The MAGA crowd is desperately holding on to a world that never existed.


The political and racial division in America is so deep-seated into our culture, not even palpable truth can uproot this invasive social disease. The political climate raises questions about the possibility of violence. However, we are way beyond that. Instead, it is impossible to imagine any resolution that will not involve violence and bloodletting on some level before this divisive era is over. Ten years ago, thinking about America heading toward an armed social revolution would have been considered hyperbolic. That is no longer the case.

No matter how conspicuous Trump’s reckless approach to destroying the delicate thread that holds America together, whether it is his disregard for law enforcement, the judicial system, societal norms, or politics, the MAGA crowd will stand on the wrong side of indisputable facts. When evidence such as voice recordings, photographs, videos, and eyewitness accounts are brushed aside, there is no way to get past this without violence. Unavoidable violence is one of only two things the MAGA crowd and I can agree with.

The social sickness of the MAGA crowd is illustrated on a micro level in a small North Carolina town. Mount Airy is classified as a city since it has more than ten thousand people. But to most city dwellers and even the residents of Mount Airy, it is a town. For most people in this town, the designation of a city carries meanings they do not want to be associated with, such as crime, liberal leaning and racial diversity, etc. The most significant fact about this town is that it is Andy Griffith’s birthplace. Griffith is the comedian and actor who portrayed the wise and gentle Andy Taylor, a single father raising his young son in a fictional town called Mayberry, on the 60’s television show, The Andy Griffith Show.

Griffith never said for sure that he based Mayberry on Mount Airy. As a matter of fact, for most of his career, he denied it. The closest he came to linking the fictional Mayberry to the real Mount Airy came in a 2002 interview, when he said, “People started saying Mayberry was based on Mount Airy. Sure sounds like it, doesn’t it?” Griffith may have felt he needed to say that during his visit, a dedication to him when they named part of US Highway 52 the Andy Griffith Parkway. The factis, that Griffith stayed away from his hometown for decades.

When the tobacco and textile industries dried up, the town’s fathers, business owners, and the chamber of commerce for Mount Airy decided to capitalize on their most famous resident, Andy Griffith. Businesses were started or reappropriated to capitalize on a fictional town from a fictional show that ended over 50 years ago. A fleet of vintage Ford Galaxies disguised as squad cars will give you a tode around town. Tourists can go inside Floyd’s Barbershop or watch a play at the Andy Griffith Playhouse. There is also a replica of the courthouse, trolly cars tours, a statue of characters Andy and his son Opie and if none of this is enough nostalgia of a fake place, there is an Andy Griffith Museum.

Ted Koppel visited Mount Airy last summer and did a piece for the CBS News Sunday Morning Show. It was sunshine and nostalgia until Koppel entered a tourist trolly at the end of the report asking a few questions to the riders.

Koppel: “How many do you think we had a fair election?”

Of the people on board, only two people raised their hands to indicate a fair election.

“No way,” Shouted one. The rest chimed in, “No, no. No, it wasn’t, no, it was not. By no means.” “Look how many dead people voted for Biden.”

Other passengers stated it was proven that the election was a fraud, and they mostly pointed to mail-in ballots, people voting that had been dead for 15 years.

Koppel: “What do you think happened on January 6 at Congress?”

“They brought in trucks loads of people. It was all staged, and that’s how that started.”, “They even showed all of these trucks with all these Black Lives Matter people.” “They disgrace our country.” Another rider stated, “I don’t know why they concentrate on one issue when these so-called peaceful protesters burn cities down every day.”

Most telling of these answers was a man sitting in the front who wore a t-shirt with the word Patriotism on the front. In referring to BLM protesters, he stated.

“They should murder and kill everybody who was there (BLM demonstraters). Hang them and put them in jail.”

I wonder what Sheriff Andy Taylor would have said about those answers. I say that he would not have said anything. He does not exist. Neither does the fictional town that these American patriots are wallowing in. These middle-aged white people live in a fantasy world that never existed. They are doing everything they can to hold tightly to a myth. One of the Black residents of Mount Airy, a woman in her 90s, stated that even in 1973, she was not allowed to sit and eat in one of the restaurants. She had to buy the food and take it with her.

These people, who worship an idyllic life where everyone loved their neighbors and helped one another, ignore that not only was this not valid for all the residents, it was not even true for them. I watched and enjoyed the Andy Griffith Show and I’m Black. However, I also watched Star Trek and Gilligan’s Island, and even as a child, not once did I confuse what I was watching on television with what was going on in the real world. Those shows were the world of fantasy. When I turned away from the television, the reality outside kept me grounded: The assassinations of Martin Luther King and the Kennedys, the Vietnam war, civil rights protesters bitten by dogs and water hosed, church bombings, poverty, racism, klan terrorism. The Andy Griffith Show was pure escapism and resembled no part of reality.

For the MAGA crowd, Mount Airy is their retreat from reality. But they treat it not as the nostalgia of an old television show but as the history of a bygone era they so desperately long for. Their reality is a make-believe black and white comedy show that stopped running over 50 years ago. They treat this visit the same way as a religious pilgrimage to a holy shrine. One woman said that she and her husband watch the show four hours every day with their young son, thereby giving him a fake view of what the world is like.

The Mount Airy lie is a peek into people’s minds who feel they are losing a grip on their place in society. It is a sad state to be in, and these people, even though reprehensible, are the victims of their own hate and fear. The world is changing. America is changing, and there is not enough violence, racism, guns, and political rhetoric to change the course of what these bitter people are so intensely fighting to hold back.

By visiting this fake town, with its fake characters and these fake motifs, they are choosing to turn away from their insecurities and live in a fantasy dream while they are fully awake. In the future, they may be able to live in virtual reality and interact with all of the characters of the Andy Griffith Show. But while they are sticking their head in the ground, the entire world (according to them) is shitting on them. I do agree with their assessment.



Humanist, educator, writer, photographer, and modern-day Luddite. My writing is a living organism.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Thomas Holt Russell

Humanist, educator, writer, photographer, and modern-day Luddite. My writing is a living organism.