Ready or Not, Here Comes the American Taliban

Fascism is the unification of government and industry, typically employing extreme belligerent nationalism and jingoism.

Its sole purpose is to keep the rich and powerful rich and powerful by religiously, economically, politically, and socially manipulating the population.

How does it happen?

Slowly.

It creeps in little by little, year by year, almost imperceptibly, until it becomes “normal.”

Fascism is coming to the United States.

Arguably it’s already here.

Last week alone, three consequential Supreme Court (SCOTUS) rulings illustrated again how decades of legalized political bribery have chipped away at democracy, driving it dangerously closer to resembling Hungary, Turkey, and Middle Eastern autocracies.

Last Tuesday, the right-wing majority on the nation’s highest court blew a hole in the sacrosanct separation of church and state by decreeing the state of Maine is obligated to fund religious education.

Make no mistake, this is not a “states’ rights” canard.

It’s a part of a deliberate, well-funded coordination between Washington and so-called “Christian” dark money groups to chip away and ultimately eliminate public education funding.

Then the SCOTUS ruled unconstitutional a New York law on the books since 1913 requiring residents to secure permits to bear arms in public.

Again, not a “states’ rights” canard, but part of a deliberate, well-funded coordination between Washington and wealthy donors to push back against any chance at common-sense gun legislation to stanch the spate of firearm violence.

Of course, then SCOTUS overturned 50 years of “settled law” when it overturned Roe vs. Wade Friday, for the first time in history revoking rights instead of granting them.

Again, not “states’ rights,” but well-funded coordination between Washington and so-called “Christian” dark money groups.

Justice Clarence Thomas indicated SCOTUS will not stop there.

And indeed it hasn’t.

Compounding last week’s decision to remove the firewall between church and state, the nation’s unelected monarchs on Monday ruled that prayer in school cannot be prevented, further eroding the secular enclaves America’s public schools have always been.

With just these recent examples, it’s natural to wonder what fascism in America might look like.

First, fascism requires a strong-man ruler who holds onto power for as long as he (it’s never she) desires. If he does decide to step down, he hand-selects his successor.

While Donald Trump’s deliberate attempt at a coup on January 6, 2021 failed, the violent sedition that occurred was practice.

As we speak, republican party operatives are mobilizing “an army” of poll workers and fascist-friendly lawyers to sew confusion and discord in this year’s midterm elections to pave the way for democracy’s subtle elimination.

Next, fealty to that strong man must be absolute.

We needn’t look too far for an example than the current republican party still enthralled with the naked aggression, racism, intolerance, and disregard for the rule of law and democratic norms Donald Trump brought with him and left in his wake.

When any republican, like Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney, dares to speak out against “dear leader,” he or she is effectively canceled.

Adam Kinzinger, Anthony Gonzalez, John Katko, and Fred Upton, four republicans who voted to impeach Trump, are retiring at the end of their terms rather than continue facing the backlash from Trump and his sycophants.

Fealty to the leader seeps into other government and private agencies.

Florida governor (and possible 2024 GOP presidential nominee) Ron DeSantisfired the creator of Florida’s COVID-19 dashboard, Rebekah Jones, for expressing public concern about the state Department of Health’s supposed commitment to “accessibility and transparency.”

DeSantis also fired Orange County Health Director Dr. Raul Pino for encouraging his staff to get vaccinated against COVID-19.

A few months ago DeSantis signed a bill for a private “election police force” answerable only to him, another fascist characteristic.

In a fascist state, how well private industry does is contingent upon its allegiance to the power structure.

The leader helps a handful of oligarchs seize major industries, leaving the smaller ones to have no choice but to directly or indirectly answer to the oligarchy.

Those who refuse are bought out, shut down, or left without customers.

Ron DeSantis’ legislative punishing of Disney and the Tampa Bay Rays for speaking out against the “ Parental Rights in Education bill,” also known as the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, comes to mind.

The first industry to fall is always the media, leaving only mainstream voices that parrot the leader and his oligarchic cadre’s propaganda-like so-called “news”, One America News, scores of right-wing websites, and over 1,500 right-wing radio stations.

Hate groups become commonplace in fascist governments.

According the Southern Poverty Law Center, there are presently 733 hate groups across the United States- and they aren’t voting for Democrats.

But they are voting, and republican legislatures are passing scores of voter suppression laws designed to make it easier them to vote and harder for the rest of us.

And they’re embedding themselves within the republican party.

Violence becomes the norm in fascist autocracies.

No wonder violence against election poll workers, teachers, school administrators, school board members, and Democrats has been increasing.

This isn’t some fictional dystopian fantasy.

Five retired U.S. Air Force and Army generals and lieutenant generals, including former CIA Director Michael Hayden, penned an op-ed in USA Today titled, “ We fought to defend democracy. This new threat to America now keeps us awake at night,” in which they warn, “ We harbor unprecedented concern for our country and for our democracy. The nation we have defended for decades is in real peril.”

“For those of us devoted to protecting democracies abroad, there comes a time when our efforts seem overshadowed by the erosion of democracy here at home. And for those of us focused on domestic security, the forces of autocracy now trump traditional foreign threats, hands down.”

While we haven’t slipped into full-on fascism yet, a recent Global State of Democracy (GSoD Indices) report from the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance includes the United States for the first time in its annual list of “backsliding” democracies.

The Atlantic staff writer Anne Applebaum wrote in a recent piece titled, “ The Bad Guys Are Winning”:

“If the 20th century was the story of liberal democracy’s progress toward victory over other ideologies-communism, fascism, virulent nationalism-the 21st century is, so far, a story of the reverse.”

Journalist Chris Hedges stated in a recent piece, “ Fascists In Our Midst,” “Fascists achieve power by creating parallel institutions-schools, universities, media platforms and paramilitary forces-and seizing the organs of internal security and the judiciary. They deform the law, including electoral law, to serve their ends. They are rarely in the majority. The Nazis never polled above 37 percent in free elections in Germany. Christian fascists constitute less than a third of the U.S. electorate, about the same percentage of those who consider abortion to be murder.

There is already historical precedent for this.

Milton Mayer (1908–1986) was a journalist, reporter for the Associated Press, the Chicago Evening Post, the Chicago American, and The Progressive.

In 1955, he published a seminal work titled They Thought They Were Free: The Germans, 1933–45in which he analyzes how Hitler came to power and got away so long with his maniacal agenda in a modern, civilized, cultured twentieth-century Germany.

He wanted to know what ordinary men, “not men of distinction,” felt, thought, and experienced, as their country slipping into darkness, how incrementally their nation devolved into fascism.

What he found was they just wanted to live their lives, and they did the best they could, realizing too late freedoms they once enjoyed eroded right under them. But because it happened gradually, few noticed, or, if they noticed, few said anything lest they seem paranoid. Slight disturbances did not appear to many to be that dire.

“Each act, each occasion, is worse than the last, but only a little worse. You wait for one great shocking occasion, thinking that others will join you. You don’t want to act, or even talk, alone. You speak privately to your colleagues, but what do they say? They say, ‘It’s not so bad or ‘You’re seeing things’ or ‘You’re an alarmist’. And you are an alarmist. You are saying that this must lead to this, and can’t prove it. Your colleagues pooh-pooh you as pessimistic or even neurotic.”

Another stated:

“This separation of government from people, this widening of the gap, took place so gradually and so insensibly, each step disguised (perhaps not even intentionally) as a temporary emergency measure or associated with true patriotic allegiance or with real social purposes. And all the crises and reforms (real reforms, too) so occupied the people that they did not see the slow motion underneath, of the whole process of government growing remoter and remoter.

“To live in this process is absolutely not to be able to notice it — please try to believe me — unless one has a much greater degree of political awareness, acuity, than most of us had ever had occasion to develop. Each step was so small, so inconsequential, so well explained or, on occasion, ‘regretted,’ that, unless one were detached from the whole process from the beginning, unless one understood what the whole thing was in principle, what all these ‘little measures’ that no ‘patriotic German’ could resent must some day lead to, one no more saw it developing from day to day than a farmer in his field sees the corn growing. One day it is over his head.”

Mayer concluded:

“Now I see a little better how Nazism overcame Germany — not by attack from without or by subversion from within, but with a whoop and a holler. It was what most Germans wanted — or, under pressure of combined reality and illusion, came to want. They wanted it; they got it; and they liked it.

“I came home a little bit afraid for my country, afraid of what it might want, and get, and like, under combined pressure of reality and illusion. I felt — and feel — that it was not German Man that I met, but Man. He happened to be in Germany under certain conditions. He might be here under certain conditions. He might, under certain conditions, be I.

“If I — and my countrymen — ever succumbed to that concatenation of conditions, no Constitution, no laws, no police, and certainly no army would be able to protect us from harm.”

The next fascist may not be Donald Trump.

It probably won’t be.

It doesn’t have to be.

The levers of power have sown the seeds of fascism and the orchard is beginning to bear strange fruit.

Originally published at https://theleftplace.substack.com on June 28, 2022.

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