For centuries, we in the US of A have believed the idea of “American exceptionalism,” the idea that this nation, unlike other nations, cannot fall into a dictatorship, that our democracy is rock-solid, and our nation’s endeavors are with the most noble of intentions.
A through study of our nation’s history would call that idea to question; the enslavement of Africans, the annihilation of natives, the seizing of territory from other nations, the repression of abolitionist pamphlets, the advent of Jim Crow, the repression of workers’ efforts to organize for their well-being, imperialist seizures of land in the Spanish-American War, repressive Red Scares after the World wars, the phony “War On Drugs” to repress peace activists and Civil Rights activists-I just scratched the surface. We’ve had our periods of suspending civil liberties. Democracy isn’t all that secure in this country.
This brings me to my favorite author of fiction, Sinclair Lewis, who wrote such classics as Babbitt, Elmer Gantry, and Main Street, about the dark underbelly of America at the turn of the last century. He is also the author of It Can’t Happen Here, a novel, set in a fictional mid-1903s, the era of the rise of fascism throughout the world. “Buzz” Windrip is a hack Senator, who has no real ideas or beliefs, who runs for president in 1936, in the midst of the Depression from the 1929 Crash. Posing as the savior of the “forgotten man”, as does every fascist dictator-wannabe, Windrip runs a campaign like a Broadway show, playing the people’s champion while taking in donations from wealthy interests, utilizing his private army of thugs, the “Minute Men,” to beat the heads of dissenters. Upon election, Windrip, called “The Chief” (like Mussolini was called “Il Duce”), sets his Minute Men on anyone resisting the regime; one of these dissenters is Doremus Jessup, a small-town editor, who gets in trouble with the regime and is placed in a concentration camp.
I rank this as a dystopian classic, on a par with Orwell’s 1984, a vision of an America we DON’T want as our future. But it damn sure CAN happen here, and we have to see that it doesn’t. The only way to do that is for us to band together, educate ourselves on the issues, and get out and VOTE. The future of our country starts NOW.