“It Couldn’t Happen Here”

This story was first posted in Medium, and you can read that version here.


“It Couldn’t Happen Here”

The morning after, no-one knew what would happen next.

For the first few months it was rumour and speculation. After the inauguration — renamed Great America Day — things started to change.

Words changed. Or rather, words stayed the same, but their definitions changed. American got smaller and smaller, the walls closing in. Un-Americanbecame so broad as to encompass virtually anything.

I noticed the Internet shrinking. Certain website URLs would redirect me to a new page, noting in dry prose that my ISP was required by law to block the site, and repeated attempts to visit would result in my information being passed to the new House Un-American Activities Committee.

Getting the news from television and radio proved no easier. Gradually, recognisable faces and voices faded away, replaced by nondescript men and women who spoke in clipped, even tones of unpatriotric dissenters, re-classifications and deportations, and repeated official White House press releases as rote.

Those in the media who did speak out were soon gone from the airwaves. Talk show hosts who had once skewered both sides of the political aisle were often re-classified, blacklisted. Or, to put it officially: “forging new careers outside of media and journalism”.

After a few weeks, I stopped seeing riots outside my window. I was assured by sober newscasters that much of the country was still engulfed by “chaos”. The President reacted by suspending all elections for the “medium to long term” until stability could be restored.

In the name of stability, the borders were closed, north and south. The Department of Education announced a new curriculum called “New American History”. The students who do not pass will have to face mandatory “supplementary education” lessons.

We became afraid not of violence, but of the simple things: our quiet neighbour with the stars and stripes on their lawn. Using the wrong words in public. CCTV cameras. A knock at the door.


I moved away when I could. Away from the city and its cameras and police and hundreds of thousands of snooping eyes. I’m affluent, and white, and male, so my classification means I can travel.

Minnesota is cold, but it’s quiet. I have discovered an underground resistance, online. Bloggers, writers, thinkers, (former) academics. The non-disappeared’s, eking out meagre existences, blogging in code. We talk about matters that are innocent enough: dogs, cakes, approved American history. But our words mean something different. We learned it from our government.

I hear the rumble of a drone overhead, but pay it no mind. I have been extra careful since moving. I watch all the political broadcasts. I say all the right things. A flag flutters proudly in front of my house.

I sit down to watch a broadcast of the news. Eyes on the screen — because they monitor it — but mind elsewhere. Just as it’s about to start, a see a car pull up outside. It’s sleek and black and moves without a sound.

After a few seconds that feel like hours, the door opens. A man emerges, lithe and smartly dressed. He looks around and adjusts his cuffs. He walks up my driveway.

Knock. Knock. Knock.

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