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Manlife:The Last of the Lawsonians Ryan Sarnowski

At 90-years-old, Merle Hayden, the last member of the utopian movement Lawsonomy, crusades tirelessly to spread the gospel and preserve the legacy of his Commander, Alfred Lawson. Lawson invented the United States’ first passenger airliner, but his company went bankrupt during the Great Depression. Dismayed by the economic policies at work, Lawson created the Direct Credits Society, a movement against what Lawson called “the one percent.” The Society advocated for economic reform and “justice for everyone that harms no one.” Thousands joined. Yet once the Depression ended, many members left Lawson and returned to gainful employment, but not Merle. Merle stuck with Lawson through the creation of the original University of Lawsonomy, where members enacted Lawson’s spiritual ideas to become a “new species,” the University’s closure at the hands of the IRS, and its relocation to Sturtevant, Wisconsin. Nearly 60 years after Lawson’s death, Merle continues disseminating Lawson’s economic and religious writings hoping to find followers to carry on the work.

Merle’s high school sweetheart, Betty Kasch, feels differently. As a teenager, Betty rejected Lawsonomy, and so Merle rejected her—left her to join the organization full time. She checked for letters every day but did not hear from him for over 60 years. Then an email arrived. Merle wanted to reconnect, and although they picked up where they left off romantically, Merle’s commitment to Lawsonomy continues overshadowing the life she would like them to share.

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