This past week has been on the quiet side. I finished yet another book by Russ Roberts, this one proclaiming the virtues of free trade (The Choice), and resumed reading Sinclair Lewis’ It Can’t Happen Here, a novel set and published in the late 1930s, featuring the rise of an American Hitler – a ‘corn pone Nazi’, to borrow from James Howard Kunstler. That work first attracted my attention during the 2010 election cycle when the rise of the bible-thumping Tea Party and its constant allusions to the Revolution, brought to mind the quote: when fascism comes to America, it will wrapped in the Flag and carrying the Cross. Turns out that quotation is sourced to this very novel! Comments for both will follow in the next couple of days.
My current reading consists of An Outline of French History, which is enjoyable enough though not particularly remarkable, and French Kids Eat Everything, which I’m loving. These constitute my belated Bastille Day reading, intended to celebrate the French Revolution and French culture in general. I’m expecting a few titles in the post this week, including a collection of essays by Wendell Berry (What Are People For?) and — at long last! — Fighting Traffic, by Peter Norton. I’ve been waiting for two years for that book to be offered at a price lower than $30. The timing is perfect, as the book will complement Getting There rather nicely. While one examines the competition between highways and cars and the rails over intercity transportation, Fighting Traffic is an account of how cars came to take over the streets, turning residential neighborhoods into traffic sewers.
The tyranny of this dictatorship isn’t primarily the fault of Big Business, nor of the demagogues who do their dirty work. It’s the fault of Doremus Jessup! Of all the conscientious, respectable, lazy-minded Doremus Jessups who have let the demagogues wriggle in, without fierce enough protest.
“A few months ago I thought the slaughter of the Civil War, and the agitation of the violent Abolitionists who helped bring it on, were evil. But possibly they had to be violent, because easy-going citizens like me couldn’t be stirred up otherwise. If our grandfathers had had the alertness and courage to see the evils of slavery and of the government conduced by gentlemen for gentlemen only, there wouldn’t have been any need for agitators and war and blood.
“It’s my sort, the Responsible Citizens who’ve felt ourselves superior because we’ve been well-to-do and what we thought was ‘educated’ who brought on the Civil War, the French Revolution, and now the Fascist Dictatorship. It’s I who murdered Rabbi de Verez. It’s I who persecuted the Jews and the Negroes. I can blame no Aras Dilley, no Shad Ledue, no Buzz Windrip, but only my own timid soul and drowsy mind. Forgive, O Lord!
“Is it too late?”
p. 169, It Can’t Happen Here.