Friday, October 20, 2017

I don't know how to fight nationalism nor fascism

In school, I was taught that Germany turned to fascism because the country was economically devastated, because people didn't have enough to eat, because they were desperate, because conditions were extreme. I was taught that, had these things not happened, Germany wouldn't have lost its collective mind and murdered several million people.

For many years since, every time I've studied a time when people have flirted with nationalism or fanatical religion, or seen it happening in other countries, I've thought, well, things are dire there, people are scared, maybe justifiably so. Some economic stability and education will take care of this and they'll stop this nonsense as a result.

I don't believe it anymore. I'll never believe it again. Because of what I'm seeing right here in my own country. Nationalism - fascism - is rampant, not just in marches but in casual conversations on Facebook and over lunch and dinner tables. People are saying, explicitly, proudly, that criticism of the President should be utterly unacceptable, that people should be forced to stand for patriotic music, that police are justified in killing unarmed black men, and on and on. There's a constant denial of science and a continually deriding of public schools. There is an insistence that one religion is right and every other religion isn't just wrong, but is a threat. The majority of white people in the USA who have at least some college education and voted in November 2016 voted for Donald Trump. The majority of white WOMEN in the USA who have at least some college education and voted in November 2016 voted for Donald Trump. That he has been a sexual predator in the past - and bragged about it - didn't matter to those voters. That he blames sexual assault in the military because women were admitted into the military - didn't matter to those voters. That he ripped of several hundred people via his "university" and had to settle for many millions of dollars didn't matter. That he lied about Barack Obama, disrespected Gold Star families and military heroes, and said vile things about women didn't matter.

And none of this support for him is because white people are economically devastated, because they don't have enough to eat, because they are desperate, because conditions are extreme.

Quite frankly, I'm not trying to figure it out anymore. Because I don't care. I'm tired of their belief in fake news despite the mountain of reality proving it wrong. I'm tired of the double standard regarding the horrible man in office now and the very respectful, honorable one he replaced. I'm tired of their "I'm not a racist, but obviously white people are better and history shows us that" nonsense. No, I'm not going to reach across the table. No, I'm not going to listen. I'm done.

Geesh, even George W. Bush is worried.

Extreme nationalism has no signs of slowing down in Europe. It's also happening in Turkey and the Phillippines and India and Russia. People are feeling militant about their native languages and what they perceive as their national culture.

And people in the USA are embracing it as well.

So... now what? Education doesn't work to change their minds. Facts don't work to change their minds. These people do not have any patience or attention to detail, and they balk at the idea of time and deliberation it takes to learn and make important decisions, like a nuclear deal with Iran. They want simplistic, almost childlike emotional and very quick answers, answers that feel good rather than are based on any study or fact.
What to do?

Slaves were not freed in the USA because a majority of slave owners were convinced that slavery was wrong. Nazis were not defeated in Germany because a majority of Nazis and their sympathizers changed their minds. It took violence. It took devastation. It took an incredible amount of death.

I don't want violence. Or devastation. Or death. I do not romanticize nor desire any of that.

The victories of the civil rights movement did not happen by winning over racists. People didn't' vote for it - the courts and the Executive Branch listened to those supporting civil rights and did what was right, even if it wasn't popular with millions of people - maybe a majority of people. But we don't have that on our side now.

I've marched twice in Portland, once for women, once for science. I've been attending city council meetings since before the election; I want to keep my eye on the city council to make sure they aren't up to any shenanigans, like trying to cut an essential service or giving developers sweet heart deals. I've attended four public meetings with my state or national legislators, making sure right-wingers aren't showing up in greater numbers at any event and so that I can listen first hand to their messages. I've joined the official local arm of the Democratic Party, because I very much want to keep the party fighting for social justice, fighting for abortion rights, fighting for workers' rights, fighting for civil rights, fighting for the issues that affect people on a daily basis. I write the news media every time they get lazy in their reporting, every time they drop the ball in an interview with a member of the GOP.

But nothing changes. The fascist march continues.

Next week in Idaho, at Boise State University, there will be a presentation on how Idahoans organized a successful counter-movement to white supremacists in Idaho. According to the web site,  the presenters will "explain how people united around a variety of strategies that resulted in many victories--culminating in 2000 with an Idaho jury’s civil judgment against the Aryan Nations for $6.3 million that bankrupted it. The decades-long campaign for human rights--and to check the threat of the white nationalists, white supremacists and neo-Nazis--included passage of state legislation, support as allies for victims, comprehensive programs in the K-12 schools and colleges, public rallies and events, numerous press conferences and press releases condemning acts of hate, close working relationship with the police and prosecutors for aggressive prosecution of hate crimes, partnership with the faith community, statewide coordination with organizations and institutions for positive steps to advance human rights, commitment to the philosophy of non-violence and peace, and a pledge to never remain silent in the face of hate."

But what if the white nationalists are a populist movement that doesn't see itself as "white nationalists", even as they espouse similar statements? What if parents in those K-12 schools and universities block programs that encourage understanding and deliberation and, instead, promote anti-science curricula and a one-sided story of history that glorifies Western Europe alone?  What if the police and faith communities are part of the problem in creating intolerance and division?

I'm going to keep fighting, non-violently. I'm going to keep talking. People are in danger - particularly people who aren't white like me. My country is in danger. But I still believe in the ideals of my country and want to continue to live them and try to promote them.

But I also admit that the idea of buying a ranch in a remote location and living the rest of my days taking care of abandoned horses and providing tent space to people traveling the world by motorcycle, and cashing in on my privilege and giving up on humans in general, is sounding better and better.

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