This week we welcome a new president to the White House and with him, a new beginning. That new beginning could not come soon enough.
Had the last administration lasted a moment longer, we, in my view, ran the real danger of a descent into fascism. In fact, that danger is still alive and real despite the change to the oval office and congress. We have seen it on full display over the past couple of weeks.
I’m not sure why we are reluctant to use that word: fascism. Given the church’s late condemnation of its rise in 1930s western Europe, I think it is important to at least name it today.
As many of you know, words matter to me. Their correct use and misuse are important to me. That is why I am a bit bothered by those who describe the rioters that attacked the D.C. Capitol building (and have their eyes on state capitol buildings) as “white supremacists” or “racists”. While they may be these things, they are more importantly “fascists” even if they don’t outwardly label themselves as such.
Racism is an attitude of bias or hatred against another race. It is personal and social. Fascism is racism organized. It is racism with an unapologetic and proud agenda. It is racism with direct leadership. It feels to me that we have turned a corner: It is not so much racism that seeks legitimacy in this country. It is fascism.
Racism is one ingredient in fascism. There are others and they are all at work today: nationalism, re-writing reality with propaganda, cultivating victimhood in the dominant group, anti-intellectualism that labels the educated as conniving elite, pitting one group against another, and generating a mythical/ideal view of a past that has been taken away. All of these are elements at work in our culture and they go beyond racism. Their combination is exceedingly dangerous.
If I am to be true to the correct lexicon, however, the proper term would actually be neo-fascism; something that has had many different iterations and varying emphases depending on where it is to be found. Neo-fascism no longer seeks the invasion of other countries but rather the implementation of xenophobic laws. Abandoning the trappings of earlier forms of fascism such as paramilitary uniforms and Roman salutes, neo-fascism seeks to link to mainstream culture by adding words like “democratic” or “return to true democracy” to its messaging.
Either way, this movement has found new life in our country and it needs to be stamped out now before it gains any more traction.
Maybe the reason we are hesitant to use the word fascism is that it sounds outdated. But fascism has never gone away. It has only hidden itself; waiting for the moment when it can come out of the shadows.
It has found that moment at this time in history and we should be vigilant and intolerant of its presence in equal measure.