Does America Possess a Latent Disposition Toward Fascism?

I agree with the conventional wisdom that the world was forever different by the time the sun set over the Pacific Ocean on September 11, 2001 than it was when it rose over the Atlantic that morning. But I disagree as to why it is different. The blame for this sea change usually is placed squarely on the heads of the militant Islamic hijackers-mostly Saudi, none Iraqi-who flew their planes into America buildings. The truth is that most of the changes that have taken place since that fateful day have come about because of the disastrous and dangerous policies of the Republican Party. What is particularly frightening is how so many millions of Americans have not just willingly, but eagerly accepted and defended the darkest parts of the change that the world has experienced since then. Anyone who has looked back upon the wholesale acceptance of America’s movement toward a strict authoritarian form of government without genuine fear and trembling is just another person whom the rest of us should fear.

Even more deeply troubling is that while America has been making this move toward restricting our own freedoms, our soldiers have been dying in the name of bringing those very freedoms to others. We have been killing civilians and ourselves to extend the liberty of Iraqis while passing laws to restrict our own liberties. What the hell is up with that? Some have answered that what is up with that is the ugly, and for most us quite unexpected, revelation that America has been long festering with a bilious canker of latent fascist tendencies that finally exploded. That possibility has certainly always existed, especially-ironically-since the end of the World War II when after defeating the dreaded Hun, we immediately adopted many of his outlooks and refashioned them as a patriotic defense against Communism. Don’t believe me? Consider the fact that dozens of high ranking Nazi officers-war criminals-were brought in to the US as the most illegal of illegal immigrants and given cushy government jobs in exchange for intelligence-most of which turned out to be as reliable as the intelligence on Iraqi WMDs-on the Soviets.

The possibility of American fascism has always existed, of course. After all, during the 30’s the FBI was instructed to concentrate their efforts on political extremism on that perpetrated by the left and socialists and to leave the right-winger-notable the KKK-alone. But the fear of a fascist rise to power was never really any big concern thanks to the good old American system of checks and balances. It is true that previous American Presidents have done their level best to impose strictly authoritarian measures on our system of government, but except for two distinct periods when our land was truly in direct peril-the Civil War and WWII-an authoritarian overthrow has never even come close. Even when attempted the move was blocked by the checks and balances, or else the voting booth. The rascals were either thrown out or forced to resign.

This is no longer the case. For the first time in American history, all three branches of the government are in complete ideological agreement and, much more worrisome, they have had the willing consent of the majority of the voters. How could this happen? The primary theory holds that George W. Bush was able to so perfectly manipulate the fear felt all over this country in the wake of 9/11 that instead of calming the country, ultimately he was able to whip it up even more; to a state of actual hysteria. And nothing greases the move toward authority better than hysterical fear for you life. Just ask anyone who has been robbed. Even the most liberal person suddenly turns into Nancy Grace.

Adding an extra level of nausea to this theory is the increasing evidence that George W. Bush came into office already fully loaded with a plan to institute the very kind of authoritative push that eventually became reality. What most people have forgotte is that on the morning of September 11, 2001 Pres. Bush’s approval ratings were mediocre at best. He had presented no policy that was improving this country; after nine months he was still mostly a completely cipher. It was actually rather easy to forget we even had a President. Because he had no public support, he was unable to unleash his authoritative plans.

Until those planes crashed into those buildings. Only then did he finally gain enough confidence to unleash his assault on the American way of life. Bush and the rest of his cronies have been consistent in their defense of these measures by claiming that any and all measures that may restrict liberties have improved security. Bush is no doubt rarely compared to Thomas Jefferson, but this view of the necessity of taking away freedom from America in order to give it to other countries may stem at least in part from the following quote from our third President:

“It is incumbent on those who accept great charges to risk themselves on great occasions, when the safety of the nation, or some of its very high interests are at stake.”

Thomas JEfferson

Inspiring, no doubt. Especially at a time when nobody could really be sure whether or not England might decide they wanted to get America back. But lies about some third-rate Middle Eastern despot who didn’t even have the capability of beating a non-nuclear Iran hardly justifies the lengths to which civil rights have been trampled upon. The most dangerous of which isn’t the Patriot Act, as some might think, though certainly that inappropriately-named document is best used for wiping the Pope’s arse when he poops in the woods rather than protecting American from any serious terrorist activity. No, the little piece of paper that is central Pres. Bush’s zealous belief that he has been endowed with God-like powers is a little legislation known as Authorization for Use of Military Force, Pub. L. No. 107-40, § 2(a), 115 Stat. 224. This year the Dept. of Justice-a Cabinet department staffed completely with Bush appointees, not so coincidentally-issued a paper that concluded that the above legislation does nothing less than place a President at the very “zenith” of his powers.

Bush-who is certainly no genius himself-has nonetheless managed to choose as friends one or two people who have read history books. Unfortunately, the only lesson they seemed to glean was that a President achieves this “zenith” of power only during times of extreme and critical stress, in other words during war. Lincoln and FDR both were able to exend the length and breadth of their powers, so why not Bush? The difference is that Lincoln and FDR both declared war on an actual human enemy; Bush declared war on an abstract noun: terrorism. It is this utter absence of an identifiable foe that has been the stimulus for America’s willingness to embrace creeping fascism. Because we truly don’t know who the enemy is or what he looks like-anybody with a beard and a dark complexion is subject to a sidelong glance-the fear quotient has remained at hysterical enough levels to allow for restrictions against the civil rights of people who have none absolutely nothing more wrong than picking up their cell phones and dialing a number. The fact are these: the majority of poll respondents reply, when asked their opinion about warrantless NSA collection of their phone records, that nobody who is doing anything wrong should be concerned. To return to the question of whether there is a latent fascist disposition among Americans, the answer appears to be, unfortunately, plain to see.

Yes, there is.