Martin Chuzzlewit: No Satire Please, We’re American

‘You are right. So very right, that I believe no satirist could breathe this air. If another Juvenal or Swift could rise up among us to-morrow, he would be hunted down. If you have any knowledge of our literature, and can give me the name of any man, American born and bred, who has anatomized our follies as a people, and not as this or that party; and who has escaped the foulest and most brutal slander, the most inveterate hatred and intolerant pursuit; it will be a strange name in my ears, believe me. In some cases I could name to you, where a native writer has ventured on the most harmless and good-humoured illustrations of our vices or defects, it has been found necessary to announce, that in a second edition the passage has been expunged, or altered, or explained away, or patched into praise.’

—Charles Dickens, Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit

It seems to me that this is what happens today when anyone, though mainly progressives, it has to be said, suggests some way to improve the country. They are immediately slammed, their allegiance and motives questioned with maximum snark, and that is the end of the discussion. This seems like a new phenomenon, but from what Dickens writes in Martin Chuzzlewit, the polarization we see today is as American as apple pie.

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