It has been said that life imitates art. At no time in my life have I felt that more keenly than today, upon the inauguration of Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States.
The art in this case is It Can’t Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis.
First published in 1935, the novel offers an alternative result to the election of 1936. Berzelious Windrip garners the Democratic nomination and is elected President. Within days of his inauguration, Windrip establishes a totalitarian, Fascist government.
I read the book during the contentious, circus-like Presidential primary season of 2016. More than once as I read, I got chills (not the good kind) as I realized the similarities between the book’s plot and today’s political climate and the slate of bombastic candidates who showed a sad lack of understanding of the U.S. Constitution and/or a willingness to undermine it.
Lewis’ novel emphasized, for me, the absolute necessity of voting thoughtfully. People must not squander their votes the way high school students do when choosing a homecoming queen. Do not succumb to fear-mongering, peer pressure, or the party line. By all means, every citizen should vote, but should do so thoughtfully.
The election of 2016 is on record. It is what it is. Like it or not, (I don’t), life has imitated art.
But there is hope. In the novel (spoiler alert) as in life, the Resistance begins and fights against President Berzelius Windrip.
Here is a quote from the book: “More and more as I think about history,” he pondered, “I am convinced that everything that is worthwhile in the world has been accomplished by the free, inquiring, critical spirit, and that the preservation of this spirit is more important than any social system whatsoever. But the men of ritual and the men of barbarism are capable of shutting up the men of science and of silencing them forever.”
Let us not be silenced.
Note: Because of the author’s style, the book is a somewhat tedious and challenging read. (Like Yoda speaks, does Lewis write.) However, it is worth the effort for those who are concerned about the future of this nation. If you want to know more, but choose not to read the book, Alexander Nazaryan reviewed a recent stage adaptation in the October 19, 2016 issue of The New Yorker. Here is the link. http://www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/getting-close-to-fascism-with-sinclair-lewiss-it-cant-happen-here