Friday, October 29, 2010

It Can't Happen Here. Or Can it?

It Can't Happen Here is the 1935 novel and 1936 play by Sinclair Lewis, the first American to win the Nobel Prize for Literature. The most famous misquote from the book is:
"When fascism comes to America, it will come wrapped in the flag and waving a cross”
It isn't in the book. Although it is almost always attributed to the author, nobody seems to be able to come up with a where or when he said it. One thing for sure about it is that it has never been more true than now.

Great Americans have warned us of the dangers of false prophets, invoking flag and cross for a long time. In 1798, James Madison wrote to Thomas Jefferson, “Perhaps it is a universal truth that the loss of liberty at home is to be charged against provisions against danger, real or pretended from abroad."

In the late 19th century, Friedrich Nietzsche observed, "A good war makes sacred any cause."

Watching the interplay between the growth of the Tea Party phenomenon, Sarah Palin and other false patriots, it is tempting to add that even a bad war, or set of bad wars, can
render sacred any of their causes.

The play
It Can't Happen Here deserves a revival. Many of the people who invoke the continuing validity of Lewis' premise - a fascist takeover of our government, following the selection of a president who unleashes his Minute Men and his dictatorial bent - are Tea Party supporters, such as Michael Savage. Savage's interpretation of Lewis is absurd and unpalatable.

A far more palatable absurdist approach to "It Can't Happen Here" is Frank Zappa's 1966 version:

Keith Olbermann, once again taking on his Edward R. Murrow persona, lambasted the Tea Party's similarities to the craziness that has launched fascism in other places at other times.

Part One:

Part Two:

Judy and I were both disturbed at the Christofascist ambience of Thursday's Joe Miller rally at the Dena'ina Center. Every Alaskan who is concerned about the fake patriotism these fear mongers represent needs to watch this entire video (sorry about the ad at the top). And as you watch, here's a handy checklist. When one of the speakers brings up a point on the list, check it off:

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good comment. I reread "It can't happen here" when it was obvious that G.W.Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld were forcing their will on the rest of us. I went down that fascism checklist at the time and every one of the points was checked off.Obamam's presidency is only the false patriots catching their breath after running so far under Bush.