Tag Archives: Fascism

Prayer Against Fascism

Dear Lord, Guiding Spirit, Power beyond and around and within us…
as You know, there is a disease going around
a deep and terrible sickness
it attacks the soul, the mind, and the heart
of individuals, communities, cities, of whole nations
it’s infectious, virulent, easily communicable
spread by word of mouth, by constant exposure to lies
by propaganda’s relentless drumbeat
it feeds on fear, ignorance, and bruised pride
and it makes people do horrible things
sometimes in Your Name

let me not succumb to it

keep my heart open to the Other
keep my mind open to truth and to inquiry
keep my soul free of hatred and fear
grant me the courage to speak out
when I see this disease raise its ugly head
grant me compassion both for its victims
and for those infected by it
keep me free from arrogance and illusions of superiority
grant me humility and acceptance
let me never come to believe
that I have any exclusive answer, any special privilege
or that others are any less worthy than I am in Your sight

Lord, I pray for the humbling of bullies,
of those who abuse their power over others –
I ask for their hearts to be healed,
for the calming of their rage
Grant them empathy and inner peace
Let them find what it means to be human again

Help us to celebrate everything that we are
To fully embrace both our diversity and our unity
To care for each other and your Creation
Let the mighty step down, let the lowly be raised
Help us temper justice with mercy
Help us replace dissension with harmony
Help us overcome this disease, this epidemic we call fascism
with the healing power of love. Amen.

Advertisements

PLAUSIBLE NEWS: RESPONDING TO FUEHRER’S “CALL FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE,” NEO-NAZIS COMMITTING SUICIDE

}  } }PLAUSIBLE NEWS{ {  {

RESPONDING TO FUEHRER’S “CALL FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE,” NEO-NAZIS COMMITTING MASS SUICIDE

COEUR D’ALINE, IDAHO (Plausible News Service) – Across the country, police report, Neo-Nazis, Klansmen, and other white supremacy activists are committing suicide en masse, apparently in response to a supposed “mobilization call” issued from beyond the grave by Adolf Hitler himself.

Police say that approximately two dozen white males, aged 35 to 72, gathered together last weekend in a remote Idaho location for a “White Power Confederacy” rally. At the rally, one of the participants read from a handwritten document urging the attendees to “heed the call of our Fuehrer, who even now is gathering the souls of his faithful, the souls of strong Aryan men, to himself at the gates of Hell to prepare for his triumphant return.” According to the document, its author received this information in “a glorious dream, from the lips of Hitler himself.” The men, following the document’s instructions, then carved swastikas into their foreheads with their knives, and shot themselves. According to the document, they would soon return to their bodies as zombies, immune to death, and able to “fight forever for the Fatherland, with our sacred symbol emblazoned in fire upon our foreheads.”

The county coroner reports that none of the bodies, which are still awaiting recovery by their families, have yet shown any signs of reanimation.

Reports of similar suicides have since cropped up in a number of states, including Mississippi, South Carolina, and Indiana.  “Let your eyes be dry and do not grief (sic) for me, for I go to fight for you and for our race. Seig (sic) Heil!”  William “Buddy” Kuhlicker wrote to his family before wrapping himself in a Confederate flag and immolating himself in the parking lot of a WalMart near Smithfield, North Carolina.

 

 

 

 

THE PEACE AND JUSTICE FILES: YOUR COUNTER-FASCISM TOOLKIT

(Last in a series.)

According to numerous public health studies, just washing your hands on a regular basis – a simple, mundane activity if ever there was one – actually provides one of the most effective measures for preventing the spread of many diseases. Preventing the spread of the “social disease” called fascism is a bit more complex – but many of the preventive measures that are available to each and every one of us are similarly simple and mundane.

But before we can understand how that works, first we need to recognize that fascism is more than just a form (or style, actually) of government. It is not just a matter of structure – of laws, agencies, and regulations. It is also a cultural phenomenon, in which the media, the arts, the educational system, the church, and all the other institutions, traditions, and customs that make up “society” are enlisted (or drafted) into the cause of imposing the artificial “unity” that fascist propaganda makes to seem so attractive. And to the extent that individual citizens accept and internalize the fascist agenda, it affects even our day-to-day interpersonal relationships.

So counterfascist actions must take place at all three levels – the structural, the cultural, and the personal. Of these three, it is perhaps the cultural that is most important – for in order to establish their dominance, fascists who aspire to power first need to create an apparent groundswell of “popular support” for the structural changes they desire. (It is far more likely that fascist power will be established in the USA through apparently “free and fair” elections than through some kind of armed rebellion or coup d’etat.)

What kinds of tools do we have, then, in our “counterfascist toolbox”? The first tool is simple vigilance: just paying attention, and keeping ourselves informed about what is going on, both in our immediate vicinity and in other places around the country. Not paranoia, mind you – fearfulness can paralyze us, and make us think we are powerless when in fact we are not. Legislatures are still passing laws in the open, even if some of those laws are being composed behind closed doors by special interests. (If you haven’t heard of an outfit called “ALEC,” you might want to check out www.alecexposed.org – it’s a good place to start.)

Centeredness – the ability to maintain calm, rational equanimity in the face of stress or provocation – counters the tendency to panic, or take rash, impulsive, and ultimately counterproductive action. Many physical and spiritual disciplines exist that help develop this quality, from meditation and prayer to martial arts and tightrope walking – and as it develops, we become better able to think clearly when we might otherwise get caught up in the emotion of the moment.

Centeredness supports courage, another important tool to have handy. Countering fascism on the everyday, interpersonal level might mean interrupting or contradicting someone else’s oppressive attitudes or mistaken assumptions, and risking some kind of immediate personal blowback. Countering it on the structural or cultural levels might mean taking a visible public stand, risking arrest, or worse. (Check out what’s been happening in Texas lately, or in North Carolina with the “Moral Mondays” protests.)

The creation and maintenance of community is also crucial – and here I mean “community” in two different senses of the word. First, it is obviously important to surround oneself with like-minded and supportive people – but it is also equally important to reach out across ideological boundaries, and create a wider sense of “community” among people who do not agree on everything. Fascism, of whatever stripe, thrives on the easy delineation of groups between “Us”’s and “Them”’s, and we should muddle those borders whenever possible. (This means, by the way, resisting the strong temptation to dehumanize and belittle those with whom we disagree on this issue or that, and instead searching to find areas of common ground where communication becomes possible.)

Finally – what can we do with these and the many other tools we have? Press for ever-greater openness, transparency, and accountability in both government and business. Encourage greater civic participation, whether at the polling place, on the street, or in the workplace. Strive to reduce the power of corporations over the government, and of government over the people. Use the power of community both to celebrate the diversity that enriches our lives, and to lessen the differences that divide us.

And most of all: refuse to remain silent.

THE PEACE AND JUSTICE FILES: FASCISM IS LIKE HERPES

(My column for June 2013…)

Last time, we started exploring the concept of “fascism” – in fact, we barely scratched the surface. It’s a fascinating topic that one could explore for years – but my interest in the topic is more practical and immediate. Does fascism, in all its brutal and vicious glory, stand any chance of taking hold now, here, in America – and if so, is there anything we can do to prevent it?

To address such questions, I think I have found a metaphor that might be useful.

If we think of fascism as a disease – an abnormal condition that makes the “body politic” act in bizarre, unnatural, and destructive ways – we can look at it through the lenses of epidemiology and public health. How does it start? How does it spread? What are the conditions that encourage or impede its development? And what kinds of ongoing measures can we take to avoid catching the disease in the first place?

So the answer to “Could America turn fascist?” is “Yes, of course, at any time.” Like herpes, the fascism “virus” is always present, lurking, just waiting for its chance to emerge. Our time is not really all that different from any other in this respect. Usually, the “immune system” of the social organism is sufficient to prevent its gaining a serious foothold. But when the organism is put under stress (as is certainly happening now in many countries), the virus can flourish and spread.

What is this “immune system”? It has many parts, and operates at many levels. At the level of national governance, for example, we have organizations such as the ACLU, the Center for Constitutional Rights, and others that work within the system to address many of the individual “symptoms” that commentators like Naomi Wolf have identified, such as restrictions on personal liberties, encroachment of privacy, and so on. Supporting the work of such organizations is an immensely valuable way to fight the development of fascism. A free, independent, and alternative press is certainly part of this “immune system” – which is why people are rightly alarmed to see protofascists like the Koch brothers contemplating the takeover of major newspapers. America’s pluralistic and multicultural society is another preventive factor, countering the fascist impulse to enforce cultural uniformity and ideological purity. The struggles to reduce corporate power, revitalize local economies, combat racism and sexism, encourage cross-cultural interaction, and strengthen democracy are all part of this multi-pronged effort, though the individuals and organizations involved may not see themselves as explicitly “counter-fascist.”

But perhaps the most important preventive measures are those that can be taken at the personal level. The fascist state cannot develop without a fascist society, and a fascist society depends on individuals internalizing its key qualities – fearfulness, suspicion, the lack of empathy, unquestioning obedience, arrogant nationalism, the reliance on force. We can refuse, in our everyday lives, to let such traits manifest themselves, and instead make a conscious effort to express their opposites. If a fascist state can be characterized as merciless, for example. then showing compassion and simple human kindness is itself an innately counter-fascist act. Fascism cannot tolerate creativity and imagination, since it dare not allow its citizens to imagine alternatives to its rule – so fostering creative thought and expression is likewise counter-fascist. (How many more such examples can you devise?)

Next: your counter-fascist toolbox, and how to use it.

 

THE PEACE AND JUSTICE FILES: FASCISM 101

(Part 1 of 3.)

“You… you… FASCIST!”

There are very few words in our political vocabularies that are more emotionally loaded, while at the same time more saddled with multiple, not-quite-identical meanings. When a Google search on “Bush fascist” yields 5.2 million hits, and a search on “Obama fascist” yields 5.9 million, you have to wonder: just what this word is supposed to mean, anyway?

We could start by looking at the symbol from which the word derives. Take an axe, surround it with a bundle of rods, and lash the whole thing together as tightly as you can – and there you have what the ancient Romans called the “fasces.” It was this symbol of unified power that Benito Mussolini and his Fascist movement latched onto in the early years of the 20th Century. (It’s found in many other places, of course – including the iconography of the United States of America.)

To Mussolini and his followers, Fascism represented, among other things, a unification of the power of the State and the power of the Market. He is quoted as saying, “Fascism should more properly be called corporatism because it is the merger of state and corporate power.” (It may be worth noting at this point that such a merger can happen in two ways – either by the State expropriating and nationalizing the means of production, or by the Market influencing and ultimately corrupting the State.)

In the intervening years, the meaning has broadened; perhaps the best way to think of fascism is as the enforced unification of all aspects and institutions of a society – not just the Market and the State, but also the workforce, the church, the media, the arts, the schools, the family… everything. (It should be obvious, by the way, that this unification might be done in the name of almost any political or economic ideology, across the political spectrum, or in the name of almost any religion, or atheism for that matter.)

This notion can become very attractive to everyday people in certain uncomfortable situations – in times of external or internal threats, economic uncertainty, social upheaval, or cultural transformation. (Do you begin to see why I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately?) It can also become very attractive to the folks at the top of a society, when they begin to suspect that the peasantry are getting restless.

In the fascist state, after all, there are no such things as “competing interests” – unlike the messy chaos of democracy, where there are so many competing interests that no one of them can claim dominance. There is no dissent tolerated, no discussion necessary – except perhaps to decide on questions of methodology and efficiency.

Of course, people being people, such a unified state is deeply unnatural – so it must be imposed. Here is where many of the negative qualities we associate with Fascist societies emerge. To unify the populace, Fascist governments frequently identify scapegoat minorities, on whom is placed the blame for all the ills of society. Militarism, the virtues of force, and strict discipline are emphasized. Repression becomes rampant, imagination is squelched, and justice becomes arbitrary and capricious. Fear and intimidation, torture and disappearances become societally accepted methods of control. These qualities make fascist societies seem strong, almost invincible in their early days – but actually contain the seeds of their inevitable downfall.

But could it happen here? During the Bush Regime, many commentators and columnists looked around America and identified numerous signs that they interpreted as symptoms of incipient fascism. (Search on “Britt fascism” or “Naomi Wolf fascist America” to find a couple of those analyses.) Their fears were not entirely realized – but neither have they been entirely dispelled.

Fortunately, there’s another way to think about fascism, how to respond to it, and how to make sure that “it can’t happen here” – but more about that in the next installment.

Simple & fun ways to commit treason against a fascist state

In my workshop “‘IF YOU CAN KEEP IT’: Care and Feeding of a Constitutional Republic,” we discuss the nature of fascism, and whether or not the US is in danger of sliding into it.  (Short answer: not at the moment, but it’s always a possibility to watch out for.)

In this workshop, we consider fascism from the metaphorical perspective of public health – that is, as a kind of disease of the body politic, with symptoms and etiologies, but one that can be prevented by ongoing prophylactic measures.

One of the key points of the workshop notes that fascism spreads virally in a culture, as individuals adopt its ways of being – so one line of defense against incipient fascism is the individual refusal to internalize the qualities of a fascist society.  This means that you can help counteract a societal trend towards fascism via the actions and choices you make in your individual everyday life.  For example:

  • If the fascist state is merciless… then showing mercy to others is a counterfascist act.
  • If the fascist state requires unthinking and unquestioning obedience… then encouraging creativity and critical thought is a counterfascist act.
  • If the fascist state bases its power on xenophobia, suspicion and fear… then learning about other cultures, and living with courage and joy are counterfascist acts.

See how it works?  Try devising similar statements yourself…

There’s a lot more to the discussion, of course – and I would love to share this workshop in your community – at your church, public library, civic group, wherever.  All I need is to at least be able to cover travel expenses, and I’m there.  The workshop is fun (surprisingly so, considering the seriousness of the subject matter), interactive, and transpartisan (really!), and takes about 90 minutes or so.  I provide handouts and other materials; you provide a space and a computer projector, and we’re good to go.  Drop me a note at smendler(at)yahoo.com if you might be interested in helping sponsor this workshop in your area!