Terry Lamphier: Grand experiment at risk
Terry Lamphier | Other Voices
“We have met the enemy and it is us” — Pogo comic strip
In the short run of history, presidents, good or bad, come and go (well, usually). Less so with riled up voters, conspiracy theorists and inflammatory talk show pundits. They continue from presidency to presidency and, yes, though they too may eventually pass, can America afford to wait?
There has been a lot of discussion about the sanity of our most recent president, but one has to wonder what sane person would want to be president in the current political atmosphere, with nearly half the electorate apparently willing to support, knowingly or unknowingly, a continuing drift toward fascism?
Not true? When Trump was first elected, there was much discussion about whether his demeanor and actions trended toward fascism, with liberals arguing the affirmative. Defenders hung their contrary arguments on illustrations of historic forms of fascism, concluding, rightly or not, that Trump did not meet classic historic examples (much like the debates on historic examples of socialist governments versus simple, non-ideological definitions of its actual principles).
A non-partisan analysis of fascism’s characteristics might lead readers to different conclusions. Microsoft Encarta 2003 (yeah, I know, ya can’t trust Microsoft because Bill Gates wants to inject everyone with tracking devices through vaccinations — thank you, Q-Anon, now shut up) offers these excerpts:
— It’s a “political ideology that seeks to regenerate the social, economic, and cultural life of a country by basing it on a heightened sense of national belonging or ethnic identity.”
— That “often presses for the destruction of elections, legislatures, and other elements of democracy.”
— “Is strongly associated with right-wing fanaticism, racism, totalitarianism, and violence.”
— “Fascist political parties and movements (have) capitalized on the intense patriotism that emerged as a response to widespread social and political uncertainty.”
— “Marxist historians … view fascism as a form of politics … adopted by governments to support capitalism and to prevent a socialist revolution.”
— “Fascists stand against all scientific, economic, religious, academic, cultural and leisure activities that do not serve their vision of national political life.”
— “May draw on religious beliefs.”
— “Asserts that the nation faces a profound crisis.”
— “May assert the need to take drastic actions against a nation’s ’inner’ enemies.“
According to Encarta, all fascist movements have three common characteristics: “anti-conservatism, a myth of ethnic or national renewal, and a conception of a nation in crises” (Encarta defines “conservatism” as “the idea that it is best to avoid dramatic social and political change”).
Regardless of whether Trump supporters consider themselves fascistic, the trend is there, with few Republicans refuting the rise of armed, rightwing nationalists who now believe they are saving the country by using violence. Some even say Capitol invaders weren’t Trump people but Antifa anarchists.
This kind of dissembling is not harmless free speech. It poses a threat to our nation, does not bode well for those entrusted with establishing responsibility for those who invaded and trashed our nation’s capitol (“Capitol-gate?”) and offers an easy out for radical conservatives.
Charges may range from hand-slap misdemeanor trespassing and the like all the way up to felonious sedition and maybe murder. The handling of these so-called fringe elements will have to be handled extremely professionally and transparently.
Too light a treatment will not act as a deterrent, and communities and government officials will likely face continuing and expanding violent confrontations nationwide to citizens and duly elected leaders (remember Nevada City).
Too heavy a hand without clear and understandable justification may only create martyrs for their warped cause — with the same results.
Make no mistake folks, we are a nation in crisis, with some rightwing media pundits continuing to twist and spin justification for violence. (An aside: I applaud The Union for truly attempting to provide balance, unlike another local media outlet.)
Some characterize the invasion of our seat of government as political theater akin to a drunken frat party (there is some truth to that). Others point to the legal definition of sedition and believe it is clearly applicable with its penalties of up to 20 years in prison. A partial and only temporary answer may lie somewhere in between.
Make no mistake, the invaders need to be held accountable to the law and our nation, but nothing will change if the charges and penalties are too soft or too harsh. We will have to hope one of our most cherished beliefs will prevail: justice. And maybe our grand experiment in democracy will survive.
Terry Lamphier lives in Grass Valley.
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