Sinclair Lewis wrote a novel in 1935, It Can’t Happen Here, a brooding, satirical tale of a politician/demagogue who manages to capture the imagination and votes of the befuddled American electorate. Its characters are so broadly drawn they are hard to believe as real people, but that doesn’t take away from the dark power of the story: a nation that voted against its own interests and lived to regret it. In the novel and subsequent plays, an evil fool was crowned president.
Though written decades ago, that novel tells a sad modern narrative. After all, these days we wake up each morning in our political “situation” and wonder if we are in the middle of someone’s bad idea of a television soap opera. It’s true cats and people obsess over shiny objects when they are dangled to entice no matter their provenance or true value. So in our present day, when spreading light and genuine goodness should be easier than ever, we have managed as a nation to be bullied, cowed, and entrapped by the evils of a shiny and false object indeed. They don’t come much shinier (c’mon, that hair!) or more false (are you keeping count of his innumerable lies?).
Ever since my column about King Harumph last year, imagining a voracious and unmanageable ruler who needed his name writ large on all public buildings, I’ve wanted to write more political pieces, but have rarely answered the call. Now, I’m answering the call, because it has become a shout. A positive bellow, in fact — we must do something about this so-called leader of ours; something legal, something possible, and something curative.
In 1776, “When in the Course of Human Events, it [became] necessary for one people to dissolve the Political Bands that have connected Them with Another” … our hardworking forefathers came up with a statement that pretty much summed up the workings of an imperfect but miraculous democracy. The piece of writing they finally agreed on admits certain “truths” to be “self-evident”: all men (though back then, sadly, they did mean men) are created equal, they are endowed with certain unalienable rights such as “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness” — a mighty phrase that says it all. We are here to support each other in living the best life possible, “best” being defined by the majority vote of all concerned. Majority vote. Now there’s a concept.
Because our modern system has become so crowded, so baroque with rules, regulations, gerrymandering, and downright thievery and deception, who even knows what a majority looks like anymore? And if we see one, can we trust it? Can we trust anything, anyone, or any system?
It’s a horrible thing when a nation’s ability to trust is destroyed.
And that is what has happened to us here in the United States of America — a trust has been shredded. With his deep and pervading hunger for power, wealth, and the need to be right, our own King George has shattered our hearts.
We barely have the will or breath to continue fighting him because he’s turned everything upside down, and we all seem to be wandering around like dazed children having just been flung off a fast merry-go-round at some surreal carnival.
Every day, every hour practically, Trump says and does something that throws us to the ground again, and it takes us longer to get up each time.
I don’t have to list all the environmental protections he’s in the process of destroying, all the nations he has offended and turned into enemies, all the rich peoples’ benefits he has put in place, all the children he is harming. Just go to Facebook or any news channel (even Fox) to see how he is mangling our good world for the delight of his own ego to spite a mother or father who obviously failed him.
The man is a cartoon character bent on our destruction, though no one is laughing because we are too busy bleeding.
So someone, anyone who can, wrangle this child-man up with a sturdy rope, put him center stage in a full bipartisan stadium and televise him as we ask him about all the lies he has told us, the people he has maligned, the facts he has exaggerated, and the stories he has fabricated to cover the many truths he constantly avoids. Someone literally put him on the spot and make him see we do not believe him. It is not some crooked media establishment that doubts him — we all do.
Well, most of us anyway.
Then after that exhilarating session of To Tell Truth to the America People, make him sit there, under the glare of the spotlight he so needs, and force him to read our Declaration of Independence. If he balks, make him sit there while Elizabeth Warren or John McCain reads it to him. Or maybe Stormy Daniels?
And while they’re at it, let’s all sit upright in our privileged seats and reread the Declaration of Independence ourselves.
Our forefathers, sweating long ago in a Philadelphia summer, would smile.