Let me start out by saying that I am not being completely fair, here. But fairness is not my point—warning is. The danger, I believe, is quite real, details notwithstanding.
What do we call a system of political belief whose adherent, among other things:
• “believes neither in the possibility nor the utility of perpetual peace. It thus repudiates the doctrine of Pacifism — born of a renunciation of the struggle and an act of cowardice in the face of sacrifice. War alone brings up to its highest tension all human energy and puts the stamp of nobility upon the peoples who have courage to meet it”
• “accepts life and loves it”
• “believes in holiness and in heroism; that is to say, in actions influenced by no economic motive, direct or indirect”
• believes that “the growth of empire, that is to say the expansion of the nation, is an essential manifestation of vitality, and its opposite a sign of decadence”
Or who accepts the truth of the following quotes:
• “We are trying to make up for that which you, in your criminal stupidity, have failed to carry out. By your parliamentarian jobbing you have helped to drag the nation into ruin. But we, by our aggressive policy, are setting up a new philosophy of life which we shall defend with indomitable devotion. Thus we are building the steps on which our nation once again may ascend to the temple of freedom.”
• “The first preventive measure was to lay down a programme which of itself would tend towards developing a certain moral greatness that would scare away all the petty and weakling spirits who make up the bulk of our present party politicians.”
• “By helping to lift the human being above the level of mere animal existence, Faith really contributes to consolidate and safeguard its own existence. Taking humanity as it exists today and taking into consideration the fact that the religious beliefs which it generally holds and which have been consolidated through our education, so that they serve as moral standards in practical life, if we should now abolish religious teaching and not replace it by anything of equal value the result would be that the foundations of human existence would be seriously shaken. We may safely say that man does not live merely to serve higher ideals, but that these ideals, in their turn, furnish the necessary conditions of his existence as a human being. And thus the circle is closed.”
• “Without a clearly defined belief, the religious feeling would not only be worthless for the purposes of human existence but even might contribute towards a general disorganization, on account of its vague and multifarious tendencies. “
Try these out on members of today’s American right—I doubt you will get much disagreement.
Yet these very same rightists get upset, start yelling about smear campaigns, when their opponents point out that much of what they believe veers towards fascism.
Well, if the shoe fits….
The first set of quotes is from the entry on fascism by Benito Mussolini with Giovanni Gentile in the Italian Encyclopedia of 1932. The second are from the second volume of Adoply Hitler’s Mein Kampf.
My father visited Germany in 1937 as a 13-year-old boy. He loved the country and the people, but was confused and shaken by what he saw. Here’s a picture he took. On the back, he wrote “’Heil Hitler’” 1937:
The clothes may be long out of fashion, but these people are no different from the average American. We, too, can be fooled into support of the most nefarious, unprincipled, and destructive regimes.