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Jan
04
2017
Appeared in Free Inquiry, vol 37 issue 2

OP-ED

This Is Not a Drill

GRETA CHRISTINA

This is not a drill. We are looking at the very real possibility—even the likelihood—of the rise of fascism in the United States. We need to take action, and we need to do it now.

Before you dismiss this as hysterical hyperbole, stay with me. The evidence strongly suggests that this is true. If I’m right, strong action needs to be taken now: we don’t have time to wait and see. And if I’m wrong, taking action now is still a good idea.

I’m writing this on November 18, 2016. As of this date, President-elect Donald Trump has named a known white supremacist and white nationalist, Steve Bannon, to be his chief strategist. He’s picked Jeff Sessions to be his attorney general, a man so racist he couldn’t get approved to be a federal judge. Since the election, there has already been a major upsurge in hate crimes aimed at immigrants, black people, LGBT people, Muslims, women, and Jews, with the perpetrators explicitly using swastikas and Nazi language—and explicitly saying they were motivated and emboldened by Trump. During the campaign, Trump egged on this behavior; since the election, he’s issued a single, lukewarm statement, not condemning it, not disavowing it, but simply saying “Stop it.” And perhaps most chillingly, Trump is making plans to follow through on his campaign promise and begin a registry of Muslim immigrants. Anyone who knows history knows where that is leading.

This just scratches the surface. For one thing, it only addresses actions Trump has taken in the ten days since the election. If you want more thorough documentation of Trump’s fascistic tendencies, Google “Trump fascist Reddit” and look at the document titled “A Final Response to ‘Tell Me Why Trump Is a Fascist.’” There is no reason to think he won’t follow through on these statements and actions. He’s already started.

This is not a drill.

If you’re still not convinced, talk with historians. We skeptics love to listen to experts: we don’t automatically take their word, but we understand that they have knowledge we don’t, and we give their conclusions greater weight. And there are experts on this. Historians who study fascism and the rise of the Third Reich usually roll their eyes when progressives call someone a fascist or a Nazi. They are not rolling their eyes now. Many are saying, “Yes—this is what the beginning of the Third Reich looked like.” Many have pointed out that the Third Reich didn’t start out putting Jews in concentration camps. They gradually dialed up the rhetoric, the oppression, the violence, and the slaughter. They tested the waters, found out what level of fascism people were willing to accept, foisted that on them—and once that had been accepted and normalized, they dialed it up again. They made Jews wear stars, took away their rights, egged on vandalism and violence against them, moved them into ghettos, moved them into camps. It doesn’t start out looking like blatant fascism—until it does, and then it’s too late.

Many historians have pointed out that the denial, the rejection of the evidence, the stubborn insistence that it could never happen here, the seemingly moderate insistence that we “wait and see” are also part of the pattern. Again, fascist leaders turn up the heat gradually, making it easier to continue denying and ignoring and minimizing—until the most vile atrocities humanity can devise seem normal.

We know how this starts. It’s starting now. It makes no sense to say, “It could never happen.” It happened less than a century ago to people who also said, “It could never happen here.”

We don’t have time to wait and see. We don’t have time to give the new administration a chance. If we dismiss the early signs of fascism, by the time it becomes obvious it will be too late.

We have to resist. And we have to do it now.

There is action we can take. We can donate money to organizations that protect civil liberties or that support and defend the people most in danger under the Trump regime: black and brown people, LGBT people, women, Muslims and ex-Muslims, immigrants. We can call or write our senators and Congresspeople. We can make our humanist communities safer and more welcoming to the people most in danger. We can do coalition work with other resistance movements, participating in their work or supporting it. We can write letters to the editor. We can press our local officials to make our cities into sanctuary cities. We can protest. We can talk with our families, friends, colleagues. Very importantly, we can listen to the people who are most in danger under the new regime—really listen, the kind of listening where we stop talking, the kind of listening where we let go of our preconceptions and make ourselves willing to accept difficult truths and change our minds. We can listen to the people who are in the most danger when they say what’s happening, what they expect to happen, what they fear, what they need. Oppressed people are also experts, the experts in their own lives and oppression. And we can continue donating, calling, writing, organizing, protesting, speaking, listening—for as long as this lasts, whether that’s months or years or decades. We can keep up the pressure, the volume, the resistance. We can refuse to accept fascism as normal.

And if I’m wrong? If this isn’t Hitler but instead is Reagan, or Reagan times Bush times Bush Jr.? If all we’re looking at is a racist, misogynist, homo­phobic, transphobic, immigrant-phobic, science-denying, hard-Right Republican administration for four years, plus however many years of cleaning up the mess? So what? What harm is done by resisting that? The steps toward fascism are worth resisting not just because they lead to fascism but because they are oppressive, bigoted, damaging, and hateful. What possible harm could be done by saying to ourselves, “I don’t know if this is the rise of fascism, but whatever it is, it’s horrible, and I’m going to do everything in my power to stop it”?

We are skeptics, so we need to face reality. We are humanists, so we need to take action when human beings are in danger. We of all people do not want to be the ones standing in the rubble when it’s over, insisting to anyone who will listen that we didn’t know.



Greta Christina is an author, blogger (at The Orbit), and speaker. Her latest book is The Way of the Heathen: Practicing Atheism in Everyday Life (Pitchstone Publishing, 2016).

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