In the 1944 Warner Brothers short “Tom Turk and Daffy,” as Porky Pig hunts for a turkey to adorn his Thanksgiving table, Daffy Duck, who has theretofore done the honorable thing and tried to hide the beleaguered Tom, suddenly succumbs to the pig’s bribes of a magnificent meal and reveals his avian friend’s hiding place. Tom Turk, encased inside a snowman, utters the word “Quisling” at the betrayal.
Much darker than the Looney Tunes usage, the word “Quisling” has a nefarious origin. Vidkun Quisling was the Prime Minister of Norway from 1942 to 1945 and effectively served as the head of a pro-Nazi puppet government, allowing Hitler to use Norway and its resources to further his perverse goals. After the Third Reich’s defeat in 1945, Quisling was tried for treason by the Norwegian people and executed by firing squad.
The word “Quisling” quickly entered the language (with some help from Winston Churchill) and became synonymous with collaborator, traitor, someone who aids and abets an enemy occupier of their country, or for the idea of someone who willingly allows ill to befall their country in order for some immediate or personal gain.
Not all people who allow a person or group to willingly harm the interests of their country are quislings, however. Only those who are aware of the damage being done are deserving of the moniker. The other option is that there are vast numbers of citizens who follow the occupying force blindly; believing that what is happening is for the ultimate good of the nation. These are the followers of a charismatic personality, a cult leader. And they, in turn, are members of that cult.
Some of the most common characteristics of a cult according to the International Cultic Studies Association (American Family Foundation) include:
• Displaying excessively zealous and unquestioning commitment to a leader, regarding his belief system, ideology, and practices as the Truth, as law.
• Questioning, doubt, and dissent are discouraged or even punished.
• The leadership dictates how members should think, act, and feel.
• The group has a polarized us-versus-them mentality, which may cause conflict with the wider society.
• The leader is not accountable to any authorities.
• The group teaches or implies that its supposedly exalted ends justify whatever means it deems necessary. This may result in members participating in behaviors or activities they would have considered reprehensible or unethical before joining the group.
Sound familiar? That last point is particularly eerie, considering the multitudes of conservatives and evangelicals who have virtually abandoned their every principle to follow the charlatan currently occupying the White House.
Donald Trump initially inspired millions of citizens in this country by promising to shake things up in a stagnant system, by promising to have the back of the common man, by promising to make America great once again. No wonder many of our brothers and sisters across the nation were stirred enough by what he said to take a chance on him.
But it has all proven to be empty rhetoric. Since his election, Trump has repeatedly and unwaveringly chosen the path that has done exactly the opposite of what he promised. Rather than making our country a great shining city on a hill as Ronald Reagan aimed to do, Trump has hastened our decline. Hastened our decline on almost every front. His efforts have made us less a country of fellow citizens and more a dysfunctional, abusive family. The list of things he’s done has become so long as to be overwhelming. The smaller of his transgressions lose their outrage potential because they are so overshadowed by the next thread he pulls from Old Glory, unraveling her further. It’s such a daily barrage of injuries that the smaller kicks and punches to the gut fail to even register. Our pain-gates have engaged, numbing us to the repeated blows: The undermining of our most revered institutions; the erosion of democratic ideals and practices; the corrupting of public service; the coarsening of our discourse; the unkind and uncivil treatment of fellow Americans; the alienation and humiliation of our allies; the groveling to our enemies; the continual profusion of lies. Each of these could be annotated with multiple, egregious examples if time and space permitted.
Those among us who still support Trump after all his transgressions against our national fabric are faced with the dire realization that they are either quisling or cult member. There really can be no other explanation. This assertion will undoubtedly enrage some people, and I understand their frustration at being so betrayed by what they honestly believed would be good for America. But I would implore them please try to look past their indignation and see what is happening to the land we all love. He and his regime are making us weaker, meaner, dumber, and more unlike our real selves than we have ever been.
I truly believe that most folks that voted for Trump are decent, upstanding people. I personally know and love intensely many of them, and I know in their hearts they love other people and they love this country. Many were deceived or misled by forces beyond their control. Many were hopeful that things could change for the better. Many decided to take a gamble on something new. But what came up was a bad roll of the dice.
All of us will eventually, inevitably reach the conclusion that the Trump era is a stain on the history of our country. And like most former cult members and former collaborators, there will be a lot of denial going on about whether one supported him or not. So why not be a hero now and throw off that black mantle forthwith, instead of waiting until the time has passed and the gesture will no longer matter? I truly believe that it is a braver act to abandon the cult or to renounce the tyrant for one who was initially taken in by all of it. Someone who never was a believer can sit in high-toned judgment, but it is not an act of American bravery to do so. Taking a stand against the President and his men for their betrayal of our ideals is a truer act of valor if you were once an inspired follower. It’s not too late. You, my friend, my brother, my sister, my co-worker, my neighbor, my fellow citizen can save America. You can make it great. The alternative, I’m afraid, is dire. And my mind wanders to an unwritten, unanimated conclusion to that old cartoon: One in which the pig, the picked-over carcass of the turkey nearby, gnaws instead on the drumstick of a crispy, roasted duck.
Christopher Fairchild is the editor of Panacea magazine and Welcome to Fayette magazine, and works as a photographer and graphic designer for Fayette Newspapers.