C.W. and I were talking … I finally persuaded him to read It Can’t Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis. Written in 1935, some described it at the time as a semi-satirical political novel. Dormant for years, it is now on the "best seller" list again. It describes a mythical takeover of America by a former senator, then president, named Berzelius “Buzz” Windrip, who turns our country into a fascist state. The takeover is viewed by the reactions of small-town newspaper Doremus Jessup, who is ultimately imprisoned when truthful journalists become enemies of the state.
He seemed shaken after he finished the reading. One head shook in a solemn fashion, one stared into space, and the third asked, “Did he really write this in 1935?”
“Oh yes,” I said.
“And there’s not been one documentary produced calling him a prophet or foreseer?”
“Some editorials but no documentaries. I understand the book did translate into a play.”
I asked, “What were your favorite passages?”
He thought and quoted from memory describing the campaign of Senator Windrip for president:
Sound familiar?” I asked. An eye of the left head winked at me. “Any others?” The heads thought for a moment and the one on the right quoted a passage in which Editor Doremus listens to a harangue from a friend who has gone over to Windrip’s camp:
“The Senator was vulgar, almost illiterate, a public liar easily detected, and in his "ideas" almost idiotic, while his celebrated piety was that of a traveling salesman for church furniture, and his yet more celebrated humor the sly cynicism of a country store. Certainly there was nothing exhilarating in the actual words of his speeches, nor anything convincing in his philosophy. His political platforms were only wings of a windmill.”
“Why are you so afraid of the word ‘Fascism,’ Doremus? Just a word—just a word! And might not be so bad, with all the lazy bums we got panhandling relief nowadays, and living on my income tax and yours—not so worse to have a real Strong Man, like Hitler or Mussolini—like Napoleon or Bismarck in the good old days—and have ‘em really run the country and make it efficient and prosperous again. ‘Nother words, have a doctor who won’t take any back-chat, but really boss the patient and make him get well whether he likes it or not!”
“Another good one,” I said.
The center head shook once and asked, “Did he really say of the country, ‘make it efficient and prosperous again’ or was my Galactic Universal Translator off.”
“Your GUT had it right.”
“I’ve got to get back in touch with the home planet,” the head said. “We’ve got to re-study what your species calls the space-time continuum.”
|Must read. - C.W.|