Can’t Happen Here?

Road to Resilience


A little parable:
I don’t know who else to talk to but we’re both members of the Corps, and I think that you will keep quiet about this.  Remember when the Leader was first running for president?  His rudeness, racism, incompetence, and willful ignorance were already pretty obvious. We expected he would be laughed off the debate stage pretty quickly. When the debates started, between his broad general promises and his rudeness towards the other candidates, it became apparent that the other candidates were actually becoming intimidated.  Seems like the public saw that, and far more credible candidates started dropping out like flies.

Remember that?  We couldn’t believe he was getting away with it, and our jaws were gaping when he won the nomination of his party.  Our candidate wasn’t real exciting but was the most experienced candidate in a long time.  Nobody doubted that the buffoon would be gone soon.  Remember how shocked we all were when he won?  Even his supporters were shocked.  Our candidate had 3 million more votes but the Electoral College went his way so that was that.

We expected, after he was inaugurated, the campaign circus would end, and he would start acting more like a president. Incredibly, he turned out to be a one-trick pony and what we had seen thus far was all there was to see.  As time went on, we began to appreciate that, despite his vacuousness, he still seemed to effectively intimidate everybody, especially the elected members of his own party who, although they mostly loathed him, dared not speak against him for fear of getting rousted out of office by their constituents, most of whom were with the Leader.  His unshakeable faith in his person, as groundless as it seemed to be, kept everybody off balance.  So, he blundered on from one fracas to another undeterred by any adults in the room.  And his base constituency that loved him in the beginning, about 30% of us, loved him still, every outrage eliciting more delight.

It started becoming apparent that his blatant racism, hypocrisy, and lack of respect for the truth were emboldening those with similar sentiments all across the country.  The rest of us were concerned, but the really rabid group was still only about 30% and we could outvote them.  There was serious talk about fascism.  As the next election loomed, we speculated about whether he would leave willingly if he lost.  He had already stated that he would like to be president for life and openly adulated ruthless dictators of other countries.  We should have seen that this very simple man lied about his accomplishments and about his critics, but he never lied about his desires.  He was really as open and innocent as a six-year-old child.
As the election approached, we felt pretty confident that we could beat him.  We had good candidates, good new ideas, and a poor performance by the president. Still, we knew that we would have to beat him convincingly enough to forestall any thoughts on his part of questioning the legitimacy of the vote.  To do that we needed to turn out a lot more voters than the last election, which was the lowest turnout ever.  We had also learned that we could not be over-confidant like last time.

The election arrived, and we did get a much better turnout.  However, the Leader stunned us again by cutting our margin of victory to only 2%.  As we feared, he declared the election fraudulent and, therefore, null and void. The entire country was a beehive of activity, but there just wasn’t any normal solution to this dilemma. The fifth circuit court did issue a stay of the president’s order, but he simply ignored it.  Amidst a lot of dithering and indecision, inauguration day came and went, and here we still are.

With no organized opposition, the Leader targeted leading opponents, stymied their efforts, and put some in jail.   He retained only loyal members in the executive branch and founded the Patriot Corps, inviting citizens to police their neighborhoods to assure loyalty to the Leader.

We can now see what happened in Germany.  It wasn’t just the rabid group we needed to fear.  Normally decent people decided to make the best of a bad situation and to cooperate for the time being.  For me, protecting my family was my first priority—like putting your own oxygen mask on first so you can care for your kids and other passengers.  I feel really bad about my neighbors Bob and Marsha, though.  I tried to talk them into cooperating, but they said it was wrong and refused.  They were visited, and they got into a heated argument.  There was a fight, and they shot Bob.  They shot him!  They subdued Marsha and took her away.  They took the kids too.  Tim and Amy are such nice kids.  I don’t know where they took them.  I hope they’re okay.

Inspired by the 1936 Play by Sinclair Lewis, It Can’t Happen Here, performed on Vashon by Drama Dock last year.