Friday, November 12, 2004

November 11, 2004

The “F” Word

This election has cost me some old friends. One in particular was a veteran GOP staffer on the Hill. Our friendship survived the Bush I and Clinton presidencies and limped through the first Bush II term. But he was shocked to find me in mood to shrug off this election. When I told him this was different, he could not understand. “I was raised to believe that when you lose you shake hands and move on,” he wrote me.

I said no, no, not this time. This is a horse of an entirely different color. I told him that what happened on November 2, 2004 had not happened in American since the dawning days of the Civil War. We are once again two nations.. divided. Divided in ways so deep and fundamental that it is nothing less than a bloodless civil war.

He was flabbergasted. “Pizzo, you need to get another job,” he wrote. “You have gone over the edge.”

Maybe. But, I explained, that this election left me no choice because the Bush regime was taking America straight down the road to…. Whoa…..STOP …. I almost said it.

You see we have not been able to have this discussion yet because there are certain words history has rendered virtually useless, some for good reason. Kike, Nigger, Wetback, etc are examples of words best left in the trash heap of human history.

But there are other words that, while politically and culturally loaded, must never become taboo. Because, we must either be able to discuss them or be destined to rediscover over and over the reasons they make us so uncomfortable in the first place.

The “F” Word

Fascism is such a word. To call someone a fascist today is tantamount to calling them a Nazi. That’s unfortunate because it tends to ends any opportunity for a rational discussion. The accused almost always storms off offended and the accuser is usually branded a nut that has “gone over the edge.”

Well, I may be a nut. The last person to find out such things usually are the nuts themselves. So, I will leave it to others to decide. (If you do decide I am a nut I only ask you let me be a Walnut. I love those damn things.) But, let’s have this discussion and, after finishing if the boot fits…

Yes, the Nazis were fascists, but all fascists were not Nazis. And, fascism did not die with the Third Reich. Fascism, while it may not be so identified by its proponents, even in their own minds, is alive and well. In fact, fascism is one of only a handful of default conditions of governance once a society industrializes. It’s not a good thing, but it’s and silence and denial will not stop it or make it go away.

This is what I was trying to tell my GOP friend about why this election was different, and why I could not just shake and move on. America took a hard turn to the right on Nov. 2. How hard? How far right? Far enough to call it “fascist?” We need to have that discussion. So, let’s begin by describing the beast so you know it if you see it. Because, if fascism really is taking root here I am sure even my GOP friend would agree that that would matter -- a lot.

Know it When You See It

Dr. Lawrence Britt has studied the history of fascist regimes from Hitler (Germany), Mussolini (Italy), Franco (Spain), Suharto (Indonesia) as well as several more recent Latin American regimes. Out his studies Dr. Britt identified several common defining characteristics that define fascist governments:

Exaggerated Patriotism/ Nationalism
Fascist regimes tend to make constant use of patriotic mottos, slogans, symbols, songs, and other paraphernalia. Flags are seen everywhere, as are flag symbols on clothing and in public displays.

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.

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.

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.

Compromised Mass Media
Sometimes the media is directly controlled by the government, but in other cases, the media is indirectly controlled by government regulation, or sympathetic media spokespeople and executives. Censorship, especially in wartime, is very common.

Obsession with National Security

Fear is used as a motivational tool by the government over the masses.

Religion and Government are Intertwined
Governments in fascist nations tend to use the most common religion in the nation as a tool to manipulate public opinion. Religious rhetoric and terminology is common from government leaders, even when the major tenets of the religion are diametrically opposed to the government's policies or actions.

Corporate Power is Protected
The industrial and business aristocracy of a fascist nation often instrumental in putting government leaders into power, creating a mutually beneficial business/government relationship and power elite.

Labor Power is Suppressed
Because the organizing power of labor is the only real threat to a fascist government, labor unions are either eliminated entirely, or are severely suppressed.

Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts
Fascist nations tend to promote and tolerate open hostility to higher education, and academia. It is not uncommon for professors and other academics to be censored or even arrested. Free expression in the arts and letters is openly ridiculed and attacked.

Obsession with Crime and Punishment
Under fascist regimes, the police are given almost limitless power to enforce laws. The people are often willing to overlook police abuses and even forego civil liberties in the name of patriotism.

Rampant Cronyism and Corruption
Fascist regimes almost always are governed by groups of friends and associates who appoint each other to government positions and use governmental power and authority to protect their friends from accountability. It is not uncommon in fascist regimes for national resources and even treasures to be appropriated or even outright stolen by government leaders.

Fraudulent Elections
Sometimes elections in fascist nations are a complete sham. Other times elections are manipulated by smear campaigns against or even assassination of opposition candidates, use of legislation to control voting numbers or political district boundaries, and manipulation of the media. Fascist nations also typically use their judiciaries to manipulate or control elections.

We may not like them or their policies but the Bushites are not Nazis. That’s not the question. The question is, are they fascists? That’s the question.

Was November 2, 2004 just another election? Or, has something evil this way come?

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