Reactions to the Isis bombings in Brussels continue to come in from our presidential candidates. Some are sane and reasonable (Clinton, Sanders, Kasich); and some are terrifying and make you shudder, if not duck and cover (Trump, Cruz). How did the latter two, taking time out from comparing the physical gifts and shortcomings of each other’s wives, react to the terrorist attack? Carpet-bomber Cruz, who never went to war, said we should deploy police patrols in our Islamic neighborhoods for surveillance work. Herr Trump, who never served in any military, was not to be outrun in the race to the far right. He countered by reiterating a promise to harden our border security, ban Muslims from entry, curtail visa issuance generally, and keep open the option of using nuclear weapons on Isis. Clearly, the pair’s pace toward fascism is quickening and cannot end well for the rest of us. Fascism. Yes, that term is thrown around willy-nilly by our politicians who either don’t know what they’re talking about (most of them), or are cynically smearing opponents with a vague, but decidedly damning libel.
I do know what I’m talking about. I have lived in a fascist state. (Portugal under Antonio Salazar in 1955 while serving in the U.S. Air Force.) More to the point, I had the privilege of taking courses in political philosophy at UCLA in 1956 with the illustrious philosopher Hans Meyerhoff. And Professor Meyerhoff was certainly qualified to teach fascism. A German Jew born in Lower Saxony, he fled his homeland in 1934 after the Nazi edict that denied Jews entrance to German Universities and he wound up a student at UCLA. There he distinguished himself in the 1930s as Teaching Assistant to world renowned Visiting Professor Bertrand Russell, and then as one of the first three PhDs in philosophy granted by the university.
In 1943 he joined the legendary OSS, predecessor of the CIA, and parachuted into enemy territory, engaged them in the Battle of the Bulge and was at the liberation of Dachau. In 1948 he rejoined the UCLA Philosophy Department faculty. So what did Meyerhoff teach us were the traits and practices of Fascism? (Not all need be present to identify its presence, but a critical mass was easily reached.) First, in Fascism the state is conceived as organic, not mechanical; it is supreme, a whole, more than the sum of all its parts, a spiritual substitute for God. Those assumptions dictate certain needs and outcomes for a nationalistic authoritarian regime to survive; to keep citizens in line you must come down hard on those who dissent, which almost always leads to scapegoating racial, political, religious or ethnic minorities for whatever state failures occur. You beat the drum for patriotism and glorify the military. By defending your nation from real or invented external enemies, you keep the arms makers busy, your economy humming and your workers employed. Corporate interests are always favored over workers rights, unions are to be snuffed or controlled, crony capitalism rules, and corruption is de rigueur.
Fascism is a man’s world. Masculine values dominate. Gender roles are rigid; homosexuality and abortion are suppressed, while religions are often absorbed by the state into a subservient partner to further “protect family values.” Contempt for the arts and academics generally comes just as naturally as patriotic fervor. Control of the media is a must, both to silence opposing views and to propagandize your own. If censorship isn’t enough to stem dissent, you can always spy on citizens, suspend liberties, rig the legal system, hold show trials, imprison, summarily execute, and torture. Yes, sounds like a police state.
Heard anybody sound like they might sign on to that lately? Somebody running for president?
Here’s another question and a broad hint. Can you imagine either Gauleiter Lumpen von Trump or the Cuban Canadian Narcissist Baptist from Texas with the nuclear football in their hands?
What’s wrong with us? Do we really deserve this country?