Notice, if you care to, the confluence of those last two words: ignorance and ignore. They are built upon the same Latin root: ignorare – having no knowledge. That root, and those words, point to a responsibility we have as citizens: to be aware of what is happening, to gain knowledge through education and research and to apply that knowledge to every realm of life, including the societal imperative of a participatory democracy that seeks the well-being of all its citizens and inhabitants. We have failed to provide a thorough knowledge of ‘civics’ – of what it means to be a citizen - and to instruct students on why government exists and exactly how it operates, with special attention to the part that citizens must play to preserve our form of government.
Who would have thought, for instance, that the Electoral College, intended to balance the importance of small and large states, (and to protect against mob rule), would turn out to be a mechanism for over-turning the will of the people, since five times in our history the presidential election has been won by someone who did not win the popular vote. Or, how about the rights of the Senate minority being protected by a filibuster rule – a check instituted in the Senate to curb a dictatorial majority. By manipulation, the cloture vote for a filibuster has turned into a mechanism for blocking a simple majority from passing meaningful legislation or approving presidential appointments.
We got here because we have too often allowed stereotyping and scapegoating, biases and prejudices regarding people, races and religions to rule our deliberations and our actions. We got here because we accepted the myth that success is equated unequivocally with the acquisition of things - like possessions, property and money - and that such success grants special conditions, privileges and status that others do not (and in some cases, are not allowed to) possess. We got here because the rule of an elite faction has always been a potential threat to our democracy. We got here because we have allowed our government to become so intertwined with capitalism it has become the handmaiden of corporate interests.
At the opposite end of this spectrum are those who want to be in an elite group but have no material success on which that can be built. Thus, they substitute other criteria to enhance their status and denigrate that of others – race, religion, ethnicity or any other false determinant of superiority or inferiority – and exclude everyone else from their circle. Too often, they use some form of propaganda and physical force to achieve their goal -- the domination or extermination of the unacceptable creatures outside their circle. Ultra-Right-wing groups, white nationalists, and various hate groups, such as the KKK, have existed to some extent throughout our history as a nation, and are now represented, and given a voice, within the inner circle of the presumptive 45th President’s emerging administration.
Having come back around to our present-day dilemma, let us explore the reasons we should be frightened, scared, concerned and more actively vigilant about our situation following the election of 2016. It can be summed up in one phrase: we are on the verge of forfeiting our democratic ideals and values. To be clear on what that means, here is a list of 14 characteristics that describe a fascist regime. Let me say once again, as I have said in other posts on this Blog: I am not accusing anyone in the Trump circle, including The Donald himself, of being a Fascist or a Nazi. I am simply saying that certain characteristics of such a regime are present in the words and certain actions of some members of the Trump campaign, and of appointees to certain posts in his administration. This list is not original with me.
Professor Lawrence Britt has examined the fascist regimes of Hitler (Germany), Mussolini (Italy), Franco (Spain), Suharto (Indonesia) and several Latin American regimes. Britt found 14 defining characteristics common to each:
1) Powerful and Continuing Nationalism – “Fascist regimes tend to make constant use of patriotic mottos, slogans, symbols, songs, and other paraphernalia” (like hats and T-shirts?). “Flags are seen everywhere, as are flag symbols on clothing and in public displays.”
Most disturbing about the Trump campaign has been its constant drumbeat about making America first, and “making America Great Again!” Sometimes openly and sometimes covertly this slogan includes some very unsettling items: One example is “Law & Order” particularly targeted toward urban areas often home to minorities and people who live in poverty. It has also been too much associated with a white nationalism and a white-supremacist view of other races, religions, ethnicities and/or cultures.
We have already seen a disturbing tendency to appoint such men (and so far, that gender is predominant). The key policy and political adviser is none other than an avowed extreme nationalist and supremacist whose record of hate has been well-documented in the formal media and in social media. Steve Bannon is someone whose total orientation is toward the promotion of the white, Evangelical Protestant tenets; heterosexual, English-speaking, ultra-conservative politics that will now be centered in the White House in his role as Special Advisor to the President on matters of Policy. If Right-winger, Glenn Beck of Fox News can characterize Bannon as: “Quite Possibly The Most Dangerous Guy In All Of American Politics” there is every reason to sit-up and take notice.
President-elect Trump has also named retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn as his national security adviser. Flynn, a Fox News favorite, with conflicts of interest in representing both Russia and Turkey as a lobbyist, frequently appears on Fox News to push his anti-Islam views, has lauded Russian President Vladimir Putin, and has made repeated appearances on Russian state television, one in news footage at a dinner where he sat next to Putin. (mediamatters.org).
To add to the divisive and destructive tendencies of these key players, we now have confirmation that The Donald will appoint Sen. Jeff Sessions from Alabama as the Attorney General in his administration. Huffington Post comments: “The man who President-elect Donald Trump will nominate as the 84th attorney general of the United States was once rejected as a federal judge over allegations he called a black attorney “boy,” suggested a white lawyer working for black clients was a race traitor, joked that the only issue he had with the Ku Klux Klan was their drug use, and referred to civil rights groups as “un-American” organizations trying to ‘force civil rights down the throats of people who were trying to put problems behind them’.”
If these appointments are followed by some of those already rumored as being considered, be forewarned that this number one characteristic of fascist regimes will be well on its way to fulfillment.
2) 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.”
You have been witness to the following and you will be witnessing much more that falls under this category.
Ignore the rights of citizens and circumscribe the most basic democratic fundamental: the right to vote. We have seen over the last few years of Republican conservative right-wing state governors and legislatures, the most vicious attacks upon the right to vote, including ID requirements, gerrymandering, changing locations of polls at last minute, purging electoral registers of names, closing of election board offices, inconvenient hours and locations for early voting, closing of public bathrooms within polling places, long lines caused by various restrictions and closing of polls before everyone has a chance to vote. On top of that, we now know of certain irregularities in the voting machines and software, plus hacking from outside sources into voter rolls.
Harassment and discrimination toward citizens in a racial minority has been front and center for some time now, and it has gotten worse. Raw racism is on full display, with even young children coming on board with increased taunting, denigration, harassment and bullying of their classmates of different racial and ethnic and religious backgrounds (as reported by the Southern Poverty Law Center).
Such a result must be expected after the carefully publicized and coordinated effort to denigrate and destroy everything that our first Black President has attempted for the betterment of our country. It should be expected after the constant news stories of police violence toward people of color in urban areas and in smaller cities and towns. The unjustified killing of black men by rogue police officers has not gone unnoticed by children, or by adults. Nor has the over-charging and lengthy incarceration of minority persons found guilty of a crime. The “War on Drugs” from another era of right-wing ideology has led to a return of Jim Crow attitudes and laws, as one author put it.
But racism is not the only characteristic we have to fear. The abrogation of international treaty obligations and alliances being advocated; the use of ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ (waterboarding for one) for prisoners of war, against international standards, are now being touted as ‘necessary’ to re-institute because of the ‘danger’ to this country from radical Islamic terrorists.
The use of nuclear weapons against terrorists (and countries) is promoted, as is the building of a wall to prevent illegal border crossings, and the need to register all immigrants from certain Islamic countries so they can be tracked while in this country. Each of these is indicative of using ‘necessity’ as our motivation for over-turning Arms Agreements and abandoning the acceptance of the tired, the poor and the politically threatened of other countries.
Mention must also be made of a Supreme Court that will once again possess an Ultra-Right-wing majority. Such a Court will carefully rule to find ‘necessity’ to defend and protect more important than the freedoms and rights of citizens. Already the Court has acted to approve of raids and incursions into private homes and personal business of ‘suspects’ based on an informant’s word, not a judge’s warrant. Such incursions upon our fundamental rights will be glaringly obvious when the Trump administration and the SCOTUS are able to reverse Roe v. Wade, and then declare all doctors and women involved in illegal abortions as criminals who must be punished.
3) 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.”
The scapegoats and enemies are all around us: Islamic terrorists, Syrian refugees, demonstrators, Mexican criminals and rapists, all undocumented aliens who must be deported; Black Lives Matter adherents (all people of color), non-Christians, Jews, and recently the cast of a certain musical on Broadway! The list is ever-expanded by any group that can be identified as a threat. Under an Attorney General Sessions, I’m sure we will not lack for new categories of ‘threat.’
We must vigorously oppose any lists of immigrants that can be used to harass, deport, or subject immigrants (or citizens) to internment. The shame of Japanese internment in WWII must never be repeated, or even allowed up for consideration.
4) 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.”
Yes, our country must honor its veterans, and support a well-trained and equipped defense force capability, but the glorification of war is the problem here. The rhetoric so far from Trump and his followers has been that our numbers of troops are down, that weapon systems are not adequate to prevail in war, and that we must modernize all our equipment to be prepared to meet the challenges we face. Translation: we will spend many more tax dollars on weapons and equipment and training so we can win any war.
Republicans are famous for spending more on military budgets than is even requested by the Pentagon. All their rhetoric is to hide the fact that modern warfare does not require what we had in WWII, even in Korea and Viet Nam. What all this is about is money for private contractors. When we have War, we promote prosperity for a few large corporations (and some smaller ones with good connections) and their CEOs and Directors who are the potential backers of ultra-conservative views of government and of profit-making. In fact, let it be said here and now that the source of some closet-fascists is the corporate world of elite businessmen who have never agreed with a democratic ideal of equal opportunity, equal rights, and certainly not the ideal of equal privileges. The private military contractors will get behind the Trump administration and approve whatever happens to increase their profits. And Trump, for his part, will point to his ability to keep such manufacturers in this country and thus to ‘create jobs.’
War is the ultimate weapon of the “strongman image.” Look at Putin – he didn’t invade the Ukraine to defend his country or to quash a rebel state, or to resolve an international issue. He invaded Ukraine to enhance his power, his image, his position. He went to war to show that he is in charge in his region and that no one better mess with Putin. He went to war for revenge against a former member of the USSR for becoming too cozy with NATO and America.
The glamorization of War in America is about to be a main theme. It should be expected that the U.S. will be involved in a military strike against ISIS in Syria (or perhaps the assistance of (Putin and) Assad against his own rebels under the guise of destroying ISIS). And, a combined U.S.-Israeli military strike at Iran is not out of the question, in my opinion.
It is a disturbing thought that the very events and activities that are taking place in this country are reminiscent of the takeover of the German nation in the early 1930s. One of the most prevalent reasons for the relative ease of that takeover was a blindness of much of the electorate to the implications of the ideology and philosophy that was eventually forced upon the people. There was some resistance, but the general population acquiesced in the loss of rights, property and fundamental values that had previously sustained them.
We are at a similar point in our own evolution as a nation. Go on to Part 2 if you want to read more.