As a notable American writer of note, I’ve long been one of our great republic’s most steadfast intellectual bulwarks against fascism. I narrowly lost to Andrew Sullivan on season one of “America’s Next Top Orwell,” have published several significant monographs about the rise of the radical Right, and regularly speak, for a significant fee, at the Southern Poverty Law Center’s annual Panic Banquet.
So let me be the first to tell you, and I don’t know if you’re aware of this, but the Nazis are back right now. They’re not just carrying Abercrombie and Fitch torches through the streets of Charlottesville or abstaining from masturbation on Vice News. They’re at Costco. They’re at Walmart. Not so much at Trader Joe’s, but that could happen, too.
They’re at the Pizza Hut. They’re at the Taco Bell. They’re at the combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bell. And, as I recently found out on the most innocent and lucrative of freelance assignments, the Nazis have penetrated the most innocent corners of American society. They are everywhere.
Let Me Tell You the Horrifying Tale
It was a bittersweet pleasure for me to return to the Cincinnati Zoo after a two-year absence. I spent many months wandering its paths while researching my award-winning Harambe biography, “The Greatest Ape.” Now I’d returned to meet the zoo’s newest star.
“Every day is like Christmas or my birthday or the season finale of ‘Dancing With The Stars,’” the zoo’s publicity director, Megan McSparkles, tells me as she ushers me through a private entrance so I’m not mobbed by autograph-seekers. “Fiona has brought so much joy to our patrons. She’s so funny and cute. She’s so pure. Her genetics are unsullied, which is as it should be.”
I find her choice of words curious, but am excited nonetheless. Like everyone else, I’ve been following Fiona The Baby Hippo’s life on the Internet from the beginning. She’s the semi-aquatic, even-toed ungulate who’s captured my heart and given me hope that someday our rising fascist tide will recede into the ocean. She’s just adorable, the way the bubbles blow around her little hippo nose.
We approach Fiona’s area. An enormous crowd has gathered, awaiting the appearance of their adorable heroine. The “Puffy Shirt” episode of “Seinfeld” played on a TV over her enclosure.
“It’s Fiona’s favorite show,” McSparkles says.
Mostly, the crowd is families. I see a woman with a hippo tattoo sleeve down her left arm. Preteen kids stand around wearing baseball caps topped with hippo heads, cell phones at the ready. There are Fiona banners, pennants, and balloons. Then, off to the corner, I notice a group of about 15 or so young men, heads shaven, wearing what appear to be swastika arm bands.
“What’s up with that?” I say to McSparkles.
“Oh,” she says. “Those are The Ruminants. They’re here every day. We consider them Fiona’s core support group to carry her message out into the world.”
“What?” I say.
The Ringleader Emerges
Then, like hundreds of pounds of magic, Fiona appears at the edge of her enclosure. It occurs to me for the first time that her whiskers look like a little mustache. The crowd roars.
“I LOVE YOU FIONA!” a little girl shouts.
Fiona The Baby Hippo snuffles in appreciation. Then, like the master showgirl that she is, she slinks toward the water and dips in. Our gaze turns below, as she paddles around her tank. She emerges from the water, her front right paw raised.
“HAIL FIONA!” shout the Ruminants as they raise their hands in salute. “Jews will not replace us!”
“What?” I say.
I look around. The crowd doesn’t even seem to notice. Fiona is doing an underwater backflip. This, I think, represents the greatest danger to the republic since The Unspeakable One became president.
I have to warn my readers. But how?
My Private Moments with Fiona
Later, the zoo grants me a private audience with Fiona The Baby Hippo, who I’m now beginning to suspect may harbor a secret ideology. I go into her back enclosure, which is like a high-end condo except it smells like animal refuse and is full of half-destroyed tires and basketballs. It looks like the home of an ordinary adolescent celebrity hippo, but also not. Hippos, after all, kill more people than does any other animal in Africa, other than mosquitoes, who are well-known to have fascist leanings.
My eyes wander to Fiona’s bookshelf. It contains titles like “The Divine Potamus: Why Hippos Are Destiny,” and “The Bilderberger Plot To Control The Zambezi.” That’s when I realize the horrifying truth, once and for all: Fiona The Baby Hippo is a Nazi.
Why did this hippo — intelligent, hyper-popular and raised to be the world’s most famous animal at the world’s most famous zoo— gravitate toward the furthest extremes of American political discourse? The question may never be sufficiently addressed because I have a limited amount of space, and it occurs to me that I may not actually know what I’m talking about. That is the most shocking revelation of all.
The Normality Is All Just a Ruse
Fiona sits on a pedestal, flanked by her two pet cats. McSparkles brings over a series of adorable little kids who have won a lottery to get a private photo taken with Fiona, unknowing pawns in a sinister plot against America.
Off to the side, in a narrow but well-appointed kitchen, Fiona’s private chef prepares her favorite meal of spaghetti, meatballs, and cabbage.
“What you must understand about Fiona is that she’s a normal American, a real American, just like us,” he says. I see his armband and realize he’s a Ruminant as well. Nazis are everywhere. Even in the zoo kitchen.
Finally, I get a chance to talk to Fiona alone.
“Is it true that you’re a white supremacist?” I say.
Fiona shakes her head from side to side and snuffles.
“The evidence is all around!”
She snuffles again.
McSparkles appears by my side.
“You shouldn’t ask Fiona such questions,” she says. “It makes her upset.”
Fiona gives a little grin.
“Hail Fiona!” says the PR person. Fiona raises a paw.
“Now we should let her eat her lunch in peace. She needs to nap before her 3 p.m. showing.”
This is our worst nightmare coming true. Like other zoo animals I have known, Fiona has little time for a life beyond her daily exhibitions and pooping in the water. When not doing famous Fiona things, she likes to chew toys and hang out with her cats. Yet she’s emerged as a potent symbol for the worst in American society. She must be stopped.
My fellow Americans, we can’t normalize Fiona. To do so would the ultimate hippocracy.