Sunday, December 30, 2007

Fact or Fiction?

I just finished “The Plot Against America” by Philip Roth and am still sort of reeling from this strange mixture of fact and fiction. My mind naturally began to wander toward “what-if-ing” about our current political situation.

Roth’s novel is told from the standpoint of young Philip in his childhood who is confronted with the disastrous effects of a change in administration, the point at which the fiction comes in. The story begins with the landslide victory of Charles A. Lindbergh over FDR in the 1940 election. Lindbergh is an avowed friend of Hitler who has become America’s darling because of his aviation feats. He is strongly against joining the European war and strongly for dealing with the Jewish problem in America.

Young Philip’s very Jewish family living in a very Jewish neighborhood of Newark feels the impact of Lindy’s power again and again and it would seem that nothing good ever happens to them as they slowly succumb to external pressures and internal family conflict.

Only at the end when President Lindbergh and his Spirit of St. Louis mysteriously disappear and FDR finally resumes the reins of government do we begin to feel optimistic for America. But by then a lot of people have suffered irreparable injury and the country is in need of serious repair.

So I tell myself that America was never in the clutches of fascism, that we bravely went to war on the side of right, that Jews, although the sometime targets of anti-Semitism, never faced the degree of hatred portrayed in this work of fiction. But instead FDR strongly led our country to our place of glory in the world.

Then I think about our current situation. I remember when Clinton left office how we had a surplus in the treasury. And I wonder just how very different things would be today if Al Gore had been given what he legitimately won.

I look at how we now have a national debt that future generations may never get rid of. I look at the fact that not Jews but Muslims and Arabs have become the objects of national hatred. I look at two major wars we have started and botched terribly. I look at just how far we have fallen from that pinnacle in the eyes of the rest of the world.

I beg to roll back time just 7 years to have another go at those things that have brought us to this miserable place. Maybe instead of “The Plot Against America” it’s really “The Plot Against the World” as crafted by the current administration. I beg for the fact to turn out to be fiction, but every day’s newspaper reinforces the reality that we must live with.


Anonymous Carol said...

The Clinton Surplus was a myth:

4:53 PM  
Blogger b said...

Barbara, I loved this post and will surely read Philip Roth one day soon.

When all is said and done the truth will be out and no one will deny that we went to war in the wrong place.


5:41 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Carol -- This is news to me (and much of America, I assume.) But I don't think anyone can deny that the current national debt has reached levels never before even imagined. Future generations will struggle to dig out of this hole!

B -- Welcome to my Blog, Barbara from Oregon. I think the country is slowly coming around to that realization. Unfortunately we have left those countries we invaded in really bad shape.

6:10 PM  
Anonymous David said...

I'm not sure what alternative reality Carol is living in - i guess the one professed by this ultra right wing web site. The site also claims that global warming is a myth. Need I say more?

For more reality based view on the budget, check:
or 1000's of others that refute this crazy notion that there was no surplus. Get real.

6:34 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

David -- I'm so glad we are on the same team.

6:50 PM  
Blogger media concepts said...

Maybe Roth wasn't that far off. Before, during and after WWII, America didn't treat Jews very well, from denying entry to desperate European Jewish refugees, to barring them from many jobs, professions, clubs and organizations, to singling them out in various anti-Communist witch hunts in Hollywood, the State Department and elsewhere.
As for Fascism, I'd say the evidence is pretty good that we're living in it right now.
As for Clinton's surplus, that was real all right, despite the denials of Carol, who is apparently a right-wing troll.

9:05 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Matt -- Not a pretty picture of then or now. I'm glad for the confirmation on the Clinton surplus. He may have done some things that we don't want to remember, but leaving the country in good fiscal shape was definitely not one of them!

9:30 PM  
Anonymous Kassyk said...

Philip Roth is one of my favorite writers and that book was my first of his that I read--nay, devoured. It is terrifying and beautifully written. Without bringing politics into it...I love that his writing and story just makes people really think and feel.


12:30 AM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Kassy -- Yes, that's Philip Roth for you. I guess there's a reason why he keeps getting literary prizes! I love the way he manages to weave himself into his books (Operation Shylock is another.)

6:09 AM  
Blogger Pauline said...

There are some interesting discussions of the Clinton surplus at The Nation's website. One in particular is here:'

Though I'm not a Roth fan, I have to agree with you, Barbara, that our current administration and its backers have harmed our nation drastically and it looks as though all of us are going to pay for it.

9:02 AM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Pauline -- I got to the page you mentioned by omitting the apostrophe at the end. I read the article a couple of times and affirmed that the economics are indeed very complicated. But I don't think anyone would deny that two major wars have seriously compromised our country's treasury and our ability to get back in the black!

9:30 AM  
Blogger Richard said...

If you can tolerate science fiction, I would recommend the second season of Babylon 5 (the first season ends with the assisiantion of the Earth president). The second season picks up from their.

For the consipacy minded, parallels with certain modern day events is uncanny.

Sofia liked Babylon 5 (despite not liking sci-fi in general. She prefers "real" stories with "real" people).

10:20 AM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Richard -- I'll have to check it out. This book actually reminded me of books we read to our children which had alternate story paths each with a different ending.

10:51 AM  
Blogger Kristin said...

I haven't read the book but have given it as a gift. (It was requested.) I think I'd enjoy reading it. I tend to like the mental floss.

3:14 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Kristin -- It's one of those books you can't put down after the first 50 pages.

4:12 PM  
Anonymous Bengal said...

Hi Barbara. Your post reminds me of the time (about two years ago?) I heard Dr. Sherwin Nuland speak at a lecture on Nazi-era eugenics at the Holocaust Museum. Among his remarks, he noted how likely it would have been, had he been a German physician before or during World War II, for him to have participated in the Nazis' experiments, how we succumb to "groupthink" that both shapes and challenges our ethical principles, and the importance of our free will to resist.

Consider the role of paranoia in our current national psychology and how, with just a slightly different turn of events, it could be directed at whichever group (racial, ethnic, religious, etc.) found itself in the wrong place at the wrong time. Since 9/11, the Federal government has exploited every opportunity to stir up our fears and nightmares, well beyond what reasonable people might justify, even applaud, as "we must all look out for one another" as a response to terrorism. During roughly the same time frame, other groups have banged their drum (too) loudly about "der problem illegalen Ausländer" and proposed assorted "ultimate solutions" like building a wall and mass deportation. In each case it is the same: incremental changes, each one appearing reasonable in the context of all the previous ones, that eventually take us far from being the people we once were.

Best wishes for a blessed 2008.

Aloha, Bengal

P.S. Could I see some I.D. please?

5:32 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Bengal -- The only reassuring thing is that I can still write this and not have an FBI agent standing on my doorstep the next day. Other than that living in this country scares me these days. People pay attention to ridiculous things like the color-coded terror level each day. Homeland Security RULES in many ways!

Happy 2008 to you too. I've missed seeing you here and elsewhere.

5:50 PM  

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