Friday, July 10, 2020

The Plot Against America

As FDR prepared to run for his third term as US President, a vocal group of Americans were advocating for the candidacy of Charles Lindbergh, the stunt flyer who had rather pro-Nazi views. Lindbergh did not end up running, but what if he had? Philip Roth tells a story of what could have happened in America during World War II had Roosevelt not won the election in The Plot Against America.

Only a few years ago, I probably would have found the book too unrealistic. America is a land of immigrants; surely the vast majority of open-minded folks would not have let themselves be fooled and then influenced by some xenophobes! Today, I could believe something like this could happen. I now believe much more in the importance/influence of leadership.

It's not that a flip just get switched, where one day everything is normal and the next is a gong show. There is a gradual erosion of norms. The more scandals that occur unimpeded, the more brazen the next attempts can be. I also found it interesting that it's not neccessarily the buffoon in charge that is the person to fear. But his encouragement of the erosion of norms can pave the way for the more dangerous parties to actually inflict the most terrible outcomes. The book was written in 2005, so it was not aimed at any circumstance that may or may not be facing us today.

The novel takes a while to develop. I considered putting it down a few times. (I end up putting down for good maybe almost half the books I start.) But I'm glad I didn't, as the second half of the book flew by at a terrific pace. At the back of my mind though it does bother me that none of this actually happened. If I'm going to put the time in to read a historical novel, I much prefer that the major events actually occurred, so that I can learn some history along the way.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Lindbergh also maintained three German families apart from his American one. Two of the mothers were sisters!