How Worried Do We Need to Be?

To anyone who has felt the full force of even a part of repression of the US system of power, the answer is a resounding “very!” Who of those among us has felt that repression? Civil rights workers and protesters, antiwar writers and protesters, women’s rights advocates and protesters, gay advocates and protesters. The union movement has long been a target of the right. Look at the treatment of non-union workers at an Amazon facility who recently died in a tornado. If a person has been in the streets in any demonstrative way, then a more than watchful eye about what’s going on and coming down in the political, economic, and social systems is great cause for concern. Many critics with a jaundiced and cynical eye, cheerleaders of the system, say “It can’t happen here.” Bet it can!

In “America is now in fascism’s legal phase,” Guardian, December 22, 2021, Jason Stanley delineates the march toward fascism in the US that is apparent today. The militarism of the police, the mobilization against the Black community, the attacks against women, the far-right move of all three branches of the federal government, with Trump and other fascists in its midst, and the attacks against those who speak out and protest against all the deadly mayhem of the right and mayhem of this government are targets. The January 6, 2021 insurrection in Washington, D.C., was anything but a dress rehearsal of the worst element of fascist aggression. It is foolish to keep one’s head in the sand while this system of government tumbles. To trust the three branches of the federal government, and some state and local governments to protect our rights and dignity, is a chimera. It can happen here, as it did in Germany and Italy prior to World War II.

Sinclair Lewis got it right many decades ago in It Can’t Happen Here (1935)! The attacks against the right to vote and the attacks and minimizing of those on the left are of special importance. White supremacy is clearly on the rise and their targets are people of color and those who make credible indictments of these systems of government. The attacks on teaching of Black history and the right of people of color to vote in many states is more of the dress rehearsal of fascism. Indeed, the stage is being set for fewer people to vote in both 2022 and 2024 to usher in fascists at the local, state, and national levels of government. Besides voting, the right is turning the gerrymander into a national cause célèbre where it can get away with it, it being stealing elections and allowing for the rise of the far right both in the offices of government and on the streets. The right, and especially right-wing media, already demonized leftists on the streets, screaming that the anti-fascists are to blame for insurrectionist violence. Look to the attacks against the Black Lives Matter movement and the blocks to access of left writing on the Internet. Books are banned in schools. The right attacks teaching about the history of racism in the US.

Even science and valid government initiatives to protect people are the grist of far-right attacks. They, on the right, won’t look out of their windows to recognize the environment burning around them.

If fascism comes to the US, it may or may not be of the smiling corporate kind. As a left writer and protester, I know firsthand what power can do to those who protest in a material way. Julian Assange’s case could, and probably is, the warning shot across our bows among the left who write and protest. The repression of Black people in the streets in reaction to police violence and murder is yet another of the examples of just what a right-wing government(s) can and will do. It’s not an accident that the endless wars have had a parallel reality on the streets of the US in militarized police. To those of us who protested against war from Vietnam and beyond, we know how they can take away our freedom in a nanosecond. They, on the right, have already made armed insurrectionists glamor boys and “very fine people.”

On a recent visit to the Albany campus of the State University of New York, a bedrock of student protest during the late 1960s and early 1970s, there was not a single flyer announcing protest posted on the columns of university buildings that once were filled with announcements of student activism and planned protests. That campus is not atypical of the silence on contemporary college campuses. What is there to protest now: Student debt, income inequality, deadly drone warfare/nuclear warfare/conventional warfare/secret warfare, environmental ruin, and racism?

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