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A blot against America

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THERE is a moment in “The Plot Against America”, Philip Roth’s tale of America succumbing to 1930s-style authoritarianism, when the nine-year-old protagonist experiences a profound revulsion at the foibles on which wickedness thrives. “Never in my life had I so harshly judged any adult,” he recalls of his Jewish aunt’s preening over a brief interaction with the anti-Semitic president, Charles Lindbergh. “Nor had I understood till then how the shameless vanity of utter fools can so strongly determine the fate of others.” That is as much respite as the recently deceased author, who combined a stubborn faith in America with a gloomy view of its politics, allows his reader. There is no chance of America sharing his awakening. The power of the boy’s epiphany lies not only in its clarity, but also in its futility.

Roth’s pessimism about the prospect of national redemption should be instructive to critics of President Donald Trump’s policy of caging migrant children in isolation from…Continue reading

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