Preventing Fascism From Taking Root: We Have Work to Do.
I am between the shock of last night’s surprising performance by Donald Trump, the dread of checking the news this morning to see if it really did go the way I feared when I went to bed, and the anxiety of needing to start my day as if things have not changed. Where in the world could be safe when the most powerful nation on the planet has elected a reckless spokesman of hate to its most powerful office?
While it is tempting to write the epitaph of American liberty, and reflect on the fact that the years 1776 or 1865 to 2016 is a longer run than a lot of modern democratic governments, we are far from finished. There is work to do. Move if you must, and let’s not have all our eggs in one basket, but would happen if everyone with the means and desire to oppose Trump abandoned the American beacon of liberty to the dark forces overtaking it?
The most frightening thing about the Trump victory might not be the sizable minority of his supporters who are actually fascists and members of racist organizations, and it is certainly not the numerous supporters of his who are sick enough of the status quo to overlook his numerous flaws. It is frightening to see the people who have bought into his campaign of angry scapegoating – that we can make America great again by shouting down those who question us, by following a career swindler who encourages violence against protesters and opponents. There are the people for whom recent changes have not meant economic hardship, but status panic, those who feel oppressed by so-called “political correctness’ that says they have to recognize a country where being a good American does not necessarily mean listening to straight white men who are Christians or at least play them on Sundays. Those who buy into Trump’s rhetoric of pushing out and pushing down the outsiders are buying into the attitude that fascism thrives upon even if they themselves are not fascists.
The importance of a strong leader and top-down commands for fascism can obscure the fact that it is typically a popular movement – that while it does not require a majority of the population for support, it draws on a wide base of support and encourages and directs misplaced fears of change and fears of outsiders. The need for fascism to penetrate deeply into society offers a critical place of resistance. By consciously creating and defending social spaces and institutions where the culture of fascism is not welcome, we can prevent the poison tree from sinking its roots deeply. We must not internalize or embody the divisions that we are supposed to follow. We must make it clear that no matter what the official ideology says, wherever we are is a place where black lives matter, Muslims are not enemies, migrants are welcome, LGBTQ people are free, and all people who do not step on others to climb the ladder of social hierarchy are welcome.
In the long term, we should question the value of a system that would put Donald Trump in charge of millions of citizens and the most powerful military on the planet. In the meantime, any institutional impediment to his power should be utilized. The aspiring autocrat still has political opponents, and members of his party, who recognize Constitutional limits on his power.
If we survived the September 11 attacks, we should be able to survive this. Good luck out there, America.