The Fascism is Too Loud; Time for a Walk in the Woods

When news came that a late night TV pillow huckster, who spends his time defending a prime-time TV shyster, was coming to northern Michigan to speak at a farm founded by a former Nazi, John Bircher, and KKK supporter, I had to pause long enough to ponder whether this was reality or the script for a soon to be cancelled sit-com.   Sadly, the news was real.  On June 4th, a couple of hundred people showed up at Friske Orchards to demonstrate to the world just how much they hate our country.  While ironically waving American flags, and exercising their First Amendment rights, they howled for hours about their plans to destroy our government, our rights, and our future.

Surreal will have to suffice as the best way to describe this until a more surreal term is invented for this type of nonsense.  

Now lest you think I’m just tossing the word “Nazi” around at the Friske partriarch, it is actually true that Richard Friske, Sr. flew planes for the Luftwaffe and never denounced his Nazi roots.  He also was a “proud” member of the John Birch Society, and to complete the trifecta, donated money on more than one occasion to the KKK’s wonder boy, David Duke, in Duke’s thankfully failed presidential campaigns.   Yes, the Friske legacy is one of the most despicable legacies of pro-fascist, anti-American legacies among so many that skulk around in the Great White North.  Normally, of course, the sins of the father would not pass on to the sons unless the sons actively embrace those very sins.  And the current crop of Friskes do just that.  It’s not hard to find public statements of proud support for Richard Friske’s record issued by his progeny over the years.

But I digress.

Ever since Donald trump soiled America’s political pants with his 2016 presidential campaign, I have argued that none of his hate-filled messaging would have had any effect unless there were people who embraced him.  Adolf Hitler never killed a single Jew with his own hands, and Donald trump could only rant about his dream of dismantling our democracy.  They both needed willing participants to do the heavy lifting of their respective destructive agendas.

So who are these people?  Who are the people who woke up one day and decided that a racist, rapist, pussy-grabbing, unintelligible, lying excuse for a failure at everything he ever touched was somehow their messiah?  I strongly believe the books about trump’s supporters will be far more important treatises than anything written about trump himself.  If we are going to preserve the United States, it will be because we have figured out what makes these folks tick.  This is because it matters little how obviously awful a human trump is, or how awful his vision for the United States was and is.  It matters that millions of people took the time to vote for him.  It matters that millions of people who have very little personal wealth gave this shyster their money so he could spread his messages of hate and destruction. It matters that hundreds of people showed up on a farm founded by a proud Nazi on a beautiful northern Michigan day and gave money to a pillow salesman so he could pay the legal fees he needs in order to defend himself in lawsuits because he slandered and libeled Dominion Voting Systems who had the audacity to accurately count votes in the 2020 election.  (I probably need some commas in that last sentence, but somehow slowing the pace would be a grammatical travesty.)

I know that political scientists and graduate students around the country are frantically working on the question I posed above.  Just what motivates trump supporters to act out their racist, anti-American fantasies in the light of day?

While I don’t have the resources to do the research needed to accurately answer this question, I have allowed myself to drift back in time to my first class at the University of Michigan as a wide-eyed freshman.  In English 100, my aging professor claimed that the greatest sentence ever written by an American author could explain much about human behavior.  If we could accept the veracity of that statement, we could begin a life-long journey in search of the wonders that literature, art, and politics could bring to our lives in order to avoid the hopeless trap laid out in that statement.  One simple sentence explained it all.  

In “Walden, or a Life in the Woods”, Henry David Thoreau claims “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.”  

For hundreds of years, this statement accurately described the American experience.  Our lust for things we cannot have reduces us to silent, desperate cogs in the machine.  It is not hard, then, to understand that as society changes, our desperation grows as we are left further and further behind.  For the people at Friske’s on June 4, 2021, the changing face of the United States over the last 50 years or so put them in an increasingly desperate state of mind.  The America they thought they would always have was gone.  People of color were getting a voice.  Women were getting a voice.  LBGTQ people suddenly appeared out of nowhere.  Things were getting really, really desperate.

And then it changed, all because a loud-mouthed racist, rapist, pussy-grabbing, unintelligible, lying excuse for a failure at everything he ever touched got on TV, and spoke to the mass of men living lives of quiet desperation.  And they were suddenly not so quiet anymore.  Now we are left with millions of people, increasingly desperate, who are willing to broadcast their desperation and hate.  trump isn’t going to help them. He never was.

It might be time to take a walk through the woods by the pond.

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