Coming after the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear, a discussion of fascism seems to reek of impropriety and boorishness. It is a political philosophy which should have been buried along with the bodies of those whose unspeakable deeds brought down a a nation and wreaked incomprehensible death and destruction on the world. Unfortunately, this term has been casually tossed around like a beanbag by those on both the left and right throughout this election campaign. Inflammatory terms like this are used frequently during political campaigns and speeches in order to paint opponents with a brush which leaves a toxic stain.
How many times has the term "liberal" been used in a demeaning way to define a candidate or person in an attempt to diminish their qualifications or credibility. What harm can it do? It is just a word after all and the USA is the home of free speech. I, for one, have never been a fan of labels, especially when referring to people. I could not count the number of times I have been called a liberal here on Newsvine, but I don't consider myself a liberal, because my personal views don't seem to fit a particular mold. I have no aversions to liberalism or anyone who calls their self a liberal, but it's not me.
However, there is something very insidious and destructive which results from this kind of speech. If nothing else, it is a form of bullying, and it inspires hate speech by creating an "us versus you" climate. It polarizes people and it compels them to embrace ideals and principles, with which they may not fully support or may actually oppose.
The Merriam-Webster on-line dictionary defines liberal as:
1 of, relating to, or based on the liberal arts
2a. marked by generosity
2b. given or provided in a generous and openhanded way
2c. ample, full
3 obsolete : lacking moral restraint : licentious
4 not literal or strict : loose
5 broad-minded; especially : not bound by authoritarianism, orthodoxy, or traditional forms
These are good qualities, are they not? Aside from the #3 obsolete definition, it doesn't appear that being a liberal is so bad after all. Had I been wrong about those who called me a liberal? Perhaps the next time someone calls me a liberal, I should thank them for the compliment. I have been called many names throughout my life, most of them untrue, but perhaps I had misinterpreted them as insults. If I was misinformed about the true meaning of liberal, is it possible that I misunderstood the meaning of "fascism"?:
Fascism: a political theory advocating an authoritarian hierarchical government (as opposed to democracy or liberalism) [wordnetweb.princeton.edu/perl/webwn].
Just as I thought, fascism does not translate in any way to freedom and liberty. In fact according to this definition, it is the opposite of liberal. Does this mean that the next time someone calls me a liberal, I should answer with, "thank you, fascist?" Since these are simply words with various meanings, what difference does it make if we want to pin labels on one another?
The Merriam Webster online dictionary was a bit more definitive:
Fascism: a. often capitalized : a political philosophy, movement, or regime that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition
b. a tendency toward or actual exercise of strong autocratic or dictatorial control.
No, it is as bad as it sounds, much worse actually, because this is a definition which represents action, aggressive invasive oppressive action, and we have learned from experience that such actions can produce disastrous results. Fortunately, no one in this country is attempting to resurrect these perverted ideals in the good ol' USA, or are they? Exactly, how did fascism translate when it was unleashed upon the world?
"In addition to Six Million Jews, the Nazis deliberately murdered Five Million non-Jews for racial, political or social reasons. Among those killed were Gypsies, Jehovah's Witnesses, political opponents of the Nazis, the handicapped, homosexuals, artists and writers, blacks, Slavic peoples, dissenting clergy and resistance fighters." [source: The Other Victims: First Person Stories of Non-Jews Persecuted by the Nazis (Copyright © 1990, Ina R. Friedman)
As I am writing this, I am watching Tea Party Leaders on Lawrence O'Donnell's show advocate the elimination of many government programs, including Social Security Disability. Tea Party rallies were saturated with tasteless signs and racist posters of Obama. They branded him as a liberal, a socialist, a communist, and depicted him as Hitler. Now I'm confused. If the Tea Party brands Obama a liberal, doesn't that define the teabaggers as fascists. Tea Party members like Sarah Palin, Sharron Angle, and Rand Paul certainly oppose immigration reform, DADT, gay marriage, and entitlement programs for the minorities, poor, unemployed, sick, elderly, and disabled. They favor the elimination of all of forms of assistance and support to these groups in the same way that the Nazis eliminated them for the Jews and underclass during World war II. Is it possible that there is a fascist movement flaring in America?
Surely, we would never allow fascism to manifest itself into the fabric of American society or our revered Democratic political system of freedom and justice, would we?
'November, 2006, Kathyrn Johnston (age 88) Kathryn lived in a rough Atlanta, Georgia neighborhood where a relative gave her a gun for protection. When she noticed men breaking through her security bars into her house she fired a shot into the ceiling. They were narcotics officers and fired 39 shots back, killing her. The police falsified information in order to obtain a no-knock search warrant based on incorrect information from a dealer they had framed. After killing Johnson and realizing that she was completely innocent, they planted some marijuana in the basement. Eventually their stories fell apart federal and state investigations learned the truth. Additional facts have come to light that this was not an isolated incident in the Atlanta police department.'
Since it began, the War on Drugs in the U.S. has claimed hundreds, perhaps thousands of lives, many of them innocent (see: http://www.drugwarrant.com/articles/drug-war-victim/). It has cost more than half a trillion dollars and led to the imprisonment of millions of Americans, primarily for offenses associated with Marijuana. Although targeted towards all drugs, the focus of of enforcement has been directed primarily at marijuana. Marijuana is a relatively mild intoxicant when compared to the dangerous and toxic side effects of alcohol, narcotics, and prescription drugs. It was used in many remedies and treatments prior to the 20th century and it has been scientifically demonstrated to possess numerous medicinal benefits. It was misclassified as a dangerous drug, and the government and the media waged a propaganda campaign, based upon false allegations and erroneous assumptions, against it. It was never banned by Constitutional Amendment, as was required for alcohol, but it's prohibition has created numerous constitutional issues, not the least of which is the violation of constitutional rights and human rights.
There are no longer any rational or compelling arguments for the continued outlaw status of marijuana, yet the production and distribution of pot continues to be prosecuted in some states with the fervor and force of Nazis pursuing Jews and dissidents. Candidate Obama professed to support decriminalization, President Obama has actually stepped up enforcement in many areas. This is not intended to diminish the horror and suffering of the Jewish people and indigent victims of the Holocaust in any way, but there are some striking parallels in the way drug crimes have been prosecuted.
The enforcement of drug laws has been totaliarian, heavy handed, and oppressive. SWAT raids, the use of deadly force, the seizure of property, and the corruption of evidence has been commonplace and widespread. The Fifth Amendment of the Constitution was intended to protect citizens from self-incrimination, but can there be any greater self-incrimation than being forced to provide hair, blood, or urine samples against your will? The Fourth Amendment was intended to protect us from illegal search and seizure, yet enforcement agents knock down doors with guns blazing, while seizing property and assets routinely, to imprison someone for possessing a mild intoxicant. The drug laws have even been used to expand private prison populations for profit.
There is no denying the fact that the War on Drugs is fascist policy. The War on Drugs is a political philosophy and movement, that places the nation above the individual. It established a centralized autocratic government agency, headed by a dictatorial leader known as a Drug Czar. Employment drug testing mandates severe economic and social regimentation. The War on Drugs also creates a large disenfranchised minority population through the forcible suppression of opposition by establishing standards, practices, and limitations which do not apply to other persons and products. Historically, marijuana laws were implemented to oppress Mexicans, African Americans, and Viet Nam war dissidents.
Does Barack Obama support fascist policies? If he supports the War on Drugs, it would seem that he does. He also expanded the war in Afghanistan, despite the exhorbitant cost and the lack of a clear mission. War is an essential component of fascism, for fear and force are the population constraints, which allow fascism to grow and consume a nation. Obama has even retained some of the Bush policies on torture, rendition, and domestic spying. In fairness, President Obama did not start these policies or the wars, and during his campaign, he strongly opposed them. Nevertheless, as long as they remain in effect and as long as he refuses to denounce them, they will remain part of his legacy.
Freedom of speech gives us great latitude and opportunity to discuss our problems in an open forum, so we can solve them. We have learned that no matter how vitriolic and heated our debates become, we have an opportunity to resolve our differences without violence, if we are willing to use our knowledge and work together. This election has awakened some demons from a dark past which none of us should ever want to rescusitate. Attacks, verbal or physical, on disenfranchised people and minority groups are indefensible under any circumstances. It is bullying at best and at worst, it is purely fascist for those seeking public office or economic control. It is intolerable under any circumstances and anyone who promotes or advocates repressive and dogmatic solutions to dealing with the poor and downtrodden should be resoundly condemned to non-leadership roles. A person should be judged primarily on their actions, not their words, but words may also be harmful, even deadly. As citizens, it is our responsibility to decide what language is acceptable and what is not. Once we accept hateful rhetoric and demonization as part of our culture, it will be difficult to purge from our politics.