It is my observation that some environmental, social-justice, religious and political organizations, as well as news media, are addressing many of the current problems society and the earth are struggling to deal with, including racism, immigration, income inequality and climate catastrophe. However, one major issue they don’t seem to be addressing since Sinclair Lewis’s widely acclaimed, “It Can’t Happen Here” published in 1935, and was set in Vermont, is fascism. Fascism is arising around the world, including in the United States.
George Orwell, British novelist, essayist and journalist, said the best one-word description of a fascist is a “bully.” What do fascist bullies do? They strive to gain ever more power. They consistently lie. They denigrate certain populations. They demean objective journalists. And some of them have no problem confining and even killing innocent people.
Historically, we know fascism existed in such countries as Italy with Benito Mussolini, Germany with Adolph Hitler, Russia with Joseph Stalin, and Yugoslavia with Slobodan Milosevic. Where do we find fascists today? Kim Jong-un in North Korea, Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi in Egypt, and Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey.
Fascism is taking over many countries around the world. As a result of the inequality this has created, one can watch on television millions of people around the world who are suffering, join in massive protests. By participating in these peaceful protests, they are often injured and even killed.
The United States is clearly under the leadership of a fascist-leaning president. According to Madeline Albright, former secretary of state and author of the 2018 book, “Fascism: A Warning,” she states “Trump is the first anti-democratic president in modern U.S. history. On too many days, beginning in the early hours, he flaunts his disdain for democratic institutions, the ideals of equality and social justice, civil discourse, civic virtues and America itself. If transplanted to a country with fewer democratic safeguards, he would audition for dictator because that is where his instincts lead.”
As is well-documented, Trump consistently lies, makes authoritarian decisions without trying to reach compromise with other interests, and works to destroy federal agencies, tragically including the Environmental Protection Agency. He withholds information from U.S. citizens, and does not allow opportunity for question-and-answer sessions with the people of our country. His behaviors are those of a fascist.
Trump praises fascist leaders around the world. He allies himself with fascist policy and rule. Fascist leaders, like Trump, are also clearly in denial of science. The “Lungs of the Earth,” the Brazilian rain forest, are being destroyed for economic gain as a result of Brazil’s fascist leader. Likewise, Australia’s devastating wildfires were claimed not to be a result of climate change by their country’s fascist leader. In dealing with climate catastrophe, we need science-informed, caring democracy, not fascism.
What we need to understand about the rise of fascism is, this is a direct result of the failure of capitalism. As more and more of the wealth becomes concentrated in smaller numbers of people, the tendency is for them to strategize to gain an even larger percentage of the wealth at the expense of other people. Less fortunate people who are suffering as a result, rather than challenging the wealthy, deny the benefits of work and commerce to people who have even fewer resources than themselves.
What then do we need to do to preserve our democracy and prevent the continued rise of fascism? First, we need to “speak out.” It is very hard to acknowledge fascism is growing around the world, but we must incorporate this term when talking about what is going on. Second, remove money from politics by overturning “Citizens United,” eliminating the Electoral College, taxing the wealthy more equitably and distributing the nation’s wealth more fairly. Third, educate and engage citizens in the actions of democracy. Fourth, support independent journalism, reduce our dependence on social media and fake news, and improve our dialogue with people of differing opinions. Most importantly, we need to realize we are all “interbeings” and be more compassionate with all human beings whether we agree with them or not.
George Plumb lives in Washington.