Ye grande olde American fascism
“When fascism comes to America, it will come wrapped in the flag and waving a cross.”
The above quotation has been attributed to author Sinclair Lewis. He didn’t write it, but he did write something similar in his 1935 novel “It Can’t Happen Here”: “But he saw too that in America the struggle was befogged by the fact that the worst Fascists were they who disowned the word ‘Fascism’ and preached enslavement to Capitalism under the style of Constitutional and Traditional Native American Liberty.”
Today we are seeing signs of exactly what Lewis warned us against, as exemplified by Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. For those who aren’t sure what fascism is, here’s a short review.
Fascism is “A social and political ideology with the primary guiding principle that the state or nation is the highest priority, rather than personal or individual freedoms.” Benito Mussolini, the fascist dictator of Italy, said, “Fascism should more properly be called corporatism because it is the merger of state and corporate power.”
Fascism puts loyalty to the nation above all else, even above religious faith. Christianity and other faiths become tools of the government, used to guarantee submission. The military is supreme, and national security is an obsession. If individual rights interfere with this obsession, those rights are sacrificed.
Violence becomes an acceptable tool to use against those who dissent. Punishment of those considered to be criminals is emphasized. To promote national identity, scapegoats are identified. For the Germans, it was the Jews. Today, it’s the Muslims. Fear and hatred for these scapegoats are used to unify the country.
The media’s messages are carefully shaped. (Fox News, anyone?). Corporate and capitalist power is protected and labor rights are suppressed or eliminated. Education and science are mocked; facts become irrelevant. And finally, elections are carefully controlled, with charges of election fraud allowing suppressive laws to be enacted and voting rights to be curtailed.
If any of this sounds familiar, it should. The right-wing has been promoting fascist principles for decades. Adolph Hitler was respected by leaders such as King George VIII of England and American aviator Charles Lindbergh. In the 1930s, a group of American bankers and industrialists, led by Prescott Bush, plotted a fascist overthrow of President Franklin Roosevelt. Bush was the father of President George H.W. Bush and grandfather of President George W. Bush. He was making a great deal of money financing Hitler’s war machine, and he and his followers admired what Hitler was doing in Germany. Thanks to courageous Marine General Smedley Butler, the coup failed, but the fact that it was even attempted shows how close to the surface these ideas were. They still are.
On Sept. 12, 1938, a New York Times reporter wrote, “When and if fascism comes to America it will not be labeled ‘made in Germany’; it will not be marked with a swastika; it will not even be called fascism; it will be called, of course, ‘Americanism.’” Those promoting this hateful philosophy here are counting on that deception.
We now have a Republican presidential candidate, Donald Trump, who seems to admire many of the attributes of fascism. His first wife, Ivana, said that he kept a book of Hitler’s speeches on his nightstand. Trump has said he wants to “Make America Great Again,” but he is creating an atmosphere of hate, fear, suspicion and lies. He promotes violence; he encourages neighbors to spy on each other. He demonizes Muslims and promotes predatory capitalism.
Nevada’s presidential caucuses will be in February. Attendees will choose our nominees for president. For those who think Trump is their choice, think about this. Hitler made Germany great again in the 1930s. Then he nearly destroyed it. Germany had to be rebuilt practically from scratch after Hitler was finished. Is that the model we want to follow?
I invite you to reflect on these words attributed to Martin Niemöller in the Congressional Record, Oct. 14, 1968, as you decide who to support in February: “In Germany, the Nazis came for the Communists and I didn’t speak up because I was not a Communist. Then they came for the trade unionists and I didn’t speak up because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Jews and I didn’t speak up because I was not a Jew. Then they came for the Catholics and I was a Protestant so I didn’t speak up. Then they came for me. … By that time, there was no one left to speak up.”
Jeanette Strong, whose column appears every other week, is a Nevada Press Association award-winning columnist. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.