I used to wonder: What is fascism? I realize most eight-year-olds don’t spend their time puzzling over such matters, but I was not your typical kid. I used to save news clippings of super serious events in a Girl Scout Handbook. A baby repeatedly bitten by rats, a slew of kids mowed down by a drunk driver, Beth Ann Mott—a girl who was snatched and later her body recovered. I wasn’t obsessed, yet I dwelled with these things, like how I reread The Diary of Ann Frank, always pausing near the end to contemplate: In spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart.
I think there was a bit of the time traveler in me, the history detective. If only we could go back in time and “fix” things or jump over a particularly devastating moment. Change the trajectory, the course of human events. Rewind that moment in the opening intro to Wide World of Sports where the skier flies out of control, crashing—send them back to the slopes, in pursuit of victory.
I just couldn’t wrap my head around the word, fascism. Was this communism, which I’d heard a lot about during the Cold War years, but yet had no idea what exactly it was? I read in class about dictators and how America threw off the yoke of tyranny and fought for our independence. Good bye King George and taxation without representation.
Later I learned about the Holocaust. Again if only I’d been there, I would have stood up for the Jews, I would have been like Corrie Ten Boom in The Hiding Place; I would have protected Jews even if it meant I’d go to jail or a concentration camp. How in the world did the German people let this happen? What kind of person let’s other people, the government skin other people, gas millions, crush an infant’s skull?
Obviously I did normal stuff too; I played four square and converted big refrigerator boxes into playhouses. Yet at night when my kiddy insomnia took over, I’d pull out the Girl Scout Handbook from the back of my closet, opening the pages to a news clipping. My book of sorrows. (see an earlier blog post on this subject)
After this election I mentally revisited these questions: What is fascism? How can people be so indifferent? How does history allow this to happen?
Are you tired of all the analogies to Hitler, to Brown Shirts, to purges of certain populations? Sorry, but not sorry. Steve Bannon, Kris Kobach, Rudy Giuliani. And, this is just 6 days. It seems as if we will all have to get used to the registering of Muslims, deportations, Hillary getting locked up, attacks on “liberal” media, the smoke screen of “law & order” impacting Blacks, terrorists, protestors, the rollback of gay and transgender rights. And, we haven’t even gotten to the Supreme Court and the possible damage there.
Is it really so hard to imagine? To see myself having to stand up? Or, worse of all, to rationalize, normalize, to just let it go because what can one person do anyway. What if I turn out to be like those people who lived within sight of the smokestacks, who saw everyday wisps of white smoke, who told themselves that that foul odor would eventually go away.