What Happens When (Enough of) a Democracy Doesn’t Want to Be One Anymore — and Never Really Did?
There’s a simple fact that I don’t think Americans are reckoning with. That Americans are maybe even capable of reckoning with. It’s this. They’re living in what’s becoming a fascist society. And that fact raises the simple question: how do you live in a fascist society?
Defying evil cannot be rationally defended. It makes a leap into the moral, which is beyond rational thought. It refuses to place a monetary value on human life or the natural world. It refuses to see anyone as superfluous. It acknowledges human life, indeed all life, as sacred. And this is why, as Arendt points out, the only morally reliable people are not those who say “this is wrong” or “this should not be done,” but those who say “I can’t do this.”
America’s not just in danger of having a fascist collapse. It’s having one. It’s bang in the middle of one. It’s not in the early phases — but in fact, beginning the later ones. The ones where concentration camps rise, and hatred spews from the head of a state, and papers are checked on public transport. How much more obvious could it get? How many more data points do you need? If this isn’t enough…what could be?
The institutions of bona fide fascism are rising in America. But what else did you think the fascists would do, except use their newfound power, money, and resources, to build them?
Maybe some of the answers you’ve come up with are things like: terrible people, moral weaklings, disgraces, and so on. Moral answers, in other words. That’s a start — and yet there’s a much simpler and more straightforward answer, that some part of you is still defending against, preventing you from saying or thinking. That answer is this. What kinds of people build camps and commit torture and genocide? Fascists do.
America is the canary in the coal mine of global collapse.
With challenges to Roe looming on the horizon, and with many US states having already denied access to abortion facilities and reproductive health services through other means, Romania’s experience shows what happens when women suddenly lose the right to control their own bodies. Without reproductive freedom, heterosexual sex turns into a game of “Russian roulette” for women, because they quite literally bear the consequences of any liaison. Indeed, Alabama’s new law goes further than Ceaușescu’s Romania, by eliminating even the exception for rape or incest.
It is very regressive for a democratic society to slide towards authoritarianism. One big reason for this change is fear. Donald Trump and Steve Bannon understood the psychological effects of fear and they weaponized it to take power. Consider the Facebook Cambridge Analytica data scandal, where data got into the hands of Bannon [who] used it to manipulate voters. With Trump’s campaign, it seems like they perfected the a strategy of fear mongering to manipulate people into some other type of reality.
Do you see what I mean a little bit? We are laggards, us Americans. Our definitions of what a high crime is are totally obsolete, way out of date. The fact that we Americans don’t consider modern ideas genocide, torture, hate, and fascism high crimes — but only 18th century concerns like obstruction and collusion — says to the world that we are not civilized people, that we have not really understood history, and that we have not really joined modernity. We are still backwards and behind — and, for us, that also means that our democracy is less robust, more fragile, that we are all the more vulnerable to extremists, lunatic, and fanatics, precisely because their malicious intentions and acts aren’t high crimes.