In May of last year, before the 2002 elections and before we began talking about bombing Iraq, I wrote an article called “Waiting For The River To Catch Fire” where I talked about how Americans tended to wait until the last minute to fix things if they got out of hand. At the time, I would have thought the events of the 2000 elections would have been enough to get people motivated, and I was hoping that the 2002 midterm elections would go against the Bush regime, giving them some serious opposition and forcing them to be less arrogant and more responsible. When that failed to materialize, I hoped that the huge protests against the invasion of Iraq would begin to motivate a sleeping public to change things or to demand greater accountability from our government. Again, I was wrong. The “war” has since come and gone quickly, and the ones that perpetrated it are basking in the glow of victory, as a bunch of drunken, low-class thugs might celebrate kicking a homeless man to death. The river has long since caught fire, but instead of racing to put it out and trying to fix the problem so that it doesn’t happen again, we seem to be enjoying it. In fact, we’re sitting on the pier roasting wieners and singing songs. Do we worry that the fire is going to burn our own houses down sooner ot later? Nah, that’d never happen to us.
Analogies aside, what’s sad about what’s going on in this country is that not only are most people ignorant of the fact that the Bush regime has lied about its intentions from the beginning (and I don’t mean just the invasion of Iraq), they don’t seem to care when they do find out. You’d think that, once things reached a certain point, enough people would get motivated enough to say “OK that’s it, everybody out of the pool!” but instead we’re being faced with a chorus of “We rock, you suck, dude!” and “Yeah, whatever.” Given those amounts of arrogant support and almost criminal apathy, it’s no wonder the powers that be can feel free to assume they’re invincible, and we who remain steadfastly opposed seem powerless in the face of the enormous forces working against us. “If only the people would wake up,” we keep saying, “then we can put an end to all of this.” But we may have to face up to the fact that the people aren’t going to wake up any time soon, or even worse, that they have no intention of doing so. Maybe this is the America they want, after all.
Whenever you watch history films of Nazi Germany, you never get a real sense of time. While certainly big events came and went quickly, there were years of buildup before they got to those points. And you could imagine that during all that time, many Germans were not entirely aware of the scope of what was happening. They may or may not have been supporters of Adolph Hitler or the Nazi Party, but for the most part they remained unaffected by a lot of it until the war started to go against them, and the Allies came. I think you can say the same for a lot of Americans now: most people in this country aren’t supporting George W. Bush, but they may support some of the things going on because they think they’re being done for their own safety. Remember, more than half of the country didn’t even vote in 2000 or 2002, they’re not hardcore supporters of either party, and they think what we on the left do is no different from what those on the right do. And they’re not very likely to get overly concerned about it because for the most part they haven’t really been affected by it, yet. John Ashcroft? Who’s he? PATRIOT Act? What’s that? Who cares? He won’t be coming after me. Iraqi children? Sorry, stuff happens in a war. Oh well.
Unfortunately, since the left has used the fascist card once too often, no one will believe us now that it may have actually arrived. For example, a friend of mine delved into a message forum I frequent, with the topic being the upcoming war with Syria. I won’t go into the details, but basically when he brought up similarities between what we’re doing and Nazi Germany any further arguments were immediately dismissed, because the idea of that sort of thing happening here in the United States of America is unthinkable. I used to think that, too, but lately there have been too many trends and eerie similarities between the US and the European fascist states of the twenties and thirties.
Free Inquiry magazine recently printed an article by political scientist Dr. Lawrence Britt, who studied the fascist regimes of Germany, Italy, Spain, Indonesia and Chile. In this article he points out fourteen “identifying characteristics” of fascism. They are:
Powerful and Continuing Nationalism
Fascist regimes tend to make constant use of patriotic mottos, slogans, symbols, songs, and other paraphernalia. Flags are seen everywhere, as are flag symbols on clothing and in public displays.
Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights
Because of fear of enemies and the need for security, the people in fascist regimes are persuaded that human rights can be ignored in certain cases because of “need.” The people tend to look the other way or even approve of torture, summary executions, assassinations, long incarcerations of prisoners, etc.
Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause
The people are rallied into a unifying patriotic frenzy over the need to eliminate a perceived common threat or foe: racial , ethnic or religious minorities; liberals; communists; socialists, terrorists, etc.
Supremacy of the Military
Even when there are widespread domestic problems, the military is given a disproportionate amount of government funding, and the domestic agenda is neglected. Soldiers and military service are glamorized.
The governments of fascist nations tend to be almost exclusively male-dominated. Under fascist regimes, traditional gender roles are made more rigid. Opposition to abortion is high, as is homophobia and anti-gay legislation and national policy.
Controlled Mass Media
Sometimes to media is directly controlled by the government, but in other cases, the media is indirectly controlled by government regulation, or sympathetic media spokespeople and executives. Censorship, especially in war time, is very common.
Obsession with National Security
Fear is used as a motivational tool by the government over the masses.
Religion and Government are Intertwined
Governments in fascist nations tend to use the most common religion in the nation as a tool to manipulate public opinion. Religious rhetoric and terminology is common from government leaders, even when the major tenets of the religion are diametrically opposed to the government’s policies or actions.
Corporate Power is Protected
The industrial and business aristocracy of a fascist nation often are the ones who put the government leaders into power, creating a mutually beneficial business/government relationship and power elite.
Labor Power is Suppressed
Because the organizing power of labor is the only real threat to a fascist government, labor unions are either eliminated entirely, or are severely suppressed.
Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts
Fascist nations tend to promote and tolerate open hostility to higher education, and academia. It is not uncommon for professors and other academics to be censored or even arrested. Free expression in the arts is openly attacked, and governments often refuse to fund the arts.
Obsession with Crime and Punishment
Under fascist regimes, the police are given almost limitless power to enforce laws. The people are often willing to overlook police abuses and even forego civil liberties in the name of patriotism. There is often a national police force with virtually unlimited power in fascist nations.
Rampant Cronyism and Corruption
Fascist regimes almost always are governed by groups of friends and associates who appoint each other to government positions and use governmental power and authority to protect their friends from accountability. It is not uncommon in fascist regimes for national resources and even treasures to be appropriated or even outright stolen by government leaders.
Sometimes elections in fascist nations are a complete sham. Other times elections are manipulated by smear campaigns against or even assassination of opposition candidates, use of legislation to control voting numbers or political district boundaries, and manipulation of the media. Fascist nations also typically use their judiciaries to manipulate or control elections.
Looking carefully at that list, you can see at least one example of each item occurring on a pretty regular basis. Flags on car antennae. Reporters being fired for speaking out. Dissenting voices being ridiculed. Bechtel and Halliburton. Questionable election results and new technology that makes it easier fo fix elections. All of these things are happening right now, but you couldn’t get most Americans to believe it. For us, the river caught fire a long time ago, and it represents a threat to our very lives. We see it as a destructive fire, our opponents see it as the fire that lights the way to victory, and the masses either don’t see it or don’t understand what it means, or don’t even care. If we fail to motivate them to care, does that reflect on our beliefs or on our abilities?
Rome stopped being a Republic and became an Empire in part because the people of Rome no longer wished the burden of self-government, and the same thing is happening here. People are too busy with their own lives to worry about what the government is doing, and so by default they cede power to people who have a vision of their own, and these people have both the skill and the power to make that vision a reality. Many of us, including myself, would have preferred not to have gotten involved, but having seen what we have seen, we just cannot ignore what’s happening. There is still a flickering hope that we can take back what is ours, but that window of opportunity is closing fast. We must unite, and we must act. And we must remember what Lincoln said:
“The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate for the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise to the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country. We can not escape history. We will be remembered, in spite of ourselves. The fiery trial through which we pass will light us down in honor or dishonor, to the last generation. We shall nobly save, or meanly lose our last best hope of Earth.”
Joseph Vecchio, a veteran of both the US military and of the internet, is a freelance writer. His daily blog, “Pax Liberalis,” can be seen at http://joevecchio.blogspot.com. He contributed above perspective to Media Monitors Network (MMN) from Georgia, USA.