The past few days have been awfully dark – the kinds of days where daylight never truly came. And, records were broken in terms of rainfall – a whopping 3.32 inches in 24 hours, and subsequent flooding here in our fair city. To add to the soggy dreariness, this morning’s news reported that those who support the Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump are “mostly non-college educated whites”. No real surprise there, I suppose – as he over the course of his campaign has insulted just about anyone with skin color other than traditional Euro-pink. This caused me to reflect on how effectively the fear-induced fury of uneducated citizens can radicalize and polarize the political playing field. I read this great quote by Isaac Asimov today:
“There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge’.
A diagram in the form of a horseshoe, drawn by my high school social studies teacher, floated to the surface of my foggy brain. At the extremes were found the most totalitarian of philosophies; Fascism and Communism. Although on opposite ends of the “spectrum”, in actuality as well as practice, the expression of either is almost identical in how it is experienced – both are rigid and brutally enforced belief systems. So, calling it a spectrum is pretty much a misnomer, as they are essentially two slightly different takes on the same thing. It was a powerful visual revelation – I don’t even recall the teacher’s name, but I will never forget his diagram.
Merriam-Webster’s definition of Fascist: “a political philosophy, movement, or regime (as that of the Fascisti) that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition”
You probably wonder where I’m going with this, but I’m going on the assumption that sometimes a vignette can consist of a pattern – however absurd. And I do admit, this is more of a mental than a visual one. Almost to the day, 77 years after Kristallnacht, Mr. Trump publicly declared that muslims should be marked, so they can be identified. Just like Hitler did with the jews. His knuckle-dragging followers are apparently supporting this, as somehow they equate followers of islam with ISIS, as indeed their Leading demagogue suggests they are. Isn’t this interesting? Like ISIS, Mr. Trump finds his most ardent and willing supporters in those of limited intellectual capacity – those who accept without thought or question. Essentially, here is one fascist criticizing other likeminded fascists. Both Trump’s suggestions and ISIS’s actions echo the base behavior of the civilian nazi sympathizers from the 1930’s, who joined in with the SA on that dreadful night not too long ago. It is most definitely a recurring pattern – as dreadful as the weather outside. Neither happy nor beautiful, but nevertheless a mental vignette worthy of some thought. What occupies your mind this week?
UPDATE: November 23, 2016 – after the unthinkable happened… My dear friend Suss sent me an article from Dagens Nyheter (a major Swedish newspaper) which was essentially a tribute to the same teacher I could not remember the name of when I wrote this. I was beyond thrilled to read it! Lars-Erik Hedin was a true original. Judging from the article, his wisdom made an impression on others too. I’m so glad he didn’t have to live to see what we’ve done . What just happened would have represented his worst nightmare – the one he kept warning us about – the collapse of western democracy.