By Bryant Grizzell
Fascism. It’s a scary sounding word with a dangerous meaning.
Since the invention of fascism in 1915, many nations have had their own struggles with fascism. Among them, famous names like Hitler’s Third Reich or Mussolini’s Fascist Italy evoke vivid memories of dark times. Many people suffered at the hands of state-sponsored bigotry, discrimination, and genocide, and many more were swept up in the fast moving political movements that led to such tragedies. Most of them didn’t even realize what was happening when it began. But it always begins the same way.
It starts during an exceptionally difficult time, when ordinary people are struggling to get by. Prices are high, wages are low, and people are angry and looking for a reason to blame. It quickly moves to the polls. A powerful politician tells the public that they have the solution to all of their problems, that only they can fix what is broken. But first, they have to get the votes, get the people on their side. To do this, they put someone else on the other side, typically a minority.
Now that the people have a scapegoat, they know who to be angry at. There becomes an ‘us’ and a ‘them,’ and the politician changes the message: that ‘they’ are causing the problems in society. People hate problem makers, and so they begin to discriminate against them. They insult them, demonize them, exclude them, and the politician allows that to happen. Sometimes, they even encourage it. The politician gets elected into office.
To fix the problem caused by ‘them,’ some sacrifices have to be made, and the first thing to go is the freedom of speech. The politician claims that in order to fix the problems in the society the people have to be unified, and to do that means there can only be one way to follow, one idea to agree with, one voice to hear, one truth to accept. The people give up their freedoms because they want things to get better, but by giving the politician their freedom, they allow things to get even worse.
Now, the politician has all the power they need, and they start fixing the problem. Their government roots out the ‘them’ from the people. They make laws that limit the rights and freedoms of the ‘them,’ make speeches where they insult and blame ‘them.’ Eventually, the people hate ‘them’ so much that they let the government remove ‘them’ from society. People who are part of the ‘them’ group are barred from their schools and offices, removed from restaurants and churches. As time goes on, ‘they’ are separated from the rest of the people and moved to isolated, desolate locations, and when that is not enough, the killing begins.
Fascism, by definition, is an ideology that calls for a government under the power of one all-powerful leader or party. It targets minorities and those deemed ‘less than’ and uses them as scapegoats to increase its influence over the masses. And that’s exactly what it needs to thrive: people. And when the people are divided and pitted against each other, life only gets worse.
In our modern day, there are many different parties and political figures who you can put your support behind. Can you think of someone who has ever claimed to have the answer to all the problems? Or one who places the blame on a certain group of people? How about one who calls for making policies that take rights away, or attacking certain minorities? Are you going to continue to support that person, even now that you know where it can lead?
We are all Americans. We are all human, despite what some may claim. We might have different colored skin, different religions, different beliefs, different genders, but we are all on the same team. It’s up to us to decide who can make America truly great in the eyes of the world. Is it all of our fellow Americans, or is it the politician who wants to divide us?
All opinions expressed in this article are exclusively the opinions of the author and not of the publisher, editor, or sponsor.
See also: The short anti political extremism film from the U.S. National Archives Don’t be a Sucker (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vGAqYNFQdZ4). Recommended start time: 2:07.