Fascism? In my America?

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“When facism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross” ~Sinclair Lewis

I’m such a big fan of quotes, anyone that knows me, knows that this is true. This particular quote is from Sinclair Lewis, an author, philosopher and all around amazing man. The picture shows it emblazoned across Republican cheerleader Sarah Palin, wrapped up in an American flag. Essentially, I want to dish a little bit about fascism and the rise of fascism in America and American life – both from Republicans and Democrats. Before I bother anyone, I’d like to stress that I’m not calling either party fascists, nor am I calling Sarah Palin a fascist, it’s just a poignant picture expressing my views on the subject.

The first thing we need to think about is the rise of fascism. German fascism, specifically in the form of Hitler and the Nazi party, rose because of a Germany disillusioned and facing tremendous inflation after loosing WWI. They were essentially being blamed for the entire war, causing tremendous animosity between Germans and the rest of Europe. Italian fascism, with Mussolini and the blackshirts/camicie nere, arose because Italy involved itself in WWII with the expectation of getting certain rewards. Although they were on the winning side, they did not get what they felt that they “deserved” for taking part in the war,  and what they were promised.

Before I begin to draw parallels to America’s current situation, I want to be sure that we’re all on the same page regarding what fascism actually is. Wikipedia[2] explains that “Fascism, pronounced /ˈfæʃɪzəm/, is a radical and authoritarian nationalist political ideology. Fascists seek to organize a nation according to corporatist perspectives, values, and systems, including the political system and the economy.” Now, although most people I don’t think consider Nazism technically Fascism, there are so many strong parallels, that I would follow in the footsteps of my World History teacher, sophomore year, and link Nazism and Fascism. Nazism is, for me, Fascism with strong social darwinist undertones and a few different types of racism. In any case, Fascism can be generally be characterized by strong, strong nationalist currents, which comes along with a belief that “we” are better than “them.” Because of this, it’s not a large step to move toward racism and Anti-semitism, as as done by the Nazi party. Fascists generally see the nation as a creature, a being created of every member of the government and laity, which means that one must do everything in one’s power to keep this beast healthy and safe. The final important characteristic of fascism is that they generally see groups that haven’t been assimilated into the belly of the nation as inferior or downright nefarious. You can see where the small, closed Jewish communities, called shtetls, would be seen as a bad thing, here.

So, finally, we come to America. Most find the thought of fascism coming to America shocking, and moreover ridiculous, however we must remember that, as the Sinclair Lewis quote explains, fascism changes drastically based on the culture that it is bred in. American bred fascism is going to look very different from nazism or Italian Fascism because it draws on the traditional religious, social and cultural beliefs and values of the area. Fascism prevails because it draws on the individual prejudices of the area that it is involved with.

The first characteristic is lauding authoritarian government. From both sides of American politics lately, authoritarian governments are being cheered, because the country needs protecting from, you know, those scary brown people with the odd languages.  We’re embracing our government to protect us from the “Other,” and both the democrats and the republicans would urge us to believe that Americans as a whole are bumbling idiots, so we need mommy government to take care of us. This is simply not true. While the vast majority of Americans are indeed confused and uninformed about the world around them, it’s certainly not because they have some kind of stupid predisposition. Rather, it is because American culture condemns intelligence, and no one is making an effort to spread knowledge. We are forced into the open arms of authoritarianism, because the tools to take care of ourselves are being deprived to us. This is incredibly similar to what happened, particularly in Italy. Propaganda and misinformation are used to make the people believe what they need to believe, information is spread only on a “need-to-know basis.” American propaganda is just as much propaganda as the Nazi kind.

As I’ve briefly touched on, fascism embraces ethnic and racial tensions and uses them to influence the people. Americans have strong prejudices against…essentially anyone who isn’t a rich, straight, white, Christian male. Now, although there isn’t anything inherently wrong with Christians or straight people or anything else, the American breed of fascism embraces this prejudice to turn the majority of the American population against various groups, such as homosexuals, Jews, Arabs, Muslims, Mexicans, the list could go on and on. We, as Americans, need to see that we have these prejudices, and not allow them to be played up to our detriment.

Finally, a word on how we can prevent the spread of “American fascism:” First, and possibly most importantly, we mustn’t allow ourselves to be drawn to the allure of authoritarian government. As I’m fond of saying, everything would definitely be a lot easier under an authoritarian dictatorship. Life would be dictated to you, dissidents would be killed and everything would run smoothly. But is it right? That’s the important question each of us need to ask ourselves before allowing any of our ideological flaws to come out. Is the hateful, discriminatory speech you’re about to release right? I’ve talked your ear off, if you’ve made it this far through my spiel, I’ve got a lot of respect for you, thank you for listening. Please, feel free to leave comments, especially if you feel like my analysis is faulty or off in some way.

Smash the fash.

[1] https://vejewtarianpolyglot.files.wordpress.com/2010/07/fascist-palin.jpg?w=232

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fascism

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5 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by mhasegawa on July 20, 2010 at 9:42 PM

    I liked your piece, but don’t be so cautious about calling the Tea Party Fascist. it has all the charateristics you describe.

    Reply

    • Posted by Matt on July 25, 2010 at 8:21 PM

      I disagree. The tea party movement isn’t inherently fascist. There are racists with it but from what I have seen those people are the minority and are quickly called out by other tea partiers. The only unified characteristic I have seen from them is a want of lower taxes and that’s really it.

      The way I see it the evangelicals are american proto-fascists, since they tend to follow exactly what tyler described

      Reply

      • Posted by Robbie McMorris on July 26, 2010 at 7:18 AM

        I don’t think they realize they’re acting like fascists, I just think they’re in a state of hyper-sensitivity and fear. We live in an era in which fear and hype drive people to make choices that don’t inherently make sense to them. This goes for the evangelical right with their “fire and brimstone” speeches. The fear drives people into the ideology and they merely wish to incorporate you into it, because they feel you both threaten them and their way of life, as well as that they want to help you, being the Christians that they are. So many people envision an ideology of hate in the evangelical right, but I see it as an ideology of fear, and fear is what drove people to fascism in the first place.

  2. Posted by Daniel on August 5, 2010 at 9:44 AM

    Tyler, love your blog. I love how you have explained rise of fascism in Europe.

    And that quote is totally right. Fascist movements have always adapted to the characteristics of the country it has risen in. The Spanish dictatorship came out of fear against communists, republicans, liberals and jews but, for example, had nothing against Arabs.

    I’d call Palin a fascist anyway.

    Greets
    loqu

    Reply

  3. Posted by You're Right on August 7, 2010 at 5:32 AM

    Ah, yes, fascism arises first through calls for “patriots” and people getting fired up about their beloved nation going down the tubes due to those pesky liberals. Once the pols who got people all excited have enough power behind them, then they start getting all crazy and power mad and coming up with zany laws to protect themselves (just like Bush). It takes a while, but 10-20 years, and you’ve got full blown fascism.

    That Palin photo is SO creepy, especially with the quote you used! Way to go.

    Reply

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