DISCLAIMER: The opinions expressed in this blog entry are of a political nature and if the three of you don't like it, tough shit.
I was watching the Colbert Report the other night and his guest was a woman who wrote a book about the oncoming fascist regime in the US. In her book she lays out 10 steps every country that had a Fascist dictator went through leading up to the Fascist takeover. She explained some of them on air and said that the US was quickly progressing through the 10. They had to do with the culture of fear being bred by politicians, how they use this fear to extend executive power, and how by the time the populace realizes it a dictator has emerged and the people look the other way.
Now, I'm usually on the side of the Left-leaning guests on the show, but it seems to me she was going a little overboard. I understand her point and a lot of what she said makes sense, but fascism? I don't think any of the countries that have had Fascist states were built on as strong a foundation of democracy as ours is. Sure, we might be in a less democratic time in our history than others, but we have a long established tradition of it that helps to get through the rougher times. Fascism is like a modern monarchy. Take out the whole hereditary aspect, throw in some modern political lingo and what is essentially a king calls himself a "Dictator". The European and South American countries that had Fascist dictators had at one point been under the rule of kings. You could make individual cases for each, but I'm guessing they weren't democracies for 200+ years before falling into fascism.
Fear in this country IS very high and promoted to a needlessly high level by politicians who want to a)have more power and b)keep their power. They have extended their power into illegally keeping tabs on what people are doing. They have promoted the use of private militias like Blackwater (can you say "SS"?). They have done a lot of alarming things that do point down the road to fascism, but doesn't anyone remember our good friend Communism? Has it been so long we've forgotten the Cold War? You want to talk about your paranoia and government spying on its own people. Does the name Joe McCarthy ring any bells? Don't get me wrong, terrorism is a real dangerous threat to be taken very seriously, but don't think for a second they are more dangerous than the USSR was at the peak of the Cold War. Yes, Al Qaeda managed to do what the Russians never did, attack us on our own soil. That doesn't mean they couldn't have. The only thing that kept that from happening was that we knew where they lived and the cost of such an action would have meant an all out war most likely resulting in the destruction of Earth. I think any physical threat posed by terrorism pales in comparison to the literally planet ending threat of the Cold War.
During the many years of the Cold War, this country was gripped by fear. At some times worse than others. We had a serious domestic spying program. We had people in power who thought a world destroying conflict was right around the corner and had convinced large portions of the populace of it. Our whole foreign policy was geared towards fighting it. The good news is we got through it without devolving into fascism. We took some hits to our democracy and still stood. In many of the countries where fascism took root it was a direct result of anti-communist sentiment. We were almost pathologically anti-communist and still didn't go off the deep end. We had some fascist-like policies and practices, we still do, but still in the general framework of a democracy.
Please don't take this as praise for how we reacted to Communism or how we are reacting now to terrorism. I think we were and are far too heavy handed and are going against the spirit of reason and rule of law that this country was founded on. My point is that even if you, like me, think the Bush administration's handling of this current situation borders on criminal, it doesn't mean we're headed towards a fascist state. If we can get through the paranoia of the Cold War, I'm sure we can weather this with our democracy intact. That is, provided we pay attention...
Sdtk.: Sting - "Russians" or anything by Rage Against the Machine