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By Bill Shunas
I am writing this well before the election has happened. I expect that the election will have resulted in some sort of chaos. I couldn't say if this was a major or minor chaos, but it won't be normal. If you step back and look at the Trump years it's all been pretty bizarre.
In addition to being bizarre, the Trump years have given us a window into what fascism looks like. There has been disregard for constitutional principles and rule by whim, opening the door to fascism. The President has taken the lead, and his toadies have followed. Consider. He has invited his supporters to beat up protesters and other political opponents. He has floated the idea of postponing the election. He has used his Attorney General (of all people) to violate the law. He has talked about not accepting legitimate ballots (such as mail-ins). He has praised armed supporters and their activities. He has illegally used the White House for partisan politics. He has pardoned convicted former aides. He has talked about rearranging the constitution to give himself three terms.
Trump is not the lone ranger in this kind of leadership. It is not uncommon to see countries drift toward fascism these days. This includes leaders who are elected as well as dictators and monarchs. There is Bolsonaro in Brazil. There is Sisi in Egypt. There is Orban in Hungary. There is Duterte in the Philippines. There is Erdogan in Turkey. And the poster boy for adding office time - Trump favorite Putin. Often the issues these people use to rally forces are similar. Appealing to problems of poverty and excessive immigration is popular. The appeal always comes by playing on the element of fear. The immigrants are here to take your job. The immigrants are committing crimes here. They'll attack your daughter. They're probably bringing in disease. They're spreading COVID. Lest you have doubts about immigrants being a problem, you do know that the government is in a deep state being run by a cabal of pedophiles. That's this country. Other semi-fascist states have their own made-up problems to keep their supporters active.
One of the characteristics of fascists is that the issues on which they build support don't have to be true. Actually falsehood probably sells better. You can give your followers a nice belief in something. Whether it's immigrants or the deep state or ethnic superiority it's something they can rally around. The right wing talking points are appealing to many, especially the fear of immigration. European countries are the destination of many immigrants fleeing war zones. Millions have fled home as a result of wars facilitated by the United States in the Middle East. Now they're coming to the shores of Europe, giving right wingers an issue on which to create the fears needed to access support. It shows in the increasing power of the Right in Europe.
Meanwhile, at home we have to deal with seemingly impossible situations and choices. Stress walks the land. We have parents going through the agony of deciding if they should send their children to school and have them risk the virus or keep them at home and retard the education they need to make it in this world. If that agony isn't enough, the economy has fallen apart. Jobs are lost. Rents and mortgages can't be paid. Health care is lost. And the Black Lives Matter Movement has exposed racial injustice and police out of control. That is a good thing, but it is another hit on the stress bar. Meanwhile the climate crisis is hitting home. All these things and hanging like a shroud over it all is COVID-19.
This has left many people feeling overwhelmed. It becomes borderline too much to handle. Those who have supported the cause for peace and justice for most of our lives are not immune to this feeling of too much to handle. Just because you do the right thing doesn't mean that it's easy. In fact it's usually hard. That's the nature of the beast.
For what it's worth let me relate a personal anecdote. This was a different fear and danger than COVID Life, but it gets to my attitude. When I was helping out at the Gainesville 8 trial. Wow that was almost fifty years ago. So at that trial there was a lot of intimidation coming from the government. Legally there was a gag order for those of us who were "in concert" with the defendants. We (at least myself) were intimidated. I felt like it feels today to people facing COVID Life and the likes of people like Trump. Back then, facing up to the government was difficult and awesome. Then I heard a speech by VVAW's Tony Russo. He began, "I am "in concert with the Gainesville 8 . . ." What a concept! I was probably still intimidated, but what the fuck. Just do it. Just live it. This is not the same thing as fighting the good fight today with a pandemic hanging around our thoughts, but there is a similarity. When the opposition seems too powerful and overwhelming you have to say "fuck it" and go from there. It's tougher nowadays on individuals, but choices are limited.
Bill Shunas is a Vietnam veteran, author, and long-time VVAW member.