A popular discrediting tactic used by pundits is to compare an opponent’s position to something Hitler did. Even when the application of this comparison is ludicrous, the strategy can work because our visceral reaction to Nazism is so intense. And this is how it should be. The evils and inhuman achievements of the National Socialists in Germany in the 1930s and 1940s are legendary for their brutality and viciousness.
So let’s take a calm step back and deconstruct this loaded term of political ideology. The Italian term, fascismo is derived from fascio, which means “bundled (political) group.” The term also refers to the movement’s emblem, the fasces, a bundle of rods with a projecting axe-head that was carried before Roman magistrates as a symbol of authority and power. The name of Mussolini’s group of revolutionaries was soon used for similar movements in other countries that sought to gain power through violence and ruthlessness.
Fascism, therefore, is defined as a system of government marked by centralization of authority, stringent socioeconomic controls, suppressed opposition through terror and censorship, and typically a policy of intolerance and bigotry. Fascism seeks to purify a nation of “foreign” influences deemed to be causing degeneration or of not fitting into the culture of society.
So let’s examine recent actions in so-called red states. Legislative rules ignored, voting rights under attack, gerrymandering, right to work laws undermining labor, vitriolic rhetoric aimed at anyone expressing progressive views, and the demonization of GLBT folk, non-Christians, immigrants, the poor and women. And everything backed by a small cabal of ultra-rich neo-conservatives intent on corrupting the system to protect their wealth and status.
I am not suggesting that the United States is heading down an inexorable path to a Fascist state. I am merely pointing out the tragic irony that politicians in Ohio, North Carolina, Texas, and here in Michigan who claim to support small government, who claim to support democracy, who claim to support inalienable freedoms seem to be employing the Fascist tool kit.
And what American hasn’t pondered the question, “Why didn’t the German people do more to oppose the Nazis?” Well, now is your chance to ask it again. When your government passes bills in the dead of night without public comment or debate, why don’t you do something? When local elected officials are dismissed by government-backed dictators, why don’t you do something? When government gets small enough to fit into a woman’s vagina, why don’t you do something? When religious zealots remove another brick from the wall of separation of church and state, why don’t you do something?
As the great American patriot Edward Everett Hale once said, “I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something I can do.”