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It is Happening Here: Fascism as a Real Possibility in the US

Fascism has creeped incrementally across the landscape of the United States and in many, many other places around the world. Here, from the right vantage point, it has slowly and steadily left its mark since the end of the Vietnam War. Reaganism propelled it onto the domestic and international scene. Historically, this epoch can be described and compared in some ways to the right-wing upheaval that spread across the globe in the 1930s. Tens of millions of people were left dead in its wake.

Taking part in demonstrations seems more like the norm now than it did during the early part of the Vietnam antiwar movement in the middle of the decade of the 1960s.  Rallies and protests in support of the Muslim community, in support of women’s rights, and in support of the right to health care have all come in rapid fire after Trump’s electoral victory on November 8, 2016. The U.S., and in particular its political, economic, and social systems work to isolate people from one another through greed and wealth and power. That is how a class of the extremely wealthy, the 1 or 2 percent, can allow the entire system to crash and burn as long as they are somewhat protected for a relatively short time from the effects of their predatory system. The rest are left in varying degrees of access to a consumer culture that works for some and not at all for millions of others.

A rally took place last week in Springfield, MA to show solidarity with the Jewish Community Center there and with members of all faiths from the surrounding area (“Springfield residents rally against hate at the city’s Jewish Community Center,” The Springfield Republican, March 9, 2017). A threatening message had been found in a locker room of the facility several days earlier, one of many threats and acts of intimidation and destruction that have been taking place against Jews, Muslims, and members of other faiths who have been mistaken as Muslims because of the perception of their manner of dress and/or appearance. These attempts to drive fear home to different minority communities has been on the rise since the beginning of Trump campaign and during the first weeks of his presidency. His campaign rallies, filled with Trump’s hateful rhetoric, often took on the appearance of barroom brawls. Political brawls have an important historical antecedent in the lead-up to World War II in Europe.

As a Jew, I am intimately aware of attacks against both individuals and larger communities of faith. I am especially aware of what it means to target those weaker or less able to defend themselves and that was one of the reasons for showing up and showing solidarity at the rally in Springfield.

The right wing has not missed a beat. The question remains just how far they will go to solidify their control and protect the interests of vast wealth and power? Over the last weekend, threats continued against Jewish organizations across the U.S. (“More Bomb Threats Target Jewish Community Centers,” Democracy Now, March 13, 2017). In New Orleans, someone threw a brick through the stained glass window of a Unitarian Church that had previously hosted a town hall meeting about violence against the transgender community (“New Orleans Church Service Attacked Amid Anti-Transgender Violence,” Democracy Now, March 13, 2017). And in Florida, a man attempted to set a convenience store on fire to “run Arabs out of our country,” (“Florida Arsonist Sought to ‘Run Arabs Out of Our Country,’” Democracy Now, March 13, 2017). The convenience store owners are of Indian ancestry.

“Iowa Republican Rep. Steve King, who has a history of controversial statements on immigration and race, is drawing condemnation for a Sunday tweet in support of a right-wing Dutch politician, in which King wrote, ‘We can’t restore our civilization with somebody else’s babies’” (“Representative Steve King Stands By Controversial Tweet About ‘Somebody Else’s Babies,’” NPR, March 13, 2017).

I speak and protest with many people who act and have not allowed this right-wing horror to take control of their lives. Others are visibly depressed and justifiably fearful. All it would take is one incident that the Trump administration, Congress, the courts, and those who control great wealth could use to bring their wretched plans for total authoritarian control of the people to fruition.

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Howard Lisnoff is a freelance writer. He is the author of Against the Wall: Memoir of a Vietnam-Era War Resister (2017).

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