COLUM: From here and back again

Jim Coufal

Fear and Anger

When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross (variously attributed to Sinclair Lewis, Huey Long and others of their era).

The danger lies not so much in the would-be Fuhrers who may arise, but in the presence in our midst of certainly deeply running currents of hope and appetite and opinion. The war upon fascism must be begun there. John Thomas Flynn

This tome needs to start with a definition of fascism: a political philosophy, movement, or regime (such as that of the Fascistic) that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition.

Fascism is related to Nazism, but fascism puts the state first while Nazism puts race first. Both work hand-in-glove with corporations.

It has been said that if you are not angry yet, you’re not paying attention. I’ll add that if you are paying attention and are not angry, you’re watching the wrong news channels, the wrong commentators, and reading the wrong print media. You are getting the information they want you to get for their own purposes.

There is much to be angry about. We elected a president who is a self-admitted sexual predator who loves to “grab pussy,” who is a misogynist, a narcissist, a liar, and a divisive, ill-spoken promoter of violence; we elected a congressman who assaulted a news reporter the night before the election and later plead guilty, we elected a congresswoman who clearly stated she could not support a living wage and more. It isn’t enough to be angry at those elected, but more at those who elected them.

We should be angry when the U.S. receives a warning from the U.N. that calls on high-level politicians and public officials of the U.S to and unconditionally and unequivocally reject and condemn racist speech and crimes throughout the country, and a second to stop vilifying the media. We should be angry that we continuously have been and are still fighting the Civil War in new guises.

We should be angry that having defeated the Nazis in WWII, at the cost of 500,000 lives, we do not rise up en masse when a Nazi kills an American citizen on an American street, in an American city.

And we should be AFRAID, for the fascism we fought in WWII is on our shore and advancing. There are doubters that this is so, but below I look at each of 14 significant characteristics of fascism agreed on by many scholars, historians, scientists. There is some overlap:

  1. Powerful, constant Nationalism, with frequent use of patriotic mottos such as Make (white) America Great Again, America First, American Exceptionalism; symbols and paraphernalia (Nazi flags, Confederate battle flags, Nazi salutes…).
  2. Disdain for Human Rights, overlooking or approving torture, long incarcerations, attempts to reduce voting rights, limiting peaceful assembly or even breaking it up with police force…)
  3. Creating enemies and scapegoats, based on racial (blacks and Hispanics), ethnic or religious minorities (Muslims), immigrants, especially Hispanics, and liberals, communists, socialists, elites, foreign terrorists …)
  4. Supremacy of the military, disproportionate military budgets, glamorization of the military, top “civilian” advisors are military, militarizing police…).
  5. Widespread sexism, disproportionate male occupation of government and private high ranking positions, the glass ceiling, rigid traditional gender positions, rigid control of the bedroom and women’s bodies, homophobia, anti-gay legislation, destruction of Planned Parenthood…).
  6. Controlled Mass Media, or the blaming of media for false information, and for being the “enemy.” In short, creating the distrust of media. Further, controlling access to government officials. Lies become common and overlooked. creating a culture of deception.
  7. Obsession with national security. Creating fear of “others,” such as Muslims, when white caused terrorism is much more prevalent than foreign terrorism. Building walls to keep out Hispanic “rapists and criminals.” Threatening to or pulling out of international treaties, such as NAFTA and the Paris Climate Accords.
  8. Religion intertwined with government. Using the most common religion as a tool to manipulate common opinion, as when religious tenets and passages are common from government leaders. Legislation is passed to favor religion, such as permitting pastors to preach politics from the pulpit. Having a government agency focusing on region. Prayer sessions and bible studies in Congress.
  9. Corporate power is protected and enhanced. Creating a power elite by appointing cabinet secretaries and executives who are extremely wealthy, with strong corporate ties. Or passing legislation to favor banks and wall street traders, or seeking to greatly reduce corporate taxes.
  10. Suppression of labor power. As the strongest opponent of fascist governments, labor unions are eliminated or severely suppressed.
  11. Disdain for intellectuals and the arts. Opinions and beliefs are made equal to science and facts; cutting funding for the arts and humanities; calling professors and scholars “losers” and “lightweights.” Creating one more common enemy.
  12. Obsession with Crime and Punishment. Increasing police powers and weapons; overlooking police abuses and quitting clearly guilty police officers; pardoning racist police officers; and continuing failed actions like the war on drugs. Includes berating judges and court decisions, not on merit but because they do not follow the beliefs of government leaders.
  13. Rampant Cronyism and Corruption. From outright nepotism to rewarding non-viable but large campaign donors to high offices, especially corporate and wealthy friends. Using powers to protect such cronies, such as pardons. Government treasures and properties are corporatized.
  14. Fraudulent Elections. As in cases such as that of the “hanging chads”; through gerrymandering; attempts to reduce minority voting; and even interference by foreign powers.

An item not specifically named in the above, but implied in it, is the attempt to change government that is favorable to the rulers, such as doing away with filibusters and even changing the Constitution.

Notice how much of the above centers on creating a culture of FEAR, promising a rebirth following the destruction of decadence. A second kind of fear leads to politicians to act cowardly in the face of the advance of fascism and corporatism, and as long as they do, clearly mostly the Republicans, they and the party are complicit.

The above is written with a broad brush, but the evidence is readily available to connect the dots. Part II on anger and fear will offer more specifics, especially the part religion has and is playing in our current trauma.

Jim Coufal of Cazenovia is a part-time philosopher and full-time observer of global trends.


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