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Sunday, March 5, 2017

Postcard from the End of America: Dexter, Michigan

As published at Unz Review and Intrepid Report, 3/6/17:






And so I was back in my friend’s house in this most tranquil, on the surface, country town. Outside was a young cherry tree with three bowling balls at its base, one for each dog buried beneath. A roofer’s ashes had also been scattered over its branches, but nothing remained of the short-lived man. Before my 74-year-old friend, Rudy, reclaimed the house, the roofer lived here.

A drunken fall off a friend’s deck during a July 4th party made the roofer miss a year of work, and got him hooked on painkillers. A second fall from a roof finished the always groggy man. He was but 33.

Behind Rudy’s house was a tiny trailer formerly occupied by a lonely fellow who collected rocks and pebbles. Sworn off alcohol decades ago, he only smoked weed. After living peacefully there for years, the nearly invisible 52-year-old had to move out when a neighbor decided to rat that the trailer had no plumbing, and thus illegal. Now, the rural hermit showed up just once a week to feed his old cat, the trailer’s only resident.

Down the road was a 72-year-old farmer who wouldn’t retire because farming was what he loved best. When a thresher shattered his left leg recently, the old man calmly drove himself to the hospital, and was back to cultivating within a month. He had spent nearly his entire life within a 20 mile radius, with just one trip to Chicago. Ann Arbor was alien enough, with Detroit, another planet. Each long day over, he could barely pay attention to Fox News. He voted Trump.

On the way in, we drove past a homemade sign, “BUILD BRIDGES NOT WALLS.” Other than that, I saw no other political statements during my five-day stay in Dexter.

Rudy’s three children were grown and gone, so the house was mostly empty. I had the entire second floor to myself. Each dawn, I looked out at the paling window to see a grain silo and a red barn. It was good to be away from so much concrete and so many bricks, and to wake up to utter silence. In the corner of my shower homesteaded a spider, and there was also a lady bug on the wall. Winking at me, she smiled.

Rudy’s marriage had been troubled for more than decade, his health was crashing and, each day, he could hear less. Serenely, Rudy spoke often of suicide, so I shouted, “Before you do that, Rudy, come visit me in Philadelphia! I’ll show you around! We’ll have a good time! Then you can commit suicide! You can even do it in Philadelphia if you want!”

Pondering his dwindling options, Rudy chuckled and shook his head.

If I don’t holler, Rudy can’t hear shit. At Dexter Pub on the town’s thriving and wholesome Main Street, there’s a sign warning against cursing, and last year, I accidentally shouted a few bad words while chatting with Rudy.

The obscene is saved for the men’s room, where there’s a poster of a blonde, bikinied babe, “Perfect Woman… Perfect Attitude.” Among the sayings of this ideal woman:

"That was a great fart! Do another one!"
"I've decided to stop wearing clothes around the house."
"Your mother is way better than mine."
"Shall I drop you and your friends off at the lap dancing club?"
"Why would I need more than three pairs of shoes?"
"Pubic hair! I hate those tight curls, I'm clean shaven."
"I signed up for yoga so that I can get my ankles behind my head just for you."
"God... If I don't blow you soon, I swear I'm going to explode!"
"Listen, I make enough money for the both of us. Why don't you retire forty years early?"
"Let's subscribe to Hustler."
"Honey... our new neighbor's daughter is sunbathing again, come see."
"Say, let's go down to the mall so you can check out women's asses."
"Oh come on, not the damn mall again. Let's go to that new strip joint."

Though Dexter Pub was a very soothing place to enjoy pints of Two Hearted, Rudy declined to go there with me on this visit. “I’ve seen what the humans do. I don’t care anymore.”

“It’s all futile!” I piled on.

“You’re right.”

“I’m already tired, Rudy! And I’m only 53!”

Our degraded culture and politics disgust Rudy. Jewish power and Israel make him retch. When Rudy was young, chemtrails didn’t seed the sky.

Even the educated could barely write, Rudy rued, “I know a lawyer who writes ‘u,’ the letter, instead of ‘you.’ Soon, we’ll have a post-literate society!”

Unable to read or write, we will still have to obey innumerable rules. At a supermarket, the cashier asked near-death, stooping Rudy for his ID as he bought beer. “It’s the rule,” she lamented.

“They’re getting so intrusive.”

“I know.”

“And prayers aren’t going to help.”

“I agree.”

“Maybe a gun will!”

“I’m with you.”

They both laughed.

Back in the car, Rudy added, “Not only do they care what you do, but pretty soon, they will tell you what to do, and observe that you’re not doing it. It’s that bad.”

Dexter Township is 97.5% white, while adjacent Dexter City is 92.7% vanilla. Together, they have just over 10,000 souls. During the first decade of the 21st century, Dexter City grew 73.9%, and one can assume that its whiteness is a prime attraction for newcomers. With no violent crimes, graffiti or loud music from passing cars, the only civic discomfort seems to be the longish wait at the Dairy Queen on summer evenings.

In the middle of town is a handsome, four-sided clock on an iron post, standing on a well-tended flower bed, and on the side of the Riverview Café is painted, white on indigo, “GOD BLESS AMERICA.”

Dexter High School’s mascot is the Dreadnought, and its most famous alumnus in recent years is Mark Koernke, a militia leader. Son of a sheriff’s deputy, Koernke joined the Army Reserve then worked as a janitor at the University of Michigan for 15 years. In the early 90’s, he started to broadcast on shortwave radio, gained a following, then achieved national prominence when he was mistakenly identified as the mastermind behind the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995.

Now broadcasting over the internet five times a day, five days a week, each Koernke show opens with a Thelen Paulk poem solemnly intoned, with slight variations, over ominous drum beats. It’s a state of the union and indictment of our government:

I had a dream the other night that, well, I didn’t understand.
A figure walking through the mist, with flintlock in his hand.
His clothes were torn and dirty, as he stood there by my bed,
He took off his three-cornered hat, and speaking low to me, he said:

“We fought a revolution, to secure our liberty.
We wrote the Constitution, as a shield from tyranny.
For future generations, this legacy we gave,
In this, the land of the free and home of the brave.

“The freedoms we secured for you, we hoped you’d always keep.
But tyrants labored endlessly, while your parents were asleep.
Your freedoms gone, your courage lost, you’re no more than a slave,
In this, the land of the free and home of the brave.

“You buy permits to travel, and permits to own a gun,
Permits to start a business, or to build a place for one.
On land that you believe you own, you pay a yearly rent,
Although you have no voice in saying how the money’s spent.

“Your children must attend a school that doesn’t educate,
And your Christian values can’t be taught, according to the state.
You read about the current news, in a regulated press,
And you pay a tax you do not owe, to please the I.R.S.

“Your money is no longer made of silver nor of gold.
You trade your wealth for paper, so your life can be controlled.
You pay for crimes that make our nation turn from God in shame.
You’ve taken Satan’s number. You’ve traded in your name.

“You’ve given government control to those who do you harm,
So they can burn down churches, and cease the family farm,
And keep our country deep in debt, put men of God in jail,
Harass your fellow countrymen, while corrupted courts prevail.

“Your public servants don't uphold the solemn oaths they've sworn,
And your daughters visit doctors so their children won’t be born.
Your leaders send artillery and guns to foreign shores,
And send your sons to slaughter, fighting other people’s wars.

“Can you regain the freedom for which we fought and died?
Or don’t you have the courage or the faith to stand with pride?
And are there no more values for which you’ll fight to save?
Or do you wish your children to live in fear and be a slave?

“O sons of the republic, arise! Take a stand!
Defend the Constitution, the supreme law of the land!
Preserve our great republic and each God-given right,
And pray to God to keep the torch of freedom burning bright!"

As I awoke he vanished, in the mist from which he came.
His words were true. We are not free, but we have ourselves to blame!
For even now as tyrants trample each God-given right,
We only watch and tremble, too afraid to stand and fight.

If he stood by your bedside, in a dream while you were asleep,
And wondered what remains of the freedoms he fought to keep,
What would be your answer, if he called out from the grave?
Is this still the land of the free and the home of the brave?

God bless you, and God bless this republic!

Though nearly everyone avoids poetry like bad breath, this poem has gained currency among many Americans who are convinced their government has been hijacked by entrenched criminals, with the only solution an armed revolution. Koernke and his listeners believe they’re languishing on occupied land.

Whereas the militia is only concerned with the defense of home and hearth, the professional military, as wielded by Washington, is an instrument for global crimes and, soon enough, also for domestic assault and control, so hammers Koernke, “It’s not the militia that ran Abu Ghraib. It’s not the militia that ran the rendition operations all over the world to torture people by cutting on their private body parts, or disemboweling them, or using electricity on them, or drowning them. That’s all government and regular military.”

The day before I landed in Dexter, I was in Manhattan as a guest on Chris Hedges’ Russia Today show, On Contact. Among the points I made was that nationalism or nativism will enjoy a resurgence in both the US and Europe, for people need to have control over the constitution of their nations and cities.

The control freaks in DC won’t allow this to happen, however, so this is how it’s going to go down, according to Mark Koernke:

Everyone knew the conflict was at hand, and the open battle for the republic was about to begin. The dagger war has been raging for many, many years, with victories and defeats on both sides. Some had thought that Waco would be the boiling point, but it had not gone as any had foreseen. The 90’s had its skirmishes, and the militias had performed well but restrained themselves in the hope that some other solution would present itself. It had not. With each passing day, the pressure continued to build. The globalist agenda had been based upon lies, and the people knew it. Some were still trying to formulate a peaceful solution, but the system had its own plan, and treachery was the centerpiece of that plan. With the first play drawn, and blood spilt, there would be no turning back. In a time of its own choosing, in a place no one expected, the dance of swords would begin.

[…]

The bat faggots, combined with whatever Homeland Security bottom feeders, mostly mercenaries, are going to pick somebody […] to use as an example. That action is going to be a face off, and it’s gonna actually, you know, initially be casualties for those who are surprised. It’s going to happen that way. They’re going to get caught off guard a little bit, but not much, because everybody can sense it, feel it, taste it, touch it. What’s going to happen is people are going to call on others, and there’s a lot of people who are going to mobilize. The other side is going to do the same thing. They have all their technology, but, trust me, we’re pulling out all the stops […] At some point, there’s going to be a column of goofs in black uniforms, idiots, mostly pea brains… In fact, 99.9% pea brains in their spiffy, little black uniforms, with all their spiffy, little alphabet letters on them, and that column [will meet] a column of militia, mechanized, or light mechanized, and armed up, already cocked, locked and ready to rock and roll. The bottom feeders in the black uniforms will be screaming their profanities, and they’ll be screaming and screaming and screaming, and the other side won’t be screaming a whole lot. Somebody’s going to pull the trigger, and it’s gonna be one hell of a popcorn exchange. From a distance, it’s going to sound like somebody opened up the popcorn pan from hell.

Sounds like a national suicide or, rather, the climax to the ongoing national suicide.

Until that fireworks, there are plenty of little suicides, all over. As I mellowed in Dexter Pub, a text reached me from Philly. Jason, a 38-year-old acquaintance, had just died after a week-long drug binge. The accompanied video showed him on the floor of his brother’s house. “Just look at him,” the brother spat, “laying there next to the cat litter! Just a moment ago, he was fixing himself something to eat, too. Now, he’s passed out and even peed on himself! See that yellow stuff? That’s piss that I will have to clean up!” Likely high himself, the brother didn’t realize his rudderless sibling was already dead.

A young woman said to me recently, “I want to shoot myself in the face, but have enough consciousness left to arrange my teeth and chunks of my flesh,” so the need to give even the messiest order to one’s predicament is constant, for anything that’s captured is partially redeemed and dignified, while what’s unarticulated is forever lost. In a country driven into the ditch, some compose.






.

2 comments:

Scotty_Mack said...

So sad for Rudy, and for the hermit evicted from the trailer.

When is your "On Contact" interview with Chris Hedges going to show up on youtube? I'm excited to see it, but it hasn't materialized yet...

Thanks for all that you do and write, Linh. I find your writing to be an "axe for the frozen sea within," as Kafka would say.

Linh Dinh said...

Hi Scotty Mack,

I don't know when the On Contact interview would be available online. I thought it would be already. Though I didn't see it, I assume it did air because there was a spike in traffic to my blog that day.

This piece was harder to write than usual. I've been mentally and emotionally drained. I'm very glad you like it.


Linh

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About Me

Born in Vietnam in 1963, I came to the US in 1975, and have also lived in Italy, England and Germany. I'm the author of a non-fiction book, Postcards from the End of America (2017), two books of stories, Fake House (2000) and Blood and Soap (2004), five of poems, All Around What Empties Out (2003), American Tatts (2005), Borderless Bodies (2006), Jam Alerts (2007) and Some Kind of Cheese Orgy (2009), and a novel, Love Like Hate (2010). I've been anthologized in Best American Poetry 2000, 2004, 2007, Great American Prose Poems from Poe to the Present, Postmodern American Poetry: a Norton Anthology (vol. 2) and Flash Fiction International: Very Short Stories From Around the World, etc. I'm also editor of Night, Again: Contemporary Fiction from Vietnam (1996) and The Deluge: New Vietnamese Poetry (2013). My writing has been translated into Italian, Spanish, French, Dutch, German, Portuguese, Japanese, Korean, Arabic, Icelandic and Finnish, and I've been invited to read in London, Cambridge, Brighton, Paris, Berlin, Leipzig, Halle, Reykjavik, Toronto, Singapore and all over the US. I've also published widely in Vietnamese.