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A twist in history

by Caleb Baumgardner | May 21, 2021 at 4:00 a.m.

Recently I watched the HBO miniseries “The Plot Against America,” based on the alternative historical fiction novel of the same name by Phillip Roth. In it, Charles Lindbergh runs as the Republican candidate against FDR in the 1940 election and defeats him.

As a result, the United States declares neutrality in World War II and Pearl Harbor does not happen. The U.S. then allies itself with and begins arming Germany.

The story follows the lives of people in a Jewish community in New Jersey and how these events shape their lives.

It’s chilling, and very good.

Now, before the partisan political howling starts, there are a number of things that are indisputable actual history upon which this alternative history is based, namely:

  1. Charles Lindbergh was a Republican.
  2. Certain Republicans tried to convince him to run for president in 1940.
  3. He said things like this:

“We can have peace and security only so long as we band together to preserve that most priceless possession, our inheritance of European blood, only so long as we guard ourselves against attack by foreign armies and dilution by foreign races.”

That quotation is from a 1939 article on Lindbergh in Reader’s Digest.

Vocal anti-Semite and Ford Motor Company founder Henry Ford had a friendship with Lindbergh, who often came to his home. Of such visits, Ford remarked, “when Charles comes out here, we only talk about the Jews.”

So if you’re mad, be mad at history. Just know that it won’t do any good.

Incidentally, in “The Plot Against America,” President Lindbergh makes Henry Ford Secretary of the Interior.

Sinclair Lewis wrote a book entitled “It Can’t Happen Here” published in 1935, where a fascist becomes President of the United States and turns America into a dictatorship. He does so appealing to American patriotism and a twisted, mangled Christianity that had much more to do with American nationalism than Christ. This was because of his belief that, as he put it, “when fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in a flag and carrying a cross.”

We needn’t look very far to find it in our own time. The Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, where Nazi flags were present and the Nazi slogan “blood and soil” was heard, was not that long ago.

In the aftermath of the events surrounding that rally, it was incredible to me how many people on social media were more concerned about people protesting the Nazis than the Nazis themselves, even coming to the defense of the latter.

But I suppose that’s where we are.

And like the miniseries I watched, that’s chilling.

Caleb Baumgardner is a local attorney. He can be reached at [email protected]

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