Thursday, February 23, 2012

Misquoted: "When fascism arrives in America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross"

A saying that is likely to be revived among the fears of this year's political contest in the USA is

When fascism arrives in America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross,

attributed to Sinclair Lewis in his 1935 book, "It can't happen here".

But, it appears that Sinclair Lewis never said it, at least not in that form, even though the quote seems to fit right in with the book.

The quote seems to reflect a general summing up of statements by Sinclair Lewis and others, perhaps stemming from a mix of Sinclair Lewis and comments about his work.

"Sinclair Lewis aptly predicted in It Can't Happen Here that if fascism came to America it would come wrapped in the flag and whistling 'The Star Spangled Banner.'"
Harrison Evans Salisbury, "The Many Americas Shall Be One", 1971

"If fascism comes, ... it will not be identified with any "shirt" movement, nor with an "insignia," but it will probably be "wrapped up in the American flag and heralded as a plea for liberty and preservation of the constitution." James Waterman Wise, Jr., The Christian Century, (V) Feb 5, 1936, p 243.

" When and if fascism comes to America it will not be labeled "made in Germany"; it will not be marked with a swastika; it will not even be called fascism; it will be called, of course, "Americanism." " Halford E. Luccock, "Keeping Life Out of Confusion", 1938


What Sinclair Lewis DID say in "It Can't Happen Here":

The Sarason-Macgoblin ode, entitled "Bring Out the Old-time Musket,"
became to Buzz Windrip's band of liberators what "Giovanezza" was to
the Italians, "The Horst Wessel Song" to the Nazis, "The International" to
all Marxians. Along with the convention, the radio millions heard Mrs.
Adelaide Tarr Gimmitch's contralto, rich as peat, chanting:

Dear Lord, we have sinned, we have slumbered,
And our flag lies stained in the dust,
And the souls of the Past are calling, calling,
"Arise from your sloth—you must!"
Lead us, O soul of Lincoln,
Inspire us, spirit of Lee,
To rule all the world for righteousness,
To fight for the right,

To awe with our might,
As we did in 'sixty-three.
See, youth with desire hot glowing,
See, maiden, with fearless eye,
Leading our ranks
Thunder the tanks,
Aeroplanes cloud the sky.

Bring out the old-time musket,
Rouse up the old-time fire!
See, all the world is crumbling,
Dreadful and dark and dire.
America! Rise and conquer
The world to our heart's desire!
(pp 48-49)

Almost daily, Windrip, Sarason, Dr. Macgoblin, Secretary of War
Luthorne, or Vice-President Perley Beecroft humbly addressed their
Masters, the great General Public, on the radio, and congratulated them
on making a new world by their example of American solidarity—
marching shoulder to shoulder under the Grand Old Flag, comrades
in the blessings of peace and comrades in the joys of war to come.
p. 248

... yet didn't Mr. Windrip speak beautifully about pure language,
church attendance, low taxation, and the American flag?
p. 255


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