Donald Trump and How Fascism Takes Root
What a dead Swiss novelist teaches us about the everyday men and women who are the willing, but unwitting accomplices of Donald Trump.
- What does a dead Swiss novelist teach us about the everyday men and women who are the willing, but unwitting accomplices of Donald Trump?
- The Swiss playwright Max Frisch published a great novel in 1953, The Fire Raisers. It is a dark comedy that explains how fascism takes root in a country’s population.
- Trump supporters show up at his rallies. They vote for him and those who stand with him. They seem oblivious to their own oncoming ruination.
- Trump fills the hearts and minds of his supporters with hatred of minorities, condescendence towards the disabled and women, disregard for affordable healthcare and disgust for any social safety net.
- American voters for Trump create their own hell right here on earth.
Donald Trump is not a globalist, but I am a proud practitioner of cultural globalism. That is how I obtain valuable insights into today’s most hair-raising events thanks to perspectives provided by dead writers who lived in foreign countries.
Case in point: The Swiss playwright Max Frisch published a great novel in 1953, The Fire Raisers. It is a dark comedy that explains how fascism takes root in a country’s population through the unwitting complicity of average men and women.
Mr. Naiveté in action
The novel describes an average Joe, a conservative man who is fittingly named Biedermann by Frisch. The word “Biedermann” in German essentially translates into “Mr. Naiveté.” It is not meant as a compliment when describing a person. The word also connotes a need of belonging, seeking to be part of something greater than the confines of one’s own rather mediocre and boring life.
Mr. Biedermann (aka Mr. Naiveté) lives in a small town where two arsonists are wreaking havoc. He reads about their acts in the newspaper and how they disguise themselves as door-to-door salesmen to ingratiate themselves with residents of homes in town. Their only purpose is to stay in these homes’ attics and eventually set the houses on fire.
Of course, Biedermann is abhorred by such gullibility. Sure enough, soon after reading the article, one of the arsonists appears at his door and, through a mixture of conniving and bullying, convinces Biedermann that he stay in his attic overnight.
Before long, the second arsonist appears. Soon thereafter, the predictable turn of events unfolds: Biedermann’s attic is filled with gasoline and, more grotesque yet, the ever eager to please Mr. Naiveté himself helps the arsonists measuring the fuse. He becomes an active accomplice to his own impending demise.
Willing, but unwitting?
I am reminded of this novel and its lesson because this Biedermann has evidently travelled to the United States. His character captures the vast majority of Trump voters.
They pride themselves to be average people. Their chest swells by yearning for a greater purpose. And, as Average Joe’s, they are convinced that they can never be conned. Their heart enables them to distinguish (good) truth from (bad) fiction.
When the arsonist shows up
When Donald Trump, the arsonist, shows up, he uses intimidation and persuasion to enter their homes. Before these American voters know it, Trump has filled their attic with toxicity.
He captures their hearts(!) and “minds” with hatred against any and all minorities. Condescendence towards the disabled and women. Disregard for the need of affordable healthcare. And soon to come, disgust for any social safety net.
All the while, these average people, conventional and conservative, help Trump’s Republicans by measuring the fuse. They show up at his rallies. They vote for him and those who stand with him. They seem oblivious to their own oncoming ruination.
Self-hatred in action
Like good fascists, they continue to sit with Trump in the attic even when real bombs are sent to his political opponents or when the hateful seeds of Trump speech are harvested by an anti-Semite mass murderer. They become his accomplices.
And they feel vindicated against their co-culpability if their block captain facilely talks about the Republicans’ standard recipe for defending the indefensible – blaming the Jewish synagogue for not having armed guards on its grounds.
Does history repeat itself?
The novel by Max Frisch ends with Biedermann arriving at the gates of Hell. Angry that so many mass murderers are allowed into Heaven, the Devil refuses to create Hell for a “small fry” like Biedermann, a mere enabler.
American voters for Trump should not rely on such a “good” ending for themselves. As it stands, their hell is being created right here on earth by the arsonist for whom they are voting.
At this moment of history, they still have a second chance. On November 6th, they have the opportunity to vote the Trump’s fellow traveler arsonists out of office. That would be a first step to save the United States from mass arson on the road to evicting Donald Trump from the attic in 2020.