The Doors to Fascism Have Opened

Pandemic Diary Entry # 53

July 27, 2020

As election time grows closer my social media threads are filled with screeds from a whole swath of people in this country worried about socialism, they should be far more concerned with fascism.

I have no idea where this fight against the concept of socialism began in such earnest in the US, but I am rather sure it comes from divisive politics. In the past it was fear of Marxist socialism, but in 2020 socialism in America paints a very different picture.

Karl Marx’s point was that world history is really the history of people struggling with economic reality and treating each other whether nicely or not, based on that reality. In The Communist Manifesto, Marx and Friedrich Engels wrote, “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles, [contests between] freeman and slave, patrician and plebeian, lord and serf, guild-master and journeyman, in a word, oppressor and oppressed.”

Many Americans have forgotten that these very economic inequities in our country were often righted by what they would consider as socialism. This movement gave us the eight hour workday, in conditions that, while hardly ideal, were no longer deadly. Socialist movements also gave us child-labor laws, unemployment insurance, and women’s suffrage. Ideas we consider our rights in the 21st century had to be fought and won by the sansculottes of their time, even socialists.

Now consider how the US has an abundance of socialism in our day to day lives: public education, public transportation, fire departments, police departments, public libraries, the US military, public roads & highways, Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid, public hospitals, the Veterans Affairs Administration, public universities, public parks and most everything else that begins with the word public.

So can we get away from vilifying the word socialism, and realize the greater threat to our way of life at this moment is fascism.

The current occupant of the White House has sent Federal troops to Portland, Oregon against the wishes of the local governments. He threatens to send troops to other cities including the city across the Bay from me, Oakland, California. Think about that, our government is rolling out troops, shooting protestors with impact munitions that are lethal enough to send them to the hospital, all to stop a few people from spray painting a federal building.

These anonymous troops from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) are being deployed under the DHS authority to protect federal property. This deployment of forces frightens me in that it comes with increased domestic intelligence operations. Lawfare has pointed out that the DHS has a little-known intelligence arm that has been authorized to collect information on people connected to threats to monuments and statues. This sweeping power was assigned to DHS following Trump’s redundant and ineffective monument-protection executive order.

It is redundant because a statute,( 117 Statute 772 Public law 108–29) created in May of 2003 states: “Whoever…willfully injures or destroys, or attempts to injure or destroy, any structure, plaque, statue, or other monument on public property commemorating the service of any person or persons in the armed forces of the United States shall be fined under this title, imprisoned not more than 10 years, or both.”

Many have pointed out that while Trump’s executive order gives the DHS power to investigate federal crimes and arrest people if appropriate, it does not give them the invidious authority to patrol our cities and detain people simply because they are hanging around a federal building or a military statue.

This is our country’s Reichstag moment. Under Hitler, as the German parliament burned, the Nazis said the fire was a vast left-wing conspiracy. Today we have people in the president’s inner circle defending the attrocities being perpetrated upon the protestors as justified by utilizing specious statements advocating that the protestors, whom are exercising their constitutional rights, are the problem.

According to a lawsuit filed by Oregon’s attorney general, Ellen Rosenblum, DHS agents “have been using unmarked vehicles to drive around downtown Portland, detain protesters, and place them into the officers’ unmarked vehicles”. The protesters are often not “technically” arrested, but they are also not told why they’re being picked up and held, “state law enforcement officers are not being consulted or coordinated with on these federal detentions” — leading to local police potentially wasting time on kidnapping calls “when federal agents snatch people walking through downtown Portland without explanation or identification.”

While a restraining order has been issued to stop force being used on journalists, a restraining order asking the troops to clearly identify themselves when seizing protesters and stop arrests without probable cause was rejected. There are presently four lawsuits filed to stop the over reach of these federal troops.

Oregon’s governor, Kate Brown, has called it “a blatant abuse of power,” and the city’s mayor, Ted Wheeler, has called it “an attack on our democracy.”

These acts, against the wishes of the leaders and members of the community is the essence of fascism.

In Timothy Snyder’s book On Tyranny the Yale History Professor titled chapter 6 Beware of paramilitaries. In the chapter Snyder points out that Nazi storm troopers began as security details, clearing the areas of Hitler’s opponents during his rallies. This butts up frighteningly close to what we witnesed on June 1st, when the current president used tear gas and the US military to clear Lafayette Square so he could hold a press conference.

Department of Homeland Security is drawing law enforcement officers from Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to send to cities where Trump deems that they are needed, which he proudly states are all cities that vote Democratic. While this may appear to be an acceptable practice, it is horrifying in that these troops are inculcated with fanatically right wing members. This atmosphere of white supremacy in the CBP can be traced to its inception in 1924, it has simply gone unnoticed by most Americans.

“It doesn’t surprise me that Donald Trump picked CBP to be the ones to go over to Portland and do this,” “It has been a very problematic agency in terms of respecting human rights and in terms of respecting the law.” — Representative Joaquin Castro, Texas.

“This is a classic way that violence happens in authoritarian regimes, whether it’s Franco’s Spain or whether it’s the Russian Empire,” “The people who are getting used to committing violence on the border are then brought in to commit violence against people in the interior.” — Timothy Snyder

While there has been violence in some of the protests, and yes Chicago has seen a considerable increase in violent crime in this period of unrest, in general, crime across America has gone down. The president’s comments about violence in America are not born out by FBI statistics. Sending unmarked, heavily armed military attachments into America’s cities is no way to handle the present situation.

If this country wants to control violence it needs a hard look at its gun laws. On February 27, the House passed a bipartisan universal background checks bill. The following day, the House passed another bill that aims to close the “Charleston loophole,” which would make it harder for those with a criminal record to bypass a background check and obtain a gun. Both of these have been sitting on Mitch McConnell’s desk where they apparently will never see the light of day again, this despite the fact that 64% of gun owners agree that the government needs to address gun violence.

Image from Crush Rush on Facebook

When I contemplate Snyder’s book another passage stands out: Modern tyranny is terror management.

This type of tyranny will lead to further violence, this time, perpetrated by the police, it is inevitable, and in researching I found that I was not the only one that held this belief.

An internal department memo obtained by The New York Times shows, the officers sent into Portland’s streets were not trained to handle crowds. “If this type of response is going to be the norm,” the memo states, “specialized training and standardized equipment should be deployed to responding agencies.”

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf urged the president to “stop slandering diverse, progressive cities like Oakland in his racist dog whistles,” adding, “We are not experiencing any civil unrest right now, but I can think of nothing more likely to incite it than the presence of Trump-ordered military troops.”

King Turner, a protestor in Portland, spoke to local news affiliate KPTV about the demonstrations, suggesting that their presence, not the protesters’, escalated the situation. “I’ve just had enough. When they started snatching people [off] the street, it becomes apparent that the federal government is just … not in check,” Turner said. “It was even tampering down, and then the feds get involved and lit it up. It’s like throwing gas on a fire.”

Even the United Nations has stepped in. “Peaceful demonstrations that have been taking place in cities in the U.S. such as Portland really must be able to continue without those participating in them and also the people reporting on them, the journalists, risking arbitrary arrest or detention, being subject to unnecessary disproportionate or discriminatory use of force or suffering other violations of their rights.” — Liz Throssell, U.N. Human Rights Office.

What are we afraid of? These are Americans for heaven’s sakes. They are in the streets protesting the state of affairs in this country, they are not terrorists, they are not gun toting wackos, these are walls of Moms and dads with leaf blowers, teaching their kids about free speech and preservation of an America they see in jeopardy.

When our own government begins to use scare tactics and military might to quell an uprising of voices, we are no longer a free society. If you think this does not affect you, think again.

“Unless America draws a line in the sand right now, I think we could be staring down the barrel of martial law in the middle of a presidential election.” — Ron Wyden, US Senator, Oregon.

Maureen Healey is the Chair of History at Lewis and Clark College in Portland

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Trivial Things

My Horoscope for today: Things aren’t as lost as you think. Like the proverbial glasses perched on your head, what you’re looking for is hiding in plain sight.

San Francisco weather: 61 degrees and cloudy

NYSE DOW opened at: 26533

NYSE DOW one year ago: 27247

Foreign word of the day: tingling

Spanish: hormigueo
Italian: pizzicare

OED word of the day: myriad (Chiefly Ancient History. Ten thousand; a set of ten thousand of anything; esp. a unit of ten thousand soldiers)

Days since Shelter In Place was initiated: 137

Reading: The End of White Politics by Zerlina Maxwell

Reading: Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace / Hagard Hawks and Paltry Poltroons by Paul Anthony Jones / Same Sex Love 1700–1957 by Gill Rossini

Studying On-line: History and Context of Russian Literature

Cases of Covid in the US: 4,234,140 Worldwide: 16.35 million

Covid Deaths in the US: 146,935 Worldwide: 649,225

Covid Recoveries Worldwide: 9.24 million

My Black and White Picture of the Day

Something Silly From the Internet:

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