Over the last few months I have been revisiting research I did a long time ago on fascism. Pinochet’s Chile, Sukarno’s Indonesia, Montt’s Guatemala, Hitler’s Germany and beyond. I’ve spent time poring over the accounts of the survivors, the details of the crimes, the descriptions of the torture, of the camps, of the dehumanization, the cruelty, the terror, the photos of the train cars headed to concentration camps, the mass graves, the massacres, the piles of corpses. And reading through the accounts of people who knew things were going in this direction, that something ghastly was being done to other people, yet did nothing, not even raised their voice when they had the chance.
Sadly, I have come to believe that it is, once again, reasserting itself globally and more overtly. And it isn’t just in incendiary speeches from the US president or others who stoke the flames of racism, and scapegoat and demonize the poor, the immigrant, the marginalized, or the oppressed. In recent days, I have seen far right trolls on social media sharing memes with gruesome photos of the deceased in Kenosha. Photos mocking them, memes celebrating it, and cheering on more of the same, and worse. From my research, I realized that this is how it all started. How fascism became normalized in those societies that fell to its barbarism. A level of callous dehumanization that cannot be sated. Cannot be reasoned with. And that, when joined with state agencies, becomes a force that is lethal and next to impossible to stop. I can tell you, the research has taken an emotional and spiritual toll, and led to many sleepless nights.
There are times when history feels quickened. When the merciless maw of barbarism cannot be avoided. But there are moments every step along the way which give us a window of reprieve. A chance at redemption. A space to build solidarity with others of like mind and spirit. Others who cannot stand silent or paralyzed while the heel of ruthless hatred stamps out our very humanity. It is up to us to seize those moments when we can, because they can often lead us toward preventing unthinkable atrocities. I believe this is one of those moments, but I also believe that it is rapidly fading away.
Previously published on Kenn Orphan, August 29, 2020
The Empty Theatre
Media personality figure and former prosecutor, Kimberly Guilfoyle, perhaps gave the most crazed speech at the Republican National Convention. In a shrill tone, she repeatedly claimed that Joe Biden and the Democrats are socialists. This is how far down the rabbit hole the American political landscape has fallen. If they are socialists, they are the worst ones in living memory.
After all, Wall Street heaved a sigh of relief when Biden was nominated, and again when he picked Kamala Harris. And Biden has vowed to veto Medicare for All and Green New Deal policies. While those things aren’t necessarily socialist, they are far more left than Biden or Harris’ politics. In truth, any socialist would laugh at the notion of these candidates being one of their own.
But this doesn’t matter in American politics. It never has. And this is all part of the delusion. Both ruling parties are plutocratic in nature. Both are capitalist. And both support American militarism and imperialism, with varying degrees of minute difference.
Guilfoyle, like Nick Sandmann, the smirking MAGA hat wearing kid who mocked a Native American elder in Washington DC, also brought up “cancel culture.” It has become a hot topic for these types, which is rich given the fact that they are giving speeches before millions of people carried by every corporate, national news outlet.
But what struck me most about Guilfoyle’s speech was the pitch. It was unhinged to a degree I have seldom seen in American politics. And I have seen a lot. Of course, she was a television personality, which has its own theatrical melodrama. But before that, she was a prosecutor. An astonishing fact that should make any sane person shudder. And she is now the partner of one of Trump’s sons. So the stark nepotism is remarkable in and of itself. But it was the fanatical look on her face which took me aback the most. It was the look one sees in the faces of cult followers. And all of it has been normalized to such an extent that too many Americans simply shrug things like this off.
To date, over 180,000 American have died from Covid-19. This is the most for any nation. A quarter of the entire world’s deaths, and the US only represents 4.25% of the planet’s population. It is facing an economic downturn not seen since the Great Depression. Millions of Americans have lost their jobs, millions may lose their homes due to an inability to pay rent or mortgages, and millions have lost health insurance because the nation has tied healthcare to employment. It is a time where uprisings against systemic racism and police brutality are being met with more police brutality and murderous rightwing militias. And like the rest of the world, it is facing enormous ecological catastrophes on the horizon from climate change. In fact, thousands are reeling from fires in the west and the aftermath of a hurricane in the south. But to people like Guilfoyle, Donald Trump has done the best job ever, and is the only hope Americans have against all of its enemies, foreign and domestic.
Guilfoyle ended her bizarre speech by yelling “the best is yet to come” before an empty theatre. And perhaps this is what best sums up the madness of this historical moment. The political class is playing to an empty theatre because most Americans cannot afford to attend the play, or are too sick, or too over-worked, or are not white enough to be admitted. But this class has never really paid much attention to the audience to begin with, so for them, little to nothing has changed.
Previously published on Kenn Orphan, August 28, 2020
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