It Can Happen Here

I used to read–or re-read–Sinclair Lewis’s It Can’t Happen Here every few years. Lewis is one of my guilty pleasures: he’s an astute observer, but can be a crank. His satire can be way over-blown. Like Dorothy Parker, he’s at his worst when he really likes and admires something or someone. But let him loose on hypocrisy or cruelty and he can have the pin-point accuracy of a targeted missile.

Then the 2016 elections happened and I couldn’t read the damned book at all. Haven’t been able to go back to it since. Lewis wrote It Can’t Happen Here after a trip to Europe in the mid-1930s, when fascism was getting its teeth into Germany and looking hungrily around the continent. He came back to the US urgently talking about the danger, and was told “It can’t happen here.” America was too folksy, too smart to fall for demagoguery. Wouldn’t happen. So Lewis did what writers do: he wrote a book where an apparently clownish politician plays on the worst impulses of the citizenry, wields division and prejudice, and gets himself elected President. Then things get really bad, all within the first 100 days of Berzelius Windrip’s election. Yes, concentration camps, ginned up wars with neighboring countries, the wholesale overtaking of not just state education but private colleges to bring them in line with the “corporate” mindset.

Okay, so we’re seven years past 2016, but even without a man in the White House, “It” just keeps rolling. Continue reading “It Can Happen Here”