…… This is 2009, Americans live in “civilized” society where the only time the “F” word is used is to pejoratively describe someone who goes against mainstream philosophy, watches FOX news, or invokes Rush Limbaugh’s name….. I became interested in that nasty “F” word. No, not George Carlin’s third word on his list of 7 Words You Can’t Say on TV or the word that Progressives have distain for… Freedom. The word I needed to know more about was ……
Airplanes use radar, ships use sonar, meteorologists use satellites, and physicians use MRI’s to detect problems ahead. Basic people like you and me have history to do the same. The problem is that too often we “basics” don’t have a good enough grasp of historical events. Call it forgetfulness, age, or even public schooling; it presents a problem in that we become blind to the future because we fail to realize we’ve been here before.
Because I am simply BasicMan and not a scholar, I took a short sabbatical to do some brushing up on history in the context of our current social and political trend. My personal back-up detection system is my gut and it’s been in an uproar lately; to be honest since well before November 2008.
In particular, I was interested in that nasty “F” word. No, not George Carlin’s third word on his list of 7 Words You Can’t Say on TV or the word that Progressives have distain for… Freedom. The word I needed to know more about was fascism. I learned that most of what I previously knew was inaccurate. Even scholars who have studied fascism can’t arrive at a consensus on a concise definition because of the complexity of its family tree. By family tree I mean fascism’s cousins; Nazism, statism, corporatism, communism, Marxism, and the Jacobin and American Progressive movements. All were spawned for different reasons at different times yet embodied nearly identical traits attracting similar groups of people. All grew in the same environmental incubator. All led to socio-political disaster.
So what? This is 2009, Americans live in “civilized” society where the only time the word ‘fascist’ is used is to pejoratively describe someone who goes against mainstream philosophy, watches FOX news, or invokes Rush Limbaugh’s name. It could never happen in America, right? Wrong. One could argue that it already has in the form of Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, and even FDR. How’s that for utter blasphemy?
Rather than dwell on historical figures and eras, it may prove more enlightening to list the symptoms consistently found in each fascist environment recorded in history. You can draw your own conclusions as to whether we are headed down the same path.
The fascist or totalitarian environment thrives in a climate of continual crisis. When real ones are solved or averted, new ones are manufactured. A charismatic, eloquent, and organized leader emerges and bonds emotionally with “the people”. He stimulates populist sentiment with appeals to ‘get beyond politics’ to create a better world. Experts with similar ideological vision become final authorities and their power to solve crises or implement policy is expanded beyond normal limits. The line between public and private institutions becomes blurred until it is obliterated. The call to action is focused on society’s youth where they are promised a better future. In order to stem each crisis, the whole becomes more important than the individual. Rights and freedoms of individuals diminish for the sake of the common good and eventually are erased entirely. Solutions are politically billed as neither left nor right, but rather as a new direction whereby all existing dogma and doctrines are disregarded or dismantled. Conventional religion is marginalized in lieu of various forms of secular religion where a spirit of community, hope, change, and combined effort yields a ‘politics of meaning’ that champions the state as the provider of all things from cradle to grave; employment, healthcare, education, communication, goods and services, housing and food. The “village” becomes the man-made answer to achieving a more perfect society.
The late liberal icon and world class comedian George Carlin got it right when he stated, “When fascism comes to America it will not be in brown and black shirts. It will not be with jack-boots. It will be Nike sneakers and smiley shirts. Smiley-smiley…. ”
Where are we in all this? One’s imagination doesn’t have to stretch too far to connect the dots between historical events and political culture in America 2009. The climate is fertile as we wake up each morning to the “crisis du jour”. The middle class, minorities and youth demographic are targeted and energized. Boundaries between government and private enterprise are becoming indistinguishable. Ideologically friendly ‘czars’ are cast as the new authorities with seemingly limitless and unaccountable power. Unions and collective groups are taking up the leadership mantle as they gain access and power through their loyal patronage. Contra-debate on any initiative is labeled as partisan, ignorant, or uncompassionate. Perpetrators are right wing zealots, “deniers”, or Flat Earth Society members. Christianity, Catholicism, Judaism, et al are becoming accustomed to second tier relevance as they are being replaced with humanism and environmentalism. The leader is charismatic, eloquent, and organized with a post partisan, post racial political agenda that preaches a new dogma of unity and collectivism on a global scale.
If your stomach is in an uproar it would serve you well to read up on Rousseau and Robespierre’s France, Mussolini’s Italy, Lenin’s Russia, Hitler’s Germany, Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, and FDR’s America. Good primers for this exercise are Mark Levin’s Liberty and Tyranny, and Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism. (personal tip: don’t take these on vacation)
As this shift in American ideals won’t happen overnight nothing would make me happier than in 2012 to admit to a period of temporary insanity. My gut – my detection system – remains unsettled as daily events unfold. A diagnosis of insanity on a personal level would be far better than the malignant national insanity America’s seems to be headed for.
A quote from 20th century philosopher and humanist George Santayana is apropos, “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it” Will we?