FASCISM AND THE SOUL OF AMERICA

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The descent into fascism doesn’t happen overnight. There are conditions that fester and grow more malignant over long periods of time. As they worsen, those most affected by them begin to look for reasons, for something, someone, some group of people to blame. They look for ways to solve their problems – a bad economy, unemployment, a worsening environment, a perceived threat from those who appear or act differently, who may not worship the same god, speak the same language, eat the same foods, people who seem to be “gaming the system” and taking what rightfully belongs only to the aggrieved “real” citizens of the nation. And for a long time, they feel powerless to do anything and that feeling of powerlessness devolves into feelings of anger, hatred, bigotry, and xenophobia. At times, those feelings are acted upon by some individuals who strike out in violence against “those people,” and their acts are applauded by those who agree with them as simply the actions of an angry, patriot, a defender of a nation’s “true values.”
As this is happening, there are always the opportunistic demagogues waiting in the wings for just the right time, for the conditions to have come to a crisis point, so that they can make their move, proclaim themselves “the voice of the people,” and accelerate the descent into fascism that has been slowly happening over the long years. It doesn’t matter what economic class this demagogue is from. It doesn’t matter if he is educated or not. What matters is that he look at least mostly the same, that he proclaims his allegiance to the original “core values” of the nation, that he recognize and identify with the grievances of the people, and, most importantly, that he affirm the belief of the people that their problems are caused by people who are different, who threaten the security and the order of society. And not only that he affirm that belief, but that he name the offending people publicly, call for ostracizing them, for interring them, for refusing to allow anymore of “them” in to the country. Capitalizing on the fears, ignorance, and bigotry of the people, this new “voice of the people,” tells them that he has the answers to their problems, that he will end the threat that they are living under, that he will restore the nation to its former greatness. He convinces them that to do this they must be willing to deny certain freedoms to others, even other citizens, and, if necessary, rid the nation of the offenders even if they have done nothing wrong. Simply being a member of a certain race or religion or economic class or political party is enough to make them suspect and they must go.
And the people listen and follow. And the escort into fascism grows faster even as the people can’t, or won’t, see that they are betraying the very core values of freedom and justice they loudly proclaim as their own and of the nation. And their new leader, urges them on, convinces them to trust him, to relinquish power to him, and he will save the nation.
Playing a vital role in the rise of the new leader and the fascist state he wants to create is a media that is owned and run by the wealthy and their corporations. They play both sides of the fence in this political game, on one hand applauding the new leaders plans and proclamations as necessary and on the other criticizing them as dangerous. In either case, his face, his name, and his ideas are always at the front of the news so that it’s almost impossible to escape his gaze or his voice. All other viewpoints are secondary and given short shrift because they don’t sell papers or boost ratings and profits. In effect, the so-called “free press” has already become a tool of the fascist state and the oligarchy that he has, with or without the knowledge of the people, made an alliance.
It is during times like this that those who oppose this demagoguery and slide into fascism must speak out and loudly. The result of not doing that, of not standing up to such ignorance and evil has been seen throughout history. We don’t need to look that far back, either, to know what happens when good people do nothing. Germany, Hitler, and the Nazis. Italy, Mussolini, and the National Fascist Party. Spain, Franco, and the Falange. 
In 19th century America, it was the Know-Nothing Party that raised this threat of nativism and fascism. In 20th century it was Senator Joseph McCarthy and the House Un-American Activities Committee and, later Barry Goldwater who, in his nomination acceptance speech for the Republican Presidential nomination of 1964 quoted William Jennings Bryan famous extremist line: “I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.” 
And now, in the U.S., we’re seeing the morphing of a once great party of Main Street America into a party of bigotry, hatred, perpetual war, jingoism, and xenophobic ultra-nationalism, whose leading candidate for President in the next election is the embodiment of fascism, who plays on the fears of the ignorant (no matter how educated they may be) and who, like other demagogues throughout history, proclaims himself to be the only one who can solve the problems of the people and the nation. Like those others, he offers no real solutions, no concrete plans to solve those problems. He only offers platitudes about America’s “core values,” about making America “great again.” And, to feed those fears that his supporters have, and to keep them from seeing that the would-be emperor has no clothes, he offers up the scapegoat of people of different races, nationalities, skin color, and religion. And the people – the sheeple – slavishly follow. 
If ever there was an election that is about saving the soul of America, it is this one. And if ever people who oppose the descent into fascism that some are leading us must speak out it is now and they must speak out loudly. 
The enemy is not our black sisters and brothers, not our Muslim sisters and brothers, not our Mexican sisters and brothers. And, whether we care to acknowledge it or not, the enemy is not our sisters and brothers of any political party.
The enemy is apathy. As disheartening as the situation is, it will only worsen if we do nothing to stop it. The words of Edmund Burke still ring true: “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing.” 
If we sit back and choose only to ring our hands and whine or to try to ignore what is happening, evil will surely triumph. And in that case we will have helped in the descent into facism.
We will all be reminded of the words expressed by Walt Kelly in his comic strip “Pogo”: “We have met the enemy and he is us.”