By Lillian Forman |
What is fascism exactly? Several definitions exist and this seems to confuse people, making it hard for them to recognize that the United States is in danger of becoming a fascist nation. The organization Refuse Fascism has been warning people for years that the Trump/Pence regime is trying to impose a fascist government on them. Andy Zee, one of the founders of Refuse Fascism, gives a broad definition of this political ideology: “The essence of fascism as a form of rule of a capitalist society is blatant dictatorship, that when it is fully imposed will mean the virtual elimination of basic democratic rights, including the right to dissent.” I consider the very broadness of this definition to be a virtue because it covers the common characteristics of fascism that transcend the particular traits of different cultures. It does not, however, convey the gut impact of the word “fascism.”
I think some experience of fascism, however slight, is necessary to feel this impact. The four years of World War II occurred during my grammar school years. This distant threat gave my friends and me a vague sense of fascism’s horror. The boys played War in the bog behind my house. Their imitation of machine gun fire and death cries were familiar summer sounds in my neighborhood. We girls had a more sophisticated insight into the evil that was threatening our world. We played Torture. Most often we heroically withstood the pain and humiliation or managed to outwit our captors like the smart alecks that Hollywood depicted American soldiers to be.
At night, however, when my playmates had gone home and there was no one to support my fantasies of courage and cunning, I had nightmares about being locked in a closet where I couldn’t do anything I wanted to do, where there was no supper, where no one protected me. As I grew older, I read Ann Frank and 1984. My idea of fascism became a little more vivid, if not more comprehensible. Fascism was still terrifying, but it was a thing of the past. I didn’t have to worry about it any more. Although our government gave hints of fascism in its treatment of blacks, Jews, people of color and women, I remained convinced that America was a good, brave country and wouldn’t put up with blatant tyranny or cruelty.
This delusion shattered when Donald Trump became President. At that point I burst into flames. Donald Trump my President? NO! All my friends laughed at me for trying to involve them in serious discussions about how to rid ourselves of this obscenity squatting in the White House. Finally a Facebook friend suggested that I join Refuse Fascism. She pointed out that this organization is dedicated to ousting Trump and his fascist cohorts. In fact it’s their sole purpose, as its members are convinced that Trump and his Republican supporters are hell bent on setting up a fascist regime. The leaders of Refuse Fascism were able to predict many of the Trump administration’s moves toward dictatorship, which gave me the sense that my fellow members knew how to remedy our political situation.
And, indeed, they had a plan — they asked their fellow Americans to go out on the streets in huge masses and stay out until the more practical leaders in Washington, fearing a general uprising, would oust Trump and the more dangerous Republicans. I believed this plan would be effective, because I thought our Democratic leaders wanted to keep the status quo above everything else.
Unfortunately, most people clung to the idea that voting out the Trump/Pence regime was the better option. Nothing seemed to shake them from this conviction. Not even when Trump and his supporters tore refugee children out of their parents’ arms and locked them in concentration camps. Not even when the government agency, ICE, hunted down undocumented immigrants and sent them back to countries where their lives were at risk. It seemed no matter what laws Trump shredded or what liberties he snatched away, people intended to wait comfortably until the 2020 election.
Then two things happened — the COVID-19 pandemic that exposed Trump’s inability to deal with a deadly and highly contagious disease, and the lynching of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis. On Memorial Day of 2020, Derek Chauvin knelt on the neck of a black man, George Floyd, who had been accused of passing a counterfeit $20 bill. Floyd endured the torture of asphyxiation for eight minutes and 46 seconds, repeatedly complaining that he couldn’t breathe. His last word was, “Mama.” It was so obvious that Chauvin was killing his prisoner, that several bystanders begged him to take his knee from his victim’s neck. A 17-year-old took a video of the lynching.
That video went viral and aroused the outrage of white as well as black communities. It showed one too many police killings of black men who were either totally innocent or guilty of only minor crimes. The video showed such arbitrary cruelty that huge numbers of protesters poured into the streets and stayed there well into the night.
Perhaps most important to the awakening of the American people is the death of George Floyd, so vividly shown on the video taken by his friend. The image of the officer kneeling on Floyd’s neck and Floyd’s cries “I can’t breathe,” which echoed and amplified the cries of Eric Garner, who was also lynched by a police officer. In fact, his cries amplified all the cries of the victims of police brutality and gave people the gut impact so necessary to inspire them to rise up against brutality. They are out onto the streets protesting in spite of the danger of catching COVID-19. They have all the determination and courage necessary to overcome evil.
These protesters seem to have an instinctual understanding of some of the most characteristic traits of fascism — the targeting of certain groups such as black people and people of color, and the interpretation of “law and order” to mean the violent suppression of freedom of speech. In fact, the Nazi regime crafted some of their own laws against Jewish people after American Jim Crow laws.
Then Trump threw gasoline on the fire of people’s heartfelt desire to see this white supremacy end. While using George Floyd’s name for his own purposes, he has continually called for “law and order,” threatening the fore of police and military to “dominate the streets.” Calling the protesters “thugs,” he tweeted: “When the looting starts, the shooting starts.” The Trump regime unleashed violence and brutality against peaceful protesters at Lafayette Park before Trump’s disgusting speech at the Rose Garden on June 1.
Refuse Fascism has said, “This fascist regime poses a catastrophic danger to the whole world, and the whole world will take heart if we rise to another level of determined resistance. We have begun, but should we fail to see it through, this and every struggle for justice will be set back. If we succeed – and we can succeed – we can begin to force the boots of violent oppressors off the necks of our brothers and sisters. Let us change the course of history, not for ourselves alone but for all humanity.”
This is my dream for the younger generation. Stop a fascist America … and change the world.