Will the real fascist please stand up?

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Julie Reeder
Julie Reeder

This week I listened to an interview on Public Broadcasting Service with Jason Stanley, a professor of philosophy at Yale and author of the book “How Fascism Works.” He defined fascism as an ideology based on power, loyalty and “fear of the other” where the other is defined ethnically, or by nationality or religion, and the leader represents “us.”

His position was that we are in danger of fascism by President Donald Trump. It was his assertion that the entire reason Department of Homeland Security went into Portland was not to protect their federal properties from being destroyed (as is their job) but rather it was President Trump’s political plan to provoke the rioters and create a scene of chaos and violence for the TV screens so that he could appear as the “strong man to protect you against opponents who threaten the values you hold dear.” Stanley is voicing a leftist position.

Stanley did not address the other cities where rioters and looters have been terrorizing those cities in the absence of federal officers but did point out that there can be a fascist social and political movement in a democracy, which is what we are seeing across the world, in the U.S. and Brazil.

Stanley states the press is undermining democracy from within. He said the goal is to undermine the institutions and create new fascist institutions. That was interesting to me because while he is thinking President Trump is doing that by DHS going into Portland, I am thinking the “left” is doing that because they want to change or tear down some of our basic institutions.

So, the “left” and the “right” are in fear of the other as fascist. Merriam Webster defines fascism as “A political philosophy, movement, or regime 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.”

The “right” believes the “left” is also practicing “identity politics” and exalting race and other identities above everything else – above individualism and suppressing opposition and ideas. A good example of this is what is happening with censoring of conservatives on social media and by attacks from ANTIFA.

An early Antifa example is the uprising and protesting at Berkeley when conservative radio talk host and author Ben Shapiro was scheduled to speak in 2017.

Antifa wanted to “cancel” Shapiro because his ideas did not align with theirs. It is classic “identity politics.” The “right” was in danger of being attacked by the “left.”

A recent example is Bernell Trammell, age 60, a dreadlocked activist known for carrying handmade signs through the streets reading “Vote Donald Trump 2020,” and posting them on his storefront. He was gunned down by an unknown assailant on his sidewalk last Thursday afternoon, police said, according to the NY Post. I doubt we will see protests or riots over Mr. Trammell’s death.

This week I heard another well-known lesbian woman podcaster that was talking about how she was being “canceled” by the “left” because she wasn’t acknowledging a person’s proper group or identity. She said she’s just tired of people being so demanding and sensitive. She was saying that people on the “right” have been far nicer and accepting of her.

The next thing to consider is intersectionality. This is a theoretical framework for understanding how aspects of a person’s social and political identities (e.g., gender, sex, race, class, sexuality, religion, ability, physical appearance, height, etc.) might combine to create unique modes of discrimination and privilege.

What strikes me about identity politics and intersectionality is what clinical psychologist Jordan Peterson points to, that the natural conclusion of intersectionality is individualism. Furthermore, to attribute to an individual the attributes of that community on the basis of their racial identity is called racism. As if they’re homogeneous. It’s the same with any group.

When you start identifying someone by all the groups they identify with, the possibilities are endless and at the end of it all is a unique individual.

We are all individuals and it’s antithetical to the idea of American individualism, where we believe that no matter who we are or where we came from that we can accomplish and go wherever our hard work will take us.

But somehow now, instead of being judged by our character as Martin Luther King Jr. spoke of, some in our culture are trying to reverse it and go backward. They are actually angry if you don’t recognize and identify someone based on their skin color, or their “gender.” Why can’t we just respect and honor everyone, no matter what their race, gender, class, religion, etc.?

It just seems like we are going backward.