On behalf of the Sinclair Lewis Society, I would like to thank the Libertarian Futurist Society for recognizing the searing social critique of It Can’t Happen Here.in his 1935 novel
wrote this novel in a white heat, in about six weeks, according to his biographer Mark Schorer, because he was so concerned about the growth of fascism both in the United States and throughout the world. It is an Orwellian-type world that created as military leaders assure the public that increasing the military will result in peace and that getting rid of labor unions, immigrants, and malcontents will lead to a more democratic nation.
Although Lewis’s novel focuses on American society and its imperfections, the flaws that he reveals can apply to many different countries where citizens look to others to make their country better. Paradoxically his criticisms were a mixture of love and disgust; love of his country and the people within it, and disgust at the way in which the greedy and ignorant pervert democratic ideals. The journalist Dorothy Thompson called him “a disappointed democrat” because he truly believed in democratic ideals but despaired that people were too lazy to live up to them.
In some ways I’m sorry that the novel is receiving this recognition. The fact that Lewis’s ideas about a dystopian world where fascism can grow in a supposedly democratic country because of the indifference, greed, and fears of the populace can still be as pertinent today as it was over 70 years ago is very troubling. Although the novel with its Minute Men and League of Forgotten Men is part of a very distinct time and place, Lewis’s more general observations about how easy it is for a country to slide into fascism still ring true. His warnings to people everywhere that to be a good citizen is to take on an active not a passive role is still vitally important.
Novels like It Can’t Happen Here need be read and reread and taught to others so that the dystopian nightmare that writes of can no longer happen.
—Sally Parry for the Sinclair Lewis Society
“The Prometheus Hall of Fame contains many wonderful and wonderfully important stories. This year, several of my all-time favorites are on the ballot. It’s a special honor to be recognized in such company.”
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