Ross Douthat of the New York Times recently asked the question, “Is Donald Trump a Fascist?” Douthat used Umberto Eco’s seven hallmarks of fascism to argue that while Trump fits some of the criteria he’s not really a fascist at heart.
That we are having this type of discussion about a serious contender for the U.S. presidency is mind-boggling. Perhaps an even more important question to consider — and one that is arguably more disheartening — is how so many Americans can adamantly support Trump’s candidacy.
Certainly, there are dark attitudes and impulses in all of us. In our collective national psyche, that darkness seems to be spreading.
Lost in the horror of the mass shootings in San Bernardino was a suggestion made by Trump the day before that to combat ISIS, “you have to take out their families.” More disturbing than the fact that a presidential candidate would suggest killings like this, was the reaction of many on the far fringes of the right. Here are just a few of the comments from a story on the topic that appeared on Breitbart:
“Hey, back in the old days it was common practice to take out the entire family, by doing so you guaranteed a family member could never come after you in the future. Trump nails it again.”
“They kill innocent people. Their families are fair game....”
“Hooray for Trump! He's going to protect the American public, unlike Obama...... who loves the enemy.”
“Well, when you see Jihadist and ISIS adults training babies to cut off heads and stuff...these children by the time they reach 8 or 9 years old are terrorists.”
“Exactly, Mr. Trump! The Muslims need to be eradicated.”
In the aftermath of the shooting, Trump called for a complete shutdown of Muslims entering the U.S. Unlike his call for revenge killings, which was largely ignored by the media, this one set off a firestorm of coverage and commentary — the vast majority in condemnation, but some supporting the idea. Despite its controversy, the idea is resonating with many GOP primary voters, demonstrating again why the question of fascism needs to be asked.
“Close ALL borders, land, air and sea until this Radical Jihad Muslim crap is annihilated.”
“Just proves that democrats are so stupid they would vote for their own destruction..”
“The Muslim ban is not optional at this point.. 25% of Islam wants us dead.”
“One has got to question the sanity of those who naively think importing Muslims into America is not suicidal..”
“Trump is right. We should have never let a mosque be built or a Muslim in this country EVER.”
While the comments above — pulled from Brietbart and WND, two bastions of far right news and opinion — may not represent mainstream thinking, is this really the level of discourse Americans are comfortable with when it comes to addressing difficult global issues? Are those who are willing to applaud and support these types of positions and opinions that far from supporting and participating in actions that match these words?
Certainly, there are dark attitudes and impulses in all of us. In our collective national psyche, that darkness seems to be spreading. Rather than doing all we can to defeat it, we seem to be embracing it and reveling in its power.
We have to do more than hope that this isn’t who we have become. We have to stand up and speak out.
It is a power based on fear, dogma, cynicism, intolerance and hate. It is a power that thrives by dividing, demeaning and demanding obedience. Is that the power that we, as a people, want to project around the world? Can we do no better than to elevate our basest instincts to the level of national policy?
This is the germ of fascism that is infecting a growing number of Americans. It can’t be ignored or trivialized. When we, as a people, begin to accept and acclaim the words of a leader calling for the killing of innocents in our name then we, as a people, have some deep soul-searching to do.
We have to do more than hope that this isn’t who we have become. We have to stand up and speak out. We cannot assume that this is a passing threat. If we do, there is no telling where this darkness will lead us.