Happy Wonker Book Club: Uncle Sam's First Nazis
One reason America’s never come to grips with its racist-nationalist past is Americans are pointedly encouraged not to know a nationalist racist when they see one. One can scarcely write the word ‘Nazi’ online without angry writs from comments-section Godwin’s lawyers demanding all electronic conversation cease forthwith. Worse, even talking about an American fascism is liable to really upset American fascists, who, as we’re often reminded, are people too. This murk allows a horde of Christian righties, crypto-racists and besotted Putin-kissers to pass for ordinary conservatives, no different perhaps from your batty uncle that voted four times for Harold Stassen or that sweet elderly man down the block who was hauled away by ICE as a camp guard at Treblinka.
In writing history, one of the many downsides of regarding the personal as political is the moral burden of having to consider as a fellow human being the type of truly evil motherfucker best regarded with hammer and stake in hand. Arnie Bernstein doesn’t make this fatal error in Swastika Nation: Fritz Kuhn and the Rise and Fall of the German-American Bund, this pungent first-ever biography of Fritz Julius Kuhn, America’s leading proponent of Adolf Hitler during national socialism’s Thirties heyday as a possible solution to Western capitalism’s problems. Fritz comes to us as the kind of man for whom any biography would come off as an exercise in gargoyle painting, but it was just that kind of era.