The in-laws from Virginia have gone--(incidentally, they loved Boise and promised they will be back)--and I can, at last, get working on a column I have been itching all summer long to write. This one here: "Fascism for Dummies."
By all rights, I should put it off one more week and dedicate some column space to the in-laws' stay. But alas ... nothing extraordinary happened. I get along with both Ed and Kathy just fine, so there were no drunken fist fights out on the front lawn. We didn't do or see much of anything that those of us who live here don't do or see often, even though it seemed to be a big treat for them. And lastly, nothing presented itself as an allegory for something else. So all in all, I see no potential for a column out of their visit and there is nothing stopping me from diving directly into today's subject. And here I go ... "Fascism For Dummies." Wheeee!
Frankly, this is a column that nobody should ever have to write. I can understand how communism may need a little explaining, as every country that ever took up communism as its guiding principle went about it a little differently. Same with socialism, same with third-world tribal oligarchies, same with monarchies, and same with what we consider true democracies. Honestly, can India's parliamentary behemoth, Italy's minestrone soup of political parties and our American system all be considered the same thing?
But even though fascism presented a slightly different face with every nationality that took it up back in its heyday, there was no mistaking it for anything else. The national differences and public operatics were merely cosmetic. At least in the beginning, Mussolini seemed to be a somewhat jolly fascist--a Falstaff, perhaps--while Hitler was his brooding cousin to the north, the Tannhauser of the two.
Yet almost 70 years ago, when millions of young American soldiers boarded the transports and sailed to Europe, they each and every one understood it wasn't a bunch of liberals they were on their way to fight. They understood they were up against the most intolerant, arrogant, vicious, oppressive, right-wing thugs that had ever cursed the Earth. They knew that fascism was the antithesis of everything liberalism represented, and that it would be a dark and dismal world indeed should those "superior" races accomplish their goals.
But that was then. Of late, the understanding of fascism has grown indistinct. Nearly everyone can be a fascist these days. All you have to do is have an opinion, take a stand or propose an agenda, and somebody, somewhere, is going to call you a fascist.
I trace the definitional fog back to when that butterball Jonah Goldberg (to whom I refer as the "slurper of copious portions of mayonnaise with his white bread") published his silly book, Liberal Fascism, which I am still proud to say I have not, nor ever will, read--thereby sparing my brain the corruption of countless little gray cells due to the decay and dismay that follows in the wake of any right-wing "idea." I'm willing to admit that I may be wrong, and that the disingenuous right has been confusing the issue long before that book came along, particularly since it's almost impossible for me to believe that Goldberg, as slow and dull as he is, could have been the source of any original concept. (Should anyone wonder what forces shaped little Jonah, it may help to know he is the son of Lucianne Goldberg, the ultra-conservative crone who advised Linda Tripp on how to get the most out of Monica Lewinsky's infamous blue dress. Remember? And given what we know of Goldberg's writing and critical thinking skills, having Lucianne as a mommy is the only explanation possible for him having a job that involves writing and thinking, yes?)
But the origins of the revisionism are now largely irrelevant. As we have learned from the Fox News experience, right-wingers are perfectly eager to believe any and every thing another right-winger tells them, even though when it comes to matters of a historical nature--or factual nature, as far as that goes--right-wingers are the last people anyone should ever believe. And increasingly, we are seeing the "F" word pop up on posters and placards in such ironic settings as "tea-bag" events, GOP rallies and among those shameful goons who have taken to disrupting town hall meetings. Nancy Pelosi is a fascist. Harry Reid is a fascist. Barney Frank is a fascist. And of course, President Barack Obama is a fascist. A stinking liberal socialist fascist, him with his stinking liberal socialist fascist ideas and all.
Now obviously, any person with an education and/or a brain knows how absurd this is. Furthermore, anyone blessed with either of those attributes would not need a listing of the more notable and overriding characteristics that you might expect to see in a proper fascist. In many ways, the same thing can be said about fascism that was once famously said about pornography--"I know it when I see it"--and for those who know what they are looking for, it's not crucial that they can name the separate and unique components.
But for those who don't know what they are looking for--as evidenced by their never seeming to know what they are talking about--such a listing might be helpful. The elements I include on this list are of a larger, hard-to-miss nature. J. "Flabby" Goldberg chose to focus on the sort of dumbfounding minutiae that implies, "Since some unverifiable number of Nazis were vegetarians, and since some unverifiable number of liberals are vegetarians, then ergo: liberals must be Nazis," whereas I don't believe a few Nazis' dietary practices is what they are best known for. (I said I haven't read Liberal Fascism ... which is not the same as saying I don't know some of the abysmal crap that's in it.)
Now, with such a large subject to pin down, I am obviously restricted by the space Boise Weekly makes available to me. Therefore, I must turn this into a two-part column. Next week, we shall delve into the specifics of what makes a fascist a fascist. For those who already know, please see if you can talk one or two of your more right-wing friends, neighbors and/or in-laws into reading this. Tell them that they are embarrassing not only themselves but all of America with their ignorance.
I mean, really ... can you imagine what WWII-vintage Poles and Frenchmen, Brits and Russians and Jews and Gypsies must be thinking of us when they hear that Americans are calling Barack Obama a fascist?