“In the middle of Europe in the middle of the twentieth century, the Nazi and Soviet regimes murdered some fourteen million people…This is a history of political mass murder. The fourteen million were all victims of a Soviet or Nazi killing policy, often of an interaction between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany, but never casualties of the war between them…The distinction between concentration camps and killing sites cannot be made perfectly: people were executed and people were starved in camps…Today there is widespread agreement that the mass killing of the twentieth century is of the greatest moral significance for the twenty-first.”
– Timothy Snyder, Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin, 2010
“The tendency to abstract the principles of political life may sharpen issues for the political philosopher. It becomes idolatry when it provides statesmen or a people with a blueprint for their society. The characteristic tyrannies of our age –-naziism, fascism, and communism—have expressed precisely this idolatry. They justify their outrages because their ‘philosophies’ require them.”
– Daniel Boorstin, The Genius of American Politics, 1953
…(“one can find people’s secret thoughts by examining their excrement” - Orwell, Politics vs. Literature, 1946)… “Because Men are never so serious, thoughtful, and intent, as when they are at Stool, which he found by frequent Experiment: for in such Conjunctures, when he used merely as a Trial to consider what was the best Way of murdering the King, his Ordure would have a Tincture of Green; but quite different when he thought only of raising an Insurrection, or burning the Metropolis.”
– Jonathan Swift, Gulliver’s Travels, 1726
Step #1. Do not obey in advance.
“Most of the power of authoritarianism is freely given. In times like these, individuals think ahead about what a more repressive government will want, and then offer themselves without being asked. A citizen who adapts in this way is teaching power what it can do.”
– Timothy Snyder, On Tyranny, 2017
While it is a blessing for democracy that President Donald Trump is a physical, as well as a moral coward, and therefore a fake fascist, the threat of a 21st Century U.S. Fascism: organized hatred, dressed as an ideology of fear and loathing, is still real. Trump’s enablers in all three government branches, as well as the media, are still numerous enough to do serious damage. Fortunately, they are also as yet unable to complete the job: a destruction of democratic norms, procedures, and the rule of law they defy, despise and disrespect. While they all may have the will to power common to fascists, most of them, in this country at least, lack the ability to pull it off - unless a critical majority of Americans are willing to cooperate. There are signs that this is not the case.
For one thing, ownership of mainstream media was previously willing to censor many of their best reporters uncovering “uncomfortable truths” in the racism of Trump’s birther lies, the objections of Tea Party nihilists to Barack Obama’s driving the ship of state “while black,” and the misogyny behind “Hillary hatred,” – until 2016. With Trump’s election they have unleashed the full force of serious reporting, now that it is clear that even “they” and their families could be adversely affected.
For another, Democrats, and a lone Republican in the House of Representatives, are beginning the long process of clawing back Article 1, Constitutional powers that both political parties have so cavalierly thrown away under Presidents Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, Bush II and Obama.
There are also many signs that Americans in all walks of life, in all parts of the country, are fighting back; at the polls, like last November, 2018, but also in every sort of manner - matter-of-factly, as well as spectacularly. It’s as if they all had been reading that small “manual of arms” for citizen resistance by Timothy Snyder. This short, easily available book is called “On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons From The Twentieth Century.” I was discussing it the other day with my KGB animal friends and their two new acquaintances; a German shepherd named “Schicklgruber” and a ferret named “Torquemada.”
High Plains Reader: Hello my friends, new and old! Schicklgruber?
Schickelgruber: That, as Hitler’s biographers know, was his paternal grandmother’s name, before his father changed it in the incestuous world of 19th Century Austria. You can image thousands of devoted Nazi followers raising their hands, shouting “Heil Schickelgruber,” and trying to keep a straight face. That would certainly have put a rupture in the “rapture” of his adoring crowds in the staged, beer saturated, settings of the annual Nuremberg Party rally. My ancestors convinced the SS officers training us to do Gestapo duty that it was the perfect cover. Himmler never did respect Hitler that much, despite his feigned obedience, and as Albert Speer informs us in the third of his “tell (almost) all” books about the Third Reich: Infiltration, was plotting to make the SS the true Nazi party of the future, even as all was collapsing before the Allied armies.
Rocinante: And Torquemada has plenty to tell us about the methods of the Grand Inquisitor in Don Quixote’s day, as well as in Dostoevsky’s, Stalin’s, and Vladimir Putin’s Russia.
Torquemada: That’s my name, and dogma and torture were my ancestors’ games, but such things aren’t going so well in 2019, I’m happy to say. Fewer and fewer Americans are being taken in by those old standbys: Miracle, Mystery, and Authority, and the televised descriptions of AR-15 murders and children in cages are making them less enthusiastic about their age-old acquiescence and collaboration in the “crime of punishment.”
Kim Dog Un: The Miracle of cheap goodies from China is proving a poor substitute for all the jobs that were shipped over there by CEO’s, who now reap tax benefits from Trump and (Senate Majority Leader, R-KY) “Moscow” Mitch McConnell. If Trump’s tariffs in October are slapped on sportswear made in China, all those white sports fans who whooped it up against black athletes exercising their First Amendment rights will discover the price tag on Trump’s racism.
Lena: Not to mention white folks who can’t participate in the real Miracles of modern medicine because of the effectiveness of Tea Party and Trump racist rhetoric directed against President Obama and the ACA (“Obamacare”), but actually in defense of private greed dictating the needs of public health.
Chicago Dog: And the Mystery of President Ronald Reagan’s (1981-1989) mumbo jumbo about “trickle down” economics as an article of “free market faith,” is beginning to unravel. Republican pundits who masqueraded for years as Conservatives, but were, in fact, defending a Reactionary doctrine of robbing the middle class to enrich the one percent, are fleeing to liberal media outlets and shouting the loudest that Democrats don’t move fast enough on impeachment of President Trump.
Mr. Swamp Fox: Former Reaganites are now joined by former acolytes of the Bush Dynasty (Presidents George Herbert Walker Bush, 1989-1993; George W. Bush, 2001-2009) as they decry tactics deployed in the open by Trump’s Attorney General, William Barr, that they went along with when utilized more subtly by Defense Secretary and Vice President, Dick Cheney.
Torquemada: Ah! Dick Cheney. Now there’s a guy who understood the uses and abuses of Authority the way my ancestors did! Poor William Barr! He doesn’t have Cold War stooges like the Bush family to hide behind. He can’t even get a Grand Jury to indict a “ham sandwich” like (former FBI Deputy Director) Andrew McCabe for telling the truth.
Putin: Not yet anyway. It’s not like the good old days under the British Empire’s King George II in 1733, when his Governor in New York could not only indict a journalist like John Peter Zenger for telling the truth, but also put the petit jury, which refused to convict him in the slammer.
Schicklgruber: Actually, that didn’t work out so well for the British. German immigrants like Zenger were defended by able East Coast trial lawyers, like Scots-Irish immigrant and Philadelphia lawyer, Andrew Hamilton. Hamilton argued that telling the truth in the American colonies, unlike back in England, was a viable defense. The jury agreed, and so did most Americans, although it took the Revolutionary War of 1776-1783 to make the larger point. The Zenger case became one of the founding principles of the Bill of Rights in 1791.
Señor Perro: Immigrants to the United States have always depended upon the defense of truth telling over falsehood; even when such mendacity is being defended on behalf of an executive of great power like the U.S. Presidency of today or the British Crown of yesteryear.
Rasputin: But this time, an East Coast trial lawyer in the person of Barry Berke, Counsel for the House Judiciary Committee, is showing up on the side of prosecution of falsehood in the person of President Trump’s former Campaign Manager, Cory Lewandowski.
Torquemada: Poor Bill Barr! He’s got more leaks in Trump’s vessel to plug than (President Richard) Nixon’s plumbers could ever imagine. Truth tellers in the FBI. Unskillful liars working for a semi-skillful liar-in-chief. Extortion in plain sight, with former government officials who had played by the rules, detailing on television every night how rules are being broken by Trump’s crowd. Whistle blowers ratting out Trump’s love affairs with Dictators, etc.
Schicklgruber: Hmm! Perhaps, “the shot heard round the world” at Lexington and Concord that opened the American Revolution, might be echoed by “whistles blown round the world.”
HPR: Back then it was the “Rights of Englishmen” we said we were defending. I would say that in 2019 we have learned that the fate of a lot more than that is at stake.
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