That was the easy part

By SKIP MENDLER

I started out 2006 knowing that at year’s end I would be one of three things: either (a) satisfied with the ways things were going politically in this country, (b) dead or (c) Canadian.

I’m glad to report that the result, as near as I can tell at the moment, has turned out to be (a). Not that I am completely satisfied, mind you, or think that we are anywhere near out of the woods yet—oh no, far from it. But we did manage to step away from the cliff that was looming before us, and resist the urge to take that free-falling plunge into out-and-out fascism. The November elections provided such stunning repudiations of the Bush regime and its supporters that I am allowing myself some guarded optimism. We might yet be able to restore some balance and functionality to what has become a deeply dysfunctional political system.

But what we just went through—well, that was the easy part. Truth to tell, the progressive forces in this country can only take limited credit for the Republican defeat. Thanks to the rhetorical and personal excesses of folks like Rush Limbaugh, Rep. Foley, Sen. Allen and others—along with the Bushites’ perverse determination to “stay the course,” despite the increasing clarity with which the American people perceived the true extent of the debacle in Iraq—it’d be fair to say that the GOP actually defeated itself quite handily. It yet remains to be seen how well progressives and Democrats will be able to capitalize on the Republican squandering of the public trust.

And that threat of fascism that I alluded to in my last column—well, it’s still there. Weakened, perhaps, but still there.

A question might have popped up in your mind: “‘Fascism?’ What do you mean, ‘fascism’?” There’s a great essay available on the internet by Laurence Britt, entitled “Fascism, Anyone?”, in which he distills out 14 common characteristics of fascist regimes. (There’s a page that illustrates and expands nicely on each of these points, at oldamericancentury.org/14pts.htm ).

These include “powerful and continuing nationalism,” “disdain for human rights,” “supremacy of the military,” “controlled mass media,” and so on. As you read through the list, you may be struck by two facts:

1. We’re not quite there yet.

2. But it wouldn’t be at all hard to get there.

So the next challenge for us between now and 2008 is to find ways to counteract fascist-leaning trends in each of these 14 areas, and also to address social conditions like economic imbalance, ignorance, insecurity, disempowerment and fear that allow fascist ideologies to take root and grow within a society. That’s going to be a bit harder than the political campaigns just waged, since we’re talking about addressing deeper social trends. Fortunately, looking at the problem through the lenses of these distinct, but interconnected, issues makes the job more comprehensible, and there are good organizations involved in most, if not all, of those areas.

So here’s a resolution for the New Year: “Help prevent the further rise of American fascism.” Check with me in 52 weeks, and we’ll see how we did.

Oh, and by the way: next year at this time, I do not intend or expect to be posting from Ottawa… but we’ll see. Happy New Year to you all!

P.S. Italian novelist Umberto Eco wrote a similar, but very different, essay about fascism, called “Fourteen Ways of Looking at a Blackshirt,” which is also available on the internet, and also very much worth reading and contemplating. Just do a web search on the terms “fascism fourteen” to find links to both the Eco and Britt essays, and related commentary.