Liberal literary paranoia in “Nation.”

Sarah Palin, 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee.

Sarah Palin, 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee.

By Jim Tortolano, E Pluribus Unum

“Christian Nation,” a cautionary novel by Frederic Rich about the possible consequences of triumph by far-right “Dominion” Christians seeks to portray itself as modern-day equivalent to

Sinclair Lewis’ classic anti-fascist “It Can’t Happen Here,” and in some ways it succeeds.

It does shed needed light on the scary ambitions of some on the extreme fringes, using quotes from the public record.

On the other hand, the tale that unfolds is by turns intriguing and preposterous. Leaders of red states are ruthless and clever; the blue staters are feckless hand-wringers. Somehow the non-Dominion faiths – including especially the Catholic, Mormon and Jewish populations, not to mention the mainstream Protestants (Presbyterians, Methodists, etc.) – submit more or less meekly despite representing a majority of Americans. chirstiannation

The tale is told first person by an investment banker “Greg” who is tasked with writing a history of the overthrow of American democracy by religious fanatics.

In this book, the writing ranges from the movingly evocative to the legalistically dry. The thought occurs that perhaps two people collaborated here. If so, they might have spent more time developing a backstory. In “Nation,” the 2008 election goes narrowly to John McCain. There’s no explanation given for this, even though it represents a switch of millions of votes for no apparent reason. Not long after taking office, McCain dies unexpectedly, elevating Sarah Palin to the presidency.

She’s not taken seriously until a second major terrorist attack on the U.S. somehow leads to a serious of repressive laws and actions by the federal government that eventually result in a cruel religious dictatorship. Abortion is a capital offense; homosexuality a felony and dissent of any kind becomes treason. Those who resist are arrested or murdered. Marriage is mandated by law and masturbation is outlawed.

The premise is an intriguing idea, but needs improvement in characterization and resolution. The lead character is human enough, but his girlfriend is an annoyingly profane and materialistic snob, and his best friend, an import from India, is a gay atheist guru who somehow becomes a leader of the secular opposition. What better way to reassure middle Americans than having this guy as your point-man, eh?

Despite severe economic downturns and widespread repression, apparently free elections result in victory after victory for the bad guys. The loser is the reader, who doesn’t get a single complex character to deal with.

The tyrants are presented as sincere and earnest, ignoring a principal reason for the founding of most dictatorships: greed and self-interest. They have no hidden agendas, suppressed desires, factional differences or other dimensions to make them seem real.

All that said, it did hold my interest throughout, and it will make any liberal American’s blood boil, which I guess is the whole point.

Jim’s grade: C+

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