“When fascism comes to the United States, it will be wrapped in a flag and carrying a cross.” — Sinclair Lewis, novelist and playwright
Lawrence Britt, author and political science scholar, studied seven fascist regimes and published in 2003 this list of common characteristics:
▪ Powerful and continuing nationalism.
▪ Disdain for the recognition of human rights.
▪ Identification of enemies/scapegoats as a unifying cause.
▪ Supremacy of the military.
▪ Rampant sexism.
▪ Controlled mass media.
▪ Obsession with national security through fear-mongering.
▪ Religion and government are intertwined.
▪ Corporate power is protected.
▪ Labor power is suppressed.
▪ Disdain for intellectuals and the arts.
▪ Obsession with crime and punishment.
▪ Rampant cronyism and corruption.
▪ Fraudulent elections.
From the beginning of his 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump and his adversaries have either espoused or acted upon most of these.
Examples: the ban on Muslims traveling to the United States; the promise of mass deportation of illegal immigrants, including women and children; the carefully planned attack on women’s reproductive rights; the use of religious rhetoric and references (mostly Protestant) in politics ; cronyism; acceptance of torture as a practice in war; creation of a mutually beneficial business/government relationship and power elite; and last, but perhaps the most alarming, recent attempts to delegitimize the free press and limit access to information.
And, if that weren’t enough, consider Trump’s promotion of his political strategist Steve Bannon — affliated with white nationalism and anti-Semitic publications and ideologies — to the National Security Council.
We need look no further than Kentucky to learn that Trump’s election has already emboldened a neo-Nazi white supremicist group called the Traditionalist Worker Party. Jenny Wiley State Park will be the site of an April rally in which followers will be taught how to effectively propagandize and grow their numbers, according to news reports.
The rise of Nazism in Europe in the 1930s and ’40s demonstrates how quickly fascism can infiltrate a society. The Holocaust could have been averted had citizens and governments banded together and resisted sooner. But the dissemination of information was slower during that era, and eventually the press fell under total control of the fascist regime.
Today we have no excuse. New technology and the rapid flow of information make it possible for us to organize our resistance sooner. The record-breaking Womens’ March on Washington of Jan. 24 demonstrated the power we can wield if women and men will stand together in solidarity against a common enemy. This means, of course, that we put on hold individual disagreements over specific issues in order to unify against this overarching threat to our democracy.
Rapid encroachment warrants rapid response. But the danger now is that, in our effort to fight for rights that are being trampled within each of our own groups, we become splintered. Too many executive orders, hurled at us at an unprecedented pace, can be an effective strategy to divide and conquer.
If our huge number of activists can put aside our partisan politics and religious differences long enough, we could form a resistance “too big to fail.” We need to take to the streets, phone banks, emails and fund-raisers. We need to demand removal of this weapon of mass destruction who now sits in the Oval Office.
As Heribert Prantl in Germany recently wrote in his column “Turning a blind eye to neo-Nazis”: “A democracy that only moves to defend itself when things get very dangerous is unable to defend itself at all.”
Jean-Marie Welch of Lexington is a writer and retired arts-in-education teacher.