Now that Donald Trump has been indicted, expect to see the fascist movement in America heat up quickly. And become more deadly.
That it’s happening at the same time our children are experiencing an unprecedented level of slaughter is no coincidence (more on that in a moment) and helps explain Republican unwillingness to do anything about guns.
Many Americans are baffled. Why, they ask, would Republicans refuse to act when semiautomatic weapons designed for the battlefield are used against our children? When we’ve had 38 school shootings — and over 100 mass shootings — all using semiautomatic battlefield-style weapons in the first 90 days of this year?
Why are Republican members of Congress wearing little metal pins of the AR15 battlefield assault rifle on their lapels? Why do they insist that nothing can be done about the plague of these weapons when every other civilized country in the world has outlawed or heavily regulated them?
What most Americans don’t realize is that our gun problem is simply a visible manifestation of our Trump-fueled fascism problem.
There are people among us, led by Donald Trump, who hate our form of government because it tolerates people who are not straight, white, or Christian having economic and political power. Who want to replace our representative democratic republic with a fascist oligarchy like Hungary or Russia with Trump or somebody like him in charge.
And who are willing to kill their fellow Americans to get there.
There have always been people in America who don’t agree with our form of government.
I remember a bright sunny day back in the late 1960s when I was doing morning drive-time news on WITL-AM/FM in Lansing, Michigan. Two men whose shiny black shoes, crewcuts, and square-fitting suits screamed “undercover cop” came into the newsroom and ask to have an off-the-record conversation with me and my boss, News Director Bob Brakeman.
There were some anti-government “tax protestors” a few miles away who they were going to raid that afternoon. The charge was going to be refusal to pay income taxes because they considered the government illegitimate, although the two cops were also pretty sure there would be illegal weapons charges, as well. “These guys are armed to the teeth,” I remember one of them saying.
Their ask of us was not to publicize or even cover the raid in our news reports. They’d already visited the State Journal (the Lansing newspaper) and several other radio stations; they were going to execute their warrant after everybody had been informed.
They were polite and didn’t even imply they were threatening us; instead, they told us they thought this kind of anti-government behavior was “contagious” and didn’t want it getting any publicity. They appealed to our patriotism, and — after a lengthy private conversation — Bob and I went along with it.
The arrest later made the papers and we then reported on it; the “anti-government protestors” believed America was on the verge of a second American Revolution and they’d be using their stockpile of guns to kill “jackbooted government thugs.”
These were people who believed, incorrectly, that the Second Amendment was written to give every American the ability to kill government employees or elected officials in order to overcome any future “tyranny.”
In 1960, a paper written by William and Mary student Stuart R. Hayes was the first to get widespread readership with the argument that the Founders and Framers of America wanted citizens armed because some day we all may have to rise up against our own government.
“[W]hen the ancients made the five kinds of weapons, it was not for the purpose of killing each other, but to prevent tyranny…” Hayes wrote, quoting Chinese Emperor Han’s 124 BC response to a chancellor who wanted to disarm the populace.
His next paragraphs noted:
“Weapons have been used in warfare for defense, offense, and revolution. It is with the defensive and revolutionary forces that the Second Amendment concerns itself. As part of the great power of the revolutionary force, weapons are an element of the control of men’s destiny. In the operation of government, they are a safeguard against tyranny. It has been said the Tudors were rulers surrounded by an army: that of the English people.”
By the 1970s the meme took on a larger dimension with the publication of The Turner Diaries, a novel in which freedom-loving white men blow up a federal building with an explosive-filled truck, provoking a national gun-confiscating response from the US government that leads to an all-out civil war.
At the end, the US government has been defeated; Jews, Hispanics, and Blacks are all dead; and the armed Christians “retake” and remake America as a whites-only ethnostate.
The Turner Diaries is now the unofficial bible of the militia and white nationalist movements in the United States: it’s what inspired both David Koresh and Timothy McVeigh.
This is the vision held by the Republican legislators wearing AR15 pins and tweeting pictures of their families carrying assault rifles.
And it is why none of them will lift a finger to outlaw semiautomatic or assault weapons in the United States. They believe — or they’re humoring the GOP base that believes — those weapons will be necessary to one day soon use against government agents, Jews, “deviants,” and what they refer to as “mud races.”
This is a full-blown fascist movement within the United States, and it’s now taken over most of the Republican Party.
They openly deny that America is a democratic republic where people select their representatives through the vote, as Lauren Boebert said just this week, demanding that our school children be taught we’re not a democracy.
Standing behind and encouraging this movement through their think-tanks, massive media operations, and political campaign contributions is a small army of rightwing billionaires, some of whom have openly ridiculed the idea of free and fair elections or even that women should be allowed to vote.
They’ve spent decades getting us to this point, spending billions to stack our court system, infiltrate the political systems of every state and the federal government, and training up a new generation of fascist children through a widespread homeschool and whites-only private school movement.
As with every fascist movement in history, their main weapon is bullying.
They start with those they perceive as the most defenseless and least likely to arouse public support — in this case Trans people — and from there will climb their way up through the entire queer community, immigrants from “shithole countries,” and ultimately to Jews, Muslims, “liberals,” and Black people.
And they do it all while claiming to be protecting “the children” and “culture.” As Goebbels said in a 1935 speech:
“National Socialism sees in all these things – in property, in personal values, and in nation and race and the principles of idealism – these forces which carry on every human civilization and fundamentally determine its worth.”
This is how it played out in Italy, Germany, and Spain in the 1930s, and most recently in Russia and Hungary. “Protect the children. Purify the society. Fight the culture wars.”
These are the templates, the models, for this Trump-led faction within the GOP.
And even those Republicans who don’t fully buy into the idea of replacing our democratic republic with a fascist oligarchic republic are unwilling to speak out because the bullies have succeeded in instilling in them the one paralyzing force always employed by fascists: fear.
Mitt Romney and his type of Republicans may be concerned about the rise of fascism here in America, but their fear of the fascists and their bullying backlash keeps them quiet.
And things now are speeding up.
Billionaire Murdoch’s Fox “News” is already promoting the classic fascist trope of a “great replacement” of white people.
Republican committees in the House of Representatives are trying to interfere with prosecutions of their fascist leader Trump while forbidding Democrats from questioning witnesses.
Fascist judges and governors are stripping away voting rights, civil rights, and even basic rights to women’s healthcare as they chew away at the American social and legal safety net.
The headline at Salon says it all:
“DeSantis signs bill requiring Florida students, professors to register political views with state: Universities may lose funding if staff and students’ beliefs do not satisfy Florida’s GOP-run legislature.”
We are, today, fully in the midst of a fascist crisis in this country. On the surface things seem normal: there’s a thousand movies on demand in your home, people go to work and get their paychecks, airplanes are full as families travel on vacation and businesspeople do their thing.
But the fascist movement grinds on like a glacier, patiently but irresistibly tearing up the landscape in front of it.
So, how do the democratic countries that make the transition to violence-based fascism allow that to happen? And what is life like in those countries, both during and after it’s happened?
After World War II, a Chicago reporter named Milton Mayer struggled to understand how Hitler was able to flip one of the world’s most stable democracies into fascism.
An American Jew of German ancestry and a brilliant writer, Mayer went to Germany seven years after Hitler’s fall and befriended 10 “average Germans,” asking each how the Nazis rose to power in an otherwise civilized nation.
His book, They Thought They Were Free, is his story of that experience. Intertwined through it — first published in 1955 — are repeated overt and subtle warnings to future generations of Americans: to us, today.
Did the German people realize they’d abandoned democracy? That they would soon become international pariahs? A college professor Mayer interviewed answered:
“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.”
And yet everything seems “normal.” As Mayer’s professor friend told him, when the Leader finally seizes control of all the levers of power from political to economic to spiritual, everything changes but everything also stays the same:
“The world you live in – your nation, your people – is not the world you were in at all. The forms are all there, all untouched, all reassuring, the houses, the shops, the jobs, the mealtimes, the visits, the concerts, the cinema, the holidays.
“But the spirit, which you never noticed because you made the lifelong mistake of identifying it with the forms, is changed.
“Now you live in a world of hate and fear, and the people who hate and fear do not even know it themselves; when everyone is transformed, no one is transformed. Now you live in a system which rules without responsibility even to God.”
And then comes the day when the violence explodes across the nation and they take over. All in the name of the great leader.
We can’t say we weren’t warned by our own people, our own politicians, the most senior members of our own institutional power structure.
In a speech that was hysterically criticized by Republicans and Fox “News“ pundits, President Obama in December of 2017 came right out and said it:
“You have to tend to this garden of democracy, otherwise things can fall apart fairly quickly. And we’ve seen societies where that happens.”
Yes, the former President of the United States was invoked Nazi Germany five years ago while Donald Trump was President, adding:
“Now, presumably, there was a ballroom in Vienna in the late 1920s or ’30s that looked and seemed as if it ― filled with the music and art and literature and the science that was emerging ― would continue into perpetuity.
“And then,” President Obama said, “60 million people died. And the entire world was plunged into chaos.”
The warnings have been there all along: fascist takeovers are rarely sudden affairs. I wrote of this in 2005, quoting Mayer and going off on Bush and the PATRIOT Act as the prequel to fascism.
Americans have been shouting about it lately, in venues like The New York Times and Madeline Albright’s book and from legislators like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
But how do we know? Is there a sudden proclamation by the Leader that the nation is now “officially fascist”?
Back to Mayer’s German friend in 1954:
“But of course this isn’t the way it happens. In between come all the hundreds of little steps, some of them imperceptible, each of them preparing you not to be shocked by the next. Step C is not so much worse than Step B, and, if you did not make a stand at Step B, why should you at Step C? And so on to Step D.
“And one day, too late, your principles, if you were ever sensible of them, all rush in upon you. The burden of self-deception has grown too heavy, and some minor incident, in my case my little boy, hardly more than a baby, saying ‘Jew swine,’ collapses it all at once, and you see that everything, everything, has changed and changed completely under your nose.”
There is a straight line from criminalizing queer people to banning books to forbidding women’s rights to seizing control of schools to promoting widespread gun ownership to tolerating the mass slaughter of our nation’s children. They are all leading in a single direction.
Now that Donald Trump has been indicted, the much-anticipated “acceleration” event has seized his most fervent and well-armed fascist followers.
American fascists are gleefully anticipating what they hope will be their coming ability to use their assault weapons, and Republican members of Congress are making sure that they will still have them when necessary.
Fascists in Congress are already howling about the unfairness of holding a fascist leader to account, just as Hitler’s supporters were when he was arrested in November of 1923.
That arrest and subsequent imprisonment didn’t end Hitler’s political career: it boosted it.
If ever there was a time when Americans need to be conscious of what’s really going on in our nation — to be “woke” — this is it.
Pass it on.