks like one.”

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Laxer believes that stopping Trump’s cult-like rule will take educating, informing, and encouraging young people to vote — all of which his book is intended to accomplish. “This is beyond politics, it’s beyond Democrat or Republican. I feel the U.S. Constitution is in grave danger right now. I’ve never felt that in my entire life,” he said.

Hoping to make his message more inviting and accessible to his targeted audience, Laxer, with the help of local animator Spike Robinson, translated the story from graphic novel to film. In the 23-minute YouTube video called “Rama Trauma Trump: The Movie,” Laxer narrates the story while Vallette’s illustrations come to life. The drawn characters can be seen rallying, biking, and even golfing across the screen. “That’s the language young people speak — YouTube videos,” Laxer said. He remarked that he thinks Spike made the movie “even better than the book,” although he is very fond of both formats.

Laxer reflected that he owes some of his fighting spirit to his time in Vermont — a state which, though lacking the muscle mass of Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts, or the like, has an “indomitable” spirit. “There’s boldness here, it’s a bold little state,” he said. He hopes his “little book” will have a similarly bold impact on the American people.

Months later, it seems Laxer may have achieved his goal of reaching one million people. As the November election rolled around, he took out advertisements for the book in a number of swing states including Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Florida, Texas, Ohio, and New Hampshire. After the presidential election ended, he again took out advertisements in Georgia to encourage voter turnout in the Georgia senate runoffs, and reached “tens of thousands” more people. “Maybe I’ve reached a million by now,” Laxer said.

While the book has been well received by individuals, it has gained little traction in the media, which Laxer attributes to the fact that “cults are taboo” in today’s culture. “It’s time that people hold up a mirror and say, ‘Wow, there’s something happening here that we need to face as a society,’” said Laxer.

Access to the free digital download of “Rama Trauma Trump” as well as a link to the film can be found at ramatraumatrump.com. The website also features a quote on the book from author and activist Jon Atack, information about the author and illustrator, interviews, acknowledgments, and a whimsical but clever cartoon of a person blowing up a Trump-shaped balloon with the warning, “Let’s be careful who we inflate.”