For decades, many of us have wondered: Can it happen here? Can dictatorship come to America? Well, we have it now. At this moment, we are living under dictatorship. One party (Republican) tells us it’s only temporary–until May 15 or so. Or maybe a little later. We will have summer…hopefully. The other party (Democratic) tells us it’s going to be at least 2 years. Maybe longer. They’ll get back to us.
And we’re talking REAL dictatorship. The kind that hits home like no dictatorship ever has: No restaurants, no bars, no movies, no theater, no libraries, no beaches, no swimming pools, no barbecues, no sports events, no pet shows, no Times Square, no Vegas, no haircuts, no dancing, no dating, no manicures, no Starbucks…literally NOTHING that makes life worth living. Except for books–if you’re a bookworm like me, which most people aren’t. But how long will we even have that freedom…with virtually EVERYTHING ELSE gone? Indefinitely?
I have read all the major dystopian novels. “It Can’t Happen Here” by Sinclair Lewis. “1984” by George Orwell. “Atlas Shrugged” by Ayn Rand. And even “The Stand” by Stephen King. Would any of these brilliant creative minds ever gave guessed what would actually put America into its prison cell, in the end? A virus that doesn’t afflict most of the population, and that only kills a small minority of people who get it? How disappointed Stephen King, Trump hater that he is, must be–on the literary level. What a dull story THIS would have made. That something this small, compared to the greatest freedom humankind has ever known, would be the thing to do us in?
Ben Franklin famously bragged that he and the other attendees of the Constitutional Convention gave us a republic — “if you can keep it.” Could this wise and brilliant soul ever have imagined what we are doing to ourselves now?
I am not being fatalistic. It’s not over. We retain our free will. We do not have to go on like this. Not if we choose not to do so. But one thing is clear. The hill that our liberty will either live or die on is … coronavirus. The republic that stood up to the British tyrants, abolished slavery and whipped the Nazis was done in by…coronavirus. That’s where things stand, as of this moment. We now know what Sinclair Lewis, George Orwell and Ayn Rand could never have dreamed up. Wow. And not in a good way.
The final chapters of all this, of course, are up to us. Because the people we have entrusted with our future and the very soul of our civilization are not…well, they are not Ben Franklin. If we are to survive, we will have to find the hero within ourselves.
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