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October 23, 2016
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Your counter-fascism toolkit

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. As we develop centeredness, 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” and “Them,” and we should muddle those borders whenever possible. (This means resisting the strong temptation to dehumanize and belittle those with whom we disagree on this issue or that, 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.

[This is the last in Mendler’s series of op-ed columns on fascism.]