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  • Writer's pictureSona Chaturvedi

United States of Fascism

Photo credit: Brendan Smialowski/AFP. Donald Trump gassed peaceful protesters so he could pose with a Bible.

“When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.” -- James Waterman Wise.

These words have never been more relevant. If you aren’t worried yet about fascism in America, you aren’t paying attention.

It’s been developing here slowly for quite some time. It started with a GOP that stopped governing and became obstructionist, beholden only to money and corporate interests. Communities that used to band together for the common good have split into hopelessly divided factions that fight each other in grocery stores and gas stations over wearing a mask. It isn’t an accident, but by design, as the GOP attempts to turn themselves into a ruling class by any means necessary. They long since stopped playing by the rules of free-and-fair elections.

Many great philosophers, thinkers and social anthropologists have studied the rise and fall of fascist regimes, and our own leaders are trying to warn us what is taking place before our very eyes. A fascist, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright wrote in her recent book, “is someone who claims to speak for a whole nation or group, is utterly unconcerned with the rights of others, and is willing to use violence and whatever other means are necessary to achieve the goals he or she might have.” Does this sound familiar? It should. Because it’s happening, and it’s happening right now. We have already seen numerous examples, the most glaring of which have taken place in Portland, Ore., and Washington D.C. In Portland, federal agents wearing no identifying insignia, snatched citizens exercising their right to free speech and assembly off the streets and stuffed them into unmarked vehicles, under the auspices of protecting a building.

In the nation's capital, across the street from the White House, civilians exercising their right to free speech and assembly were pepper-sprayed and ordered to disperse so Donald Trump could walk, surrounded by generals, to a nearby church and defiantly hold up the Bible for a photo shoot. These tactics are straight from the fascist playbook, as are others used by this administration, from “alternative facts,” to “don’t believe what you see or hear, only believe what I tell you.” Just recently, we all heard Donald Trump confess to famed journalist Bob Woodward that he orchestrated an epic COVID-19 cover up. He maintained we didn’t HEAR what we clearly did. Those are this administration’s own words. Jason Stanley, a philosophy professor at Yale and the author of “How Fascism Works,” breaks it down. Fascism, he wrote, appeals to an imaginary and glorious past destroyed by the forces of liberalism, cosmopolitanism and globalism. An “us” vs. “them” mentality begins to develop that appeals to this mythic past. It establishes a hierarchy of human worth, placing law-abiding citizens over criminals, hard-working people over the lazy and the racially pure over the impure. False distinctions emerge between worthy and unworthy populations, and they are reenforced through propaganda and anti-intellectualism that corrode shared reality and create fertile ground for conspiracy theories. Fascist movements also emphasize certain collective identities. They promote a social Darwinist ethic, in which the individual must struggle against others for power and resources in free-market competition.

Fascism is most effective in times of severe economic inequality. Enter America’s billionaires, their tax cuts and their unwillingness to display any empathy toward the working class. They provide us with unfair pay, meager raises, limited healthcare and fight against other perks that true social democracies all happily deliver to their citizens. What we are seeing today is the logical conclusion to the GOP’s longstanding war against the poor and the disenfranchised in America. It has long been their goal to reduce us to useless citizens. It will never be known whether the GOP envisioned the emergence of a Trump-like figure. But that’s what has happened, they have capitulated to him in every way, and many argue it may be past the point of no return for the U.S. It is not. Our institutions are still holding firm and will outlive Trumpism, I believe, but to successfully survive we must overhaul the fundamental way we govern. We need to engage in an approach of elective transformation. By that, I mean we cannot vote for a two-party system that doesn't work for us for at least 20 years. The GOP no longer serves a purpose in America. The only way the U.S. can be saved, and it can be, is through an FDR-like approach. Democrats must become the governing party to save us, at least for a while, until the other side proves itself worthy of governing again. In this time of great internal conflict, we can only look to the past, to the leaders who through a philosophical approach achieved grand advancements and fundamental change. “When in despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love has always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time they seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall...think of it, always.” Mahatma Gandhi.


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