If you have not already done so, you may wish to read the
Introduction to Gnomica.
Friday 24 August 2012
Read gnomica 1-100 here!
When fascism comes to America,
it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross.
Sinclair Lewis (7 Feb 1885 – 10 Jan 1951)
Skewering beloved pieties was a literary métier of this troubled American Nobel Laureate in Literature (for 1930).
The citation comes from his 1935 novel It Can’t Happen Here. Its central plot involves the presidential election of a populist politician who offers to solve the country’s many pressing problems – remember that this was the time of the Great Depression in America, and fascism was very much on the march in Europe with Hitler at the head of the parade – and gets elected on the basis of his promising the sun and the moon.
The novel is political satire – with an edge!
I wish to make it translucently clear that I do not call attention to Lewis’ statement because I believe that it applied to America then nor certainly does it today – to me that is political hyperbole as ludicrous and absurd as it is irresponsible and untrue. But I call attention to it because I, like so many others, am kind of weary of the turn in recent presidential elections (including this year’s) that must endure the making of utterly extravagant promises by candidates professing concern for our children’s and grandchildren’s future and yet themselves surely know that, if elected, they cannot possibly live up to those promises. But it is apparently what a lot of people want to hear, and it does get votes. As the brilliant commentator Thomas Sowell recently (14 August 2012) noted, voters’ belief in such electioneering pledges “… is a faith which passeth all understanding. The political mirage of something for nothing, from leaders who ‘care,’ has ruined many a nation.”
Lewis’s shorthand emblems of the flag and the cross neatly speak to the functional misdirection of attention away from serious significant subjects to confected cardboard characters. The voter is asked in effect to elect a president on the basis of who is the most patriotic – but is never told what patriotism is; the voter is asked in effect to elect the president on the basis of who is the most Christian – which seems merely to mean who attends some religious venue most ostentatiously.
I guess it just bothers me that America’s treasured democracy has turned so shabby when seen through the occluding lenses of massive amounts of money and the reckless traducement of personality.