By Tim Henney
The more I came to know the recently departed sage of Sandpoint, Erik Daarstad, the more I thought about moving to Norway.
My God, if one could live among people like him? Humanists, gentlemen, modest and thoughtful giants among men? Or was Erik an anomaly? Whichever, I have never had a better pal. Even if my 1957 bride did like his hair better than mine.
In current American culture, with things often seeming to be heading toward hell in a handcart and led by elected, morally bankrupt fiends determined to turn our democracy into a dictatorship (their warped power-hungry minds seemingly ignorant of history), citizens like Erik are invaluable. He knew that unlettered U.S. legislators were using Adolph Hitler’s political playbook from the 1930’s, including Fox News’ mimicry of Nazi propaganda minister Dr. Joseph Goebbels’ techniques. Predator Trump, for instance, like the fuhrer, and like Stalin and Mao, has called the press “the enemy of the people.”
The drift of our delicate democracy toward fascist authoritarianism under dictator wannabes spewing hate, division and violence versus the rule of law was a continuing concern of Erik’s. Another was the perplexing gullibility of those bereft, Taliban-like anti-America U.S. extremists who, desperately needing leadership no matter how obscene, unqualified or dangerous the disguise in which it appears, infiltrate today’s library and school boards, state legislatures, county commissions, city councils, media the U.S. Congress.
The Trump-led attack on the U.S. Capitol made Erik almost sick to his stomach. And he was, like most bonafide patriots, flabbergasted that Trump’s gullible fan base would stick with him after he, touring the American cemetery at Aisne-Marne, France in 2018 a hundred years after 2,289 U.S. soldiers and marines died fighting the Germans there in World War I, objected to his political handlers insistence on a tour of the cemetery. Good politics. Those American heroes buried there, and the 1,060 missing in action, Predator Trump opined, were “suckers and losers.”
He felt similarly about Arizona Senator John McCain, who spent five-and-a-half years in a North Vietnam prison. The Predator preferred “heroes who didn’t get captured.” So saith he who has cheated and lied and bribed his way through life — and dodged the draft five times.
Erik couldn’t understand why American citizens could endorse such immorality. A quiet, attentive and humble man, more 87-year-old hippie than pillaging viking despite his Scandinavian DNA, Erik was, nonetheless, not shy in voicing distress over the present downward drift of his adopted democracy. (Nor should the rest of us be, if we value what we have.)
If Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and Mother Teresa were rolled into one perfect American humanitarian, we’d have Erik. Maybe add a dash of Ben Franklin and a dollop of Marco Polo, who explored much of the world. Erik visited and photographed most of it.
A sticker on the trunk of Erik’s weary Subaru said “Fighting Hate, Teaching Tolerance, Seeking Justice.” Daarstad in the proverbial nutshell. Speaking of tolerance, my 1957 bride, one of Erik’s good buddies and the same aged vintage, demanded of me about a zillion times when he would join us downtown for breakfast or lunch, “Why don’t you have hair like Erik’s?”
A valid question. And so is this: “Why aren’t all of us more like him?”
Uff Da, Erik!
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