It Can't

Reading IT CAN’T HAPPEN HERE in the time of Trump is a hugely depressing experience. So much of his rise is here in a book written in the 1930s. There’s the nationalism, the populism, the demonization of ‘the other’. There’s the making enemies out of anyone who has the temerity to disagree with him. What makes it all doubly depressing is that in writing this in 1936, Lewis simply transposed the rise of Hitler onto America and went from there to create a piece of satirical fiction. Unfortunately, it now feels like horrible reality.

If there’s a saving grace of some kind, it’s that Trump and the people around him seem to lack the intelligence and organisation skills to truly turn the country into a full-on fascist dictatorship. (There’s a reason that John Oliver refers to the Meuller investigation as “Stupid Watergate”.) All of these people seem, to one degree or another, worryingly incompetent. Having said that, if you’re a six year old child who finds yourself in a cage in Texas and you haven’t seen your parents in weeks, then being told that the people behind your unimaginable suffering don’t have the wit or wisdom to truly destroy democracy in America is small comfort indeed.

As an actual book, it’s intriguing without ever being gripping. Focusing on one family in Vermont, the book gives us an outside view of the rise to power of the new leader. In a way that’s a great idea as it gives us an on the ground experience of what society goes through. But, even as terrible things happen, it remains a curiously low-stakes read. It’s a dreadful warning, but one which probably frightens the intellect more than the heart.

Although maybe I’m being unfair on it. As even if they are less bright than their fictional counterparts, the fact is that the reality is much more scary and horrible than any fiction can possibly be.

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2 thoughts on “It Can’t Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis

  1. What I find is sad is the SILENCE of those who once decried “Never Again”… including those with shiny museums and those who stand in their lines. Never Again was for all of us. The whole world and every ethnic and religious group in it.

    The “good news” is that historically we have been here several times before and put the movement in its proper historical place: the history books. Populism is part of the natural cycle of government and its peoples. And while it is startling that THIS country in THIS century actually elected just such a government, the Silent Majority is really a MINORITY in this country, growing more so every day. I have met more older white Americans such as myself who are outraged and appalled at what we are witnessing — especially with regard to immigration, that it irritates me to consistently hear it is MY generation who did this. No. It is the self-centered who did this.

    Furthermore, the ever-changing demographics of this country GUARANTEE an end to this kind of thinking — at least with regard to electability. There will be no putting back of the genie into the bottle. We may have to slog through some highly embarrassing and infuriating moments, but then THAT is what the First Amendment is for. That is why it is our DUTY to stand up for those who are oppressed, ESPECIALLY when it is our own doing the oppressing…If history does in fact repeat, then take heart: we shall overcome. If all else fails, simply by outliving this selfish group of petty tyrants…


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