As a journalist by trade, I am completely enthralled by the current state of the world. Now I realize that many people, including many friends on my Facebook list, have decided to simply turn off the news. I understand. It’s so volatile, so scary. But tuning out is not me. I guess I’m the sort that can’t look away from a train wreck. It’s always been that way.
First off, I grew up precisely, directly, personally amidst a train wreck. Foster homes. Welfare. Violent men. Perverts. I had no chance of ignoring what was going on. There were other factors. I grew up an anglophone in Montreal. In the 1970’s. I had a front row seat as the Front de Liberation du Quebec (FLQ) progressed from blowing up mailboxes to kidnapping and strangling politicians. As in murder. On my city bus ride to school during that crisis, from my foster home in Notre Dame De Grace, to Cote De Neiges (over the mountain where the Trudeaus lived) I saw soldiers brandishing machine guns on street corners. There was no looking away. It was fascinating. I took notice.
Fast forward to today.
Donald Trump and his band of 25 million nitwits are a much larger problem than the FLQ ever was. The Make America Great Again bunch are a curious boiling cauldron of confusion, like a crock pot of spaghetti sauce without a recipe. One part anger, another part denial, a pinch of religious, a dash of xenophobia, throw in a splash of misogyny. Combined, it stinks up the whole house and only those who are part of the collection of ingredients understand how fantastic a creation they’ve come up with.
The MAGA crowd. The way I see it, on one hand there is something incredibly laughable about their gob smacked surrogates and fanatical cultish rally attendees. But on the other, knowing the true story of the rise and fall of the Third Reich, the power of their ilk is so dark and dangerous it is anything but funny.
Some days I read or watch the news and just shake my head, regurgitating the ‘you can’t make this shit up’ cliché to myself or my equally compelled partner. Other days I get chills conceptualizing just where this is all going to end.
Mostly I see the MAGA fanatics as a mix of the characters from a couple of classic movies that came out in the years following the FLQ Crisis of my upbringing Young Frankenstein (1974) – Gene Wilder, Marty Feldman, Terri Garr. Stephen Miller, Rudy Giuliani, Kellyanne Conway. And Soylent Green (1973) – Charlton Heston, Edward G. Robinson. Robert Mueller. Donald J. Trump.
Ironically, one was about a man who spent his life living down the reputation of his father. The other was about a New York company that hid its sinister truth from an adoring public. Of course, the similarities may be a bit of a stretch. I will blame that on the potency of the hallucinogenics I was self-administering back then … but I digress.
One thing I do know about the current state of affairs in the American political scene, is there is nothing humorous about it. It’s kind of like the moment in June 1970 at the great rock and roll shrine The Fillmore East in New York, when Stephen Stills looks out into the smoky crowd and admonished a noisy heckler who had been a tad too boisterous as he introduced a particularly poignant song. “One thing the blues ain’t is funny,” he growled. And he meant it. So, do I.
While part time navel gazers can choose to see the current situation in Washington as an ever looping, giant reality television show before switching to the latest episode of Big Brother, I am choosing to take it way more seriously. Truth be told, I’m scared to death.
Why? Well obviously, I am a history buff. It stands to reason that if it is true what they say about history repeating itself, then I feel I need to be on guard. I am digesting all I can about the players. I watch CNN. Several nights a week. I read papers from all over the world on line. I have read Comey’s book. Wolf’s book. Woodward’s book. Hettena’s book, laying out the definitive history of Trump and Russia.
Last night I saw Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 11/9 and was left rattled. Say what you want about Moore’s “Gotcha” journalism, (remember he crashed Charles Heston’s house for some questions for his Bowling for Columbine flick, and he’s at it again for this one), but he has a plausible fear about the Grand Orange. He is worried that like Hitler, who rose to power in the most democratic nation perhaps of all time, Trump and Republican ilk could use/provide an emergency of such ferocity that a circumvention of the constitution may be doable. In other words, think the war measures act of 1970 in Canada, when writers, actors, activists of all kinds were picked up and jailed at the whim of local law enforcement officials. Something along those lines. Then think about an extension of Trump’s term in office. It happened before. Remember Franklin D. Roosevelt? He died in office 11 weeks into his fourth term back in 1945.
It can be done. 911 gave birth to the Patriot Act. Guantanamo Bay and the end of Habeas Corpus. If Bush can get away with that, and Obama left the base and its pens intact, then how far can Trump go? The Hitler comparisons are not so far-fetched.
Hey, I’m not trying to convince you to read books or watch more television news. I get that it’s pretty depressing. And I know that in the end, I am just some Jo Schmo who lives on an island, likes to golf, drives a 14-year-old car and basically has little say in what is going down. But I have traveled, have read history, have served in the military, and am convinced that we are living in a most curious, and realistically dangerous time. I believe this is the most dangerous time of my generation’s watch.
I just want an answer to the same questions Moore asks in his epic, scary flick.
How the fuck did we get here? How the fuck do we get out?