Springtime for Hitlers

We thought we understood fascism.

The American kind, anyway. The kind that almost consumed the country in the 1930s, as it had consumed others. The kind rooted in economic depression, in desperation, in opportunistic leadership. The kind rooted in fantasy, a quick fix to an unsolvable, unendurable crisis.

We thought we understood that.

We thought we understood that all problems are economic, when you cut through the bullshit. Healthy countries — economically healthy countries — don’t have these problems. We all get by, we all get along. We all have a roof over our heads.

We wuz wrong.

And thing is, we knew this. After all, we had lived through it. Still are.

We don’t talk about the Seventies much, as a culture. The Fifties, the Sixties, sure. The Eighties, the Nineties, definitely. The Aughts, soon enough. We don’t talk about them because there’s nobody around to talk about them, no defined generation that holds the decade as its touchstone, when it came of age.

Seventies teens are neither Boomers nor Gen X, culturally. Our decade is a joke. Our music is a joke. Our clothes are a joke. Our hair is a joke. Our teen years were a dumpster fire of popular culture.

They also happen to be the last deep breath America took before it shut down, the last moment of freedom before America turned again toward fascism. Not emergency fascism, not the fascism of economic desperation, but a deeper, more determined fascism: The fascism of impotency.

You’d know that if you had lived through it. You’d know that if you’ve spent your entire adult life, all forty years of it, living through the consequences of it. You had to be there. We were.

What happened, the proximate cause of our impotency, the spark of fascism as we know it now, is that we lost Vietnam.

If you’re 16 when Saigon falls in 1975, well, it’s just another event of an eventful decade. You’ve already had your wage-price freeze, your gas crisis — crises, more than one — your Watergate. Just before that, just after you noticed there was more to the world than Batman and Laugh-In, you had your MLK assassination, your RFK assassination. By 1975, there really hadn’t been much to recommend Life in These United States, and it didn’t look like it was gonna get much better. There was a reason apocalyptic movies were in vogue.

But that’s the world you’re dealt, and if you’re growing up in it, that’s the world you accept. Kids do that. Not much choice, really.

Vietnam had been part of that world, too, the world as given, the world as we found it. There’s no Gulf of Tonkin in that world, no escalation, maybe barely a Tet Offensive. There are the body counts on the nightly news — once you start watching — and yeah, you check the lottery every year in the newspaper, see if your number’s up, if you were old enough to be drafted, which you’re not. You think of Canada now and then, should things come to it. You think about your survival, what you might do when the moment comes, the moment your country comes to kill you.

And then Saigon falls, and there’s that helicopter lifting off the embassy with the bodies clinging to it, and then it’s over.

But it’s not. It’s still not. We’re still living through it. We’ve been living through it for forty-four years.

In that moment, modern American fascism was born.

You’d know that if you lived through it. You’d know that if you lived through the consequences of it.

America lost. And we’ve never lived it down.

We should have known this. We’ve always known this.

We knew this when the Iranians stormed the embassy, when those photos came out. As a country, we took that personally. ABC launched a late-night news program with Ted Koppel over it. No, not Nightline. America Held Hostage.

Every night, after the local news. Every night, your Moment of Jingo. Not about the Shah as a ruthless dictator who had been installed by the CIA in 1953. Not about the Shah’s secret police, the SAVAK — set up by us, the Americans — and how Iranian students on our own campus were so frightened of them that they protested with paper masks over their faces. No, Ted Koppel didn’t report night after night on America’s complicity with tyranny and the consequences of it. No, it was America Held Hostage. Day 134.

America was losing again. Fascism was abornin’.

We did win one in those years. In 1980. At the Winter Olympics. We whupped the Russkies. At hockey.

And in the moment, really, nothing wrong with that. Not our national sport. Definitely underdogs.

It felt good. It didn’t last.

Jimmy Carter pulled America out of the Moscow Olympics that year. Over a Russian invasion.

Of Afghanistan.

You’re welcome to draw a line between 1980 and 2001, and through today, but that’s another subject.

That November, Ronald Reagan was elected America’s first fascist president. Nixon had tried — hard — but Nixon wasn’t a charmer. Nixon wasn’t an amiable liar. Reagan understood that America was tired of losing, that the problem wasn’t our country getting repeatedly involved in some fucked-up shit and paying the consequences, it was the impotency of it all, that we couldn’t just slam our dick on the world table with a resounding thud.

That was the problem. Reagan got that. America would be held hostage no more.

You had to be there. We were. We had just turned 21.

Two more points, and you can fill in the rest. Reagan had been elected to avenge America’s honor, to put the vitality back in our manifest priapus, but it took a couple years to find a suitable location to swing our big dick.

Grenada provided the opportunity in 1983. America’s righteous might came down hard on… a Caribbean island, population 91,000. Operation Urgent Fury. Yeah, baby. USA! USA!

Oh, right. that. The chant.

That’s it, really. The Chant. America’s modern fascism in three punctuated letters. We were there for that, too. It was weird. It was embarrassing.

It was Vietnam. It was Saigon. It was America Held Hostage. USA! USA! We were tired of being told what an asshole our country had been around the world since 1945, tired of the consequences of our meddling, and we were done with that shit. America was going to be proud again. We were going to be proud to be Americans again.

We weren’t gonna, like, deal with anything. That’s all we had done in the Seventies, deal with shit, deal with the reality of our behavior and the consequences of our actions. America had had enough of looking at the man in the mirror. We didn’t like what we saw. We didn’t set about making ourselves better, making our nation better. We just broke the glass.

USA! USA!

Yeah, we lived through the 1984 Olympics, too.

Los Angeles. The Russkies pull out, tit for tat. In the context of the moment — the Cold War, international sports being an alternative to nuking the shit out of each other, and everybody else — we’ve lost an opportunity to slam their asses up and down our home field. All that’s left is the rest of the world, and none of them are superpowers.

No matter. USA! USA! It’s Granada all over again, and it doesn’t matter, because we’re winning, America is winning, and we’re all strutting around with the Washington Monument in our pants. USA! USA!

And really, that’s it. Nine years after the fall of Saigon, we’re all fascists now. We’ve completely lost touch with reality, because reality sucks, and we don’t give a shit anyway. We just want to win. We just want to say we won.

We just want to lie to ourselves. Desperately. Reagan understood that. So did both Bushes. Trump lives it.

What makes it fascism is the collective nature of it, the National Lie, the malevolent higher power into which we are joyously subsumed. We are the bound wooden rods of the fasces, wrapped around an axe. We do not reflect. We only act. We only win.

We’re calling it fascism because we don’t know what else to call it. We don’t know what else to call places where brown asylum seekers are held in deliberately inhumane conditions than concentration camps. We don’t know what else to call shit than what it is.

To dispute the terminology because the particulars of Mussolini or Hitler vary, because the governmental structure was that and not this, is to deny the reality of what is happening, to deny the psychology of a nation that allows it to happen, that cheers it on, as Americans have been cheering on fascist leadership for two generations, forty years, our entire adult life.

But call it what you want, really. Doesn’t matter. Call it nationalism. Call it white populism. Call it Harvey. Just don’t pretend it’s not happening. Just don’t pretend it’s not dangerous.

That makes you a part of it.

30 comments:

10:18 pm • Saturday • June 22, 2019

My great aunt with the tattoo on her arm would agree with most of this. Unable to escape Poland, I’m sure a lot of people told her they would never do X, Y, and Z. That nearly cost her her life.

9:19 am • Tuesday • June 25, 2019

Political scientists years ago demonstrated that our country is an oligarchy, and the actions of our federal government have nothing to do with what the American people need and want, and in fact our malevolent rulers frequently work against us with disastrous results.

Where are the mass resignations at the DOJ, the FBI, and the Pentagon? Where’s the refusal to carry out the deranged orders of a fake, cruel, criminally insane, racist moron? Who are these idiots only following orders that betray us and WTF is wrong them? The emperor has no clothes, dumfux.

If only we could just skip to the end, with $hitler and Melanoma in an underground bunker, or more likely a New York City penthouse.

10:18 am • Tuesday • June 25, 2019

@¡Andrew!: That was the big question in the Eighties: How could the Reagan Administration be so popular among the yokels it was actively harming?

Big question since, actually.

What political scientists miss — what we all missed at the time, to one degree to another — is that it’s not economic. It’s psychological. It’s emotional. It’s white trash being happy with their lot, as long as the niggers have it worse. It’s the fantasy that we don’t want to tax billionaires, because we might be billionaires some day.

It’s a crock of shit, but that’s us. That’s America. White America, anyway.

10:37 pm • Thursday • June 27, 2019

Crazy Book Lady: yeah yeah, plans and ideas blah. The asshole in the White House had no plans. He won because he had a fucking slogan.

As much as we don’t want to be like him, we gotta wake up to the things he was able to tap into, except for maybe that racism thing. And maybe that xenophobia thing. And maybe that anti-GLBTQ thing.

Man, we’re fucked.

11:08 pm • Thursday • June 27, 2019

Damn, Kamala. You might have my vote. I’m still very not happy about the fucked up SF forensic lab business and still have a hard time believing you didn’t know it was fucked up. I’m sorry, but micromanaging is in your DNA.

Thanks for telling Uncle Joe that his time has passed.

11:34 pm • Thursday • June 27, 2019

Is it over yet? Are they over? Because HBO has more old Woody Allen movies if they’re not.

11:58 pm • Thursday • June 27, 2019

Kamala won – she was the second child in Berkeley to be bused when Biden was saying busing? State’s rights.

She looked him dead in the eye, and he never, NEVER recovered.

11:59 pm • Thursday • June 27, 2019

She SLAYED him. And I just gave her 10 bucks.

12:06 am • Friday • June 28, 2019

@nojo:

HARRIS: And I’m going to now direct this at Vice President Biden. I do not believe you are a racist. And I agree with you when you commit yourself to the importance of finding common ground, but I also believe — and it is personal, and it was actually very hurtful to hear you talk about the reputations of two United States senators who built their reputation and career on the segregation of race in this country. And it was not only that, but you also worked with them to oppose busing. And you know, there was a little girl in California who was a part of the second class to integrate her public schools, and she was bused to school every day. And that little girl was me. So I will tell you that, on this subject, it cannot be an intellectual debate among Democrats. We have to take it seriously. We have to act swiftly. As attorney general of California, I was very proud to put in place a requirement that all my special agents wear body cameras and keep those cameras on.

Then…

HARRIS: But Vice President Biden, do you agree today, do you agree today that you were wrong to oppose busing in America then? Do you agree?

BIDEN: I did not oppose busing in America. What I opposed is busing ordered by the Department of Education. That’s what I opposed.

HARRIS: It’s a failure of states to integrate public schools in America. I was a part of the second class to integrate Berkeley, California, public schools almost two decades after Brown v. Board of Education.

BIDEN: Because your city council made that decision. It was a local decision.

[cough cough state’s rights cough]

HARRIS: That’s where the federal government must step in, that’s why we have the Voting Rights Act, the Civil Rights Act. That’s why we need to pass the Equality Act, it’s why we need to pass the E.R.A. Because there are moments in history where states fail to preserve the civil rights of all people.

BIDEN: I have supported the E.R.A. from the very beginning when I ran — I supported the E.R.A. from the very beginning. I’m the guy the that extended the Voting Rights Act for 25 years. We got to the place where we got 98 out of 98 votes in the United States Senate doing it. I have also argued very strongly that we, in fact, deal with the notion of denying people access to the ballot box. I agree that everybody wants the — anyway, my time is up, I’m sorry.

Yes, he’s a sorry son of a bitch.

12:16 am • Friday • June 28, 2019

@JNOV: Throwing Anita Hill under the bus was also a local decision.

12:33 am • Friday • June 28, 2019

@nojo: I’ll never forgive him for that. I don’t know why I was home…maybe maternity leave, but I watched those hearings. Arlen Specter was my senator (I was in the Navy in San Diego), and when Thomas said, “This is a high-tech lynching,” I knew it was over.

I have always believed Anita. It’s time to lump Uncle Joe in with the racist people who get a pseudopass as Men of Their Times.

Fuck. Him.

And I’m still having issues with her SF DA evidence issues. And there’s some sort of Willie Brown connection that I’m not clear on – rumors, not of an affair but of something worse. I can’t remember. To DuckDuckGo I go!

12:39 am • Friday • June 28, 2019

@JNOV: Ah, California politics. I didn’t pay that close attention while I was there, but you had term-limits musical chairs, and Willie running the show from SF. Anybody rising through that is gonna get some on them.

12:47 am • Friday • June 28, 2019

@nojo: Yah. Dude. I’m still tripping about busing. It’s going to have longer legs than Anita Hill.

Oh SNAP – Harris is talking to Tweety saying that Joe Biden attitudes re: busing, reminiscing about working with notorious segregationists, if govt allows that feeling to prevail, she wouldn’t have been on that stage, Barack Obama wouldn’t have been president (OUCH), Lester Holt wouldn’t have been anchoring this debate.

Right now Corey Booker is wishing he was Kamala.

I don’t like Booker anyway. Oh, and my dad worked with his. And my dad knew Quest Love’s dad. And I’m just like, damn Dad. Tell me more.

ETA: Or my dad could be lying

12:49 am • Friday • June 28, 2019

Corey I Guess This Is My Spartacus Moment Booker needs to rewatch the movie.

12:52 am • Friday • June 28, 2019

THE FUCK?! The Biden campaign just said that Harris is doing exactly what Trump wants.

Harris is being interviewed by Tweety, and he read it to her, and she remained composed, but DAMN.

He has so fucked up.

1:10 am • Friday • June 28, 2019

Right now I’m Warren and Harris. I was Team Klobuchar until I learned she likes throwing shit at staffers, and then some idiot said, “Well, dudes throw shit at staffers. Don’t be sexist.” O_o How is it sexist to say NO ONE should be THROWING SHIT at people. god.

I didn’t want to see Beto run because he’s not ready for prime time, and unless he learns to debate and maybe not jump around like The Pumpkin King on speed, I dunno.

Mayor Pete has a Bernie problem: Where the Black Folk at?

I think Joe is off his game. I think there were signs of it in 2015, and maybe Obama saw it. Being president isn’t like being called to be a priest. It takes a lot of ego. If Biden were younger, I’d call it hubris. Maybe is entitlement.

1:14 am • Friday • June 28, 2019

Inslee is an embarrassment.

1:18 am • Friday • June 28, 2019

@JNOV: I don’t wanna declare this early, but Leaning Warren would be a fair statement. Biden, well… jeez. We’ll see how much longer he gets by on name recognition.

No thoughts on Harris, other than happy she’s making a name for herself. Strong candidates are good.

1:26 am • Friday • June 28, 2019

@nojo: I really, really like Warren.

1:33 am • Friday • June 28, 2019

@JNOV: Her advocacy for the CFPB put her on the radar. More to the present moment, I’ve seen video of her speaking to small groups over the years — livingrooms and such — and she knows how to make her case to civilians.

How she handles herself on a larger stage, dunno. But hey, it’s still June. We’ll see how things are going this fall.

1:39 am • Friday • June 28, 2019

@nojo: Agreed. And but for the CFPB, I wouldn’t have been able to buy this money pit. Some bill collector came out of the blue and wouldn’t leave me alone. Filled out the form on the CFPB site, and all was well. When that dude who kept trying to hold on at the beginning of this administration was getting pushed out, I called the CFPB and thanked them. Such an important agency.

1:40 am • Friday • June 28, 2019

Nite, Nojo. It’s good to see you, and my kid adores you. :)

11:04 am • Saturday • June 29, 2019

Warren/Harris

8 years of Liz, then 8 years of Kamala. Done.

I’m fortunate in that the worst part of the next seventeen months for me is gonna be the feelings of helplessness and impotent rage as Prezirapist AntiChrist and his Greedy Old Psychopath goons continue to ruthlessly harm innocent people while humiliating and disgracing us daily with their cruel, depraved destruction of our nation’s moral and ethical leadership. The corporate media will plaintively whine that Warren and Harris should smile more and try to be more likable, while Mar-a-Lardass hops up and down and throws his feces.

I’ve donated money to help immigrants and refugees, I signed up to be a monthly donor to Warren’s campaign back in January. I’ve marched, protested, called, signed petitions… what else can be done? How else can I resist?

Since my Dem rep will cruise to reelection next year with +80 percent of the vote, I was thinking about volunteering for the governor’s campaign, assuming Inslee doesn’t don a white tracksuit and declare himself governor for life. At least he’s staying in the prez campaign long enough to remind everyone that we’re slowing cooking ourselves.

5:51 pm • Sunday • June 30, 2019

@JNOV: Kamala is a showhorse and a cop that argues well but takes no responsibility for her record and is now trying to recast herself as some sort of Woke Second Coming of Bernie / “progressive prosecutor” when she is none of that.

First the Willie connection – she launched her political career by sleeping with Willie and being one of his girlfriends for a year. I have little respect for that. When she was a junior prosecutor in the Alameda County DA’s office just a year or two out of Hastings Law, and Willie was California Senate Majority Leader, she started banging him and he appointed her to two state commissions for which she was not qualified but paid her almost $100K/year to go to a few meetings a year.

As DA she also enthusiastically went after parents of truant children in SF, jailing some of them, including a mother of a kid with sickle cell anemia who missed school. She and then Mayor Goodhair egged on the Juvenile Probation Chief in contacting ICE every time a kid was brought to juvenile hall, resulting in dozens of kids getting deported simply for arrests. ICE ran a sting at the juvenile hall where they called undocumented parents to come pick up their kids and then arrested the parents.

As AG, she defended multiple wrongful convictions, the corrupt Orange County District Attorney’s office, fought tooth and nail in a case that would have required the state to provide medical care to transgender prisoners, fought the prison overcrowding case to SCOTUS, and upon losing, fought the lower court’s order that the state provide more good time credit to nonviolent prisoners on the grounds that the state needed them to fight fires because they save the state money since they’re only paid $2 a day and free citizen fire fighters cost more. (On that later one, she later pleaded ignorance, saying she had no idea the deputy AGs working directly under her took this position in an incredibly high profile case). She said she opposed the death penalty but would not take a position on the propositions to outlaw it. She champions herself as someone who won all this money from the mortgage companies, but refused to prosecute Mnuchin and his company after they made a donation to her.

I could go on, but I’ll spare you. If the Democratic party in their infinite wisdom nominates her, I will obviously vote for her, but I’m pretty solid for Warren with Julian Castro as my preferred VP for Liz. I’m much more fixated on (and donating to) Senate races across the country, because if Turtle Mitch is back, it doesn’t matter if we win the WH back.

3:34 pm • Thursday • July 4, 2019

@nojo: Adam Serwer nailed it:
Trump’s only true skill is the con; his only fundamental belief is that the United States is the birthright of straight, white, Christian men, and his only real, authentic pleasure is in cruelty. It is that cruelty, and the delight it brings them, that binds his most ardent supporters to him, in shared scorn for those they hate and fear: immigrants, black voters, feminists, and treasonous white men who empathize with any of those who would steal their birthright.
https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2018/10/the-cruelty-is-the-point/572104/

12:39 pm • Saturday • July 6, 2019

This beautiful essay about America from an Iranian-American woman’s perspective is well worth reading:

To be sure, like many Americans, my family and I have experienced Trump’s presidency as an era of pure psychological warfare. Indeed, as an Iranian-American Muslim woman, I’ve never felt so hated and unsafe in my own country. But ultimately, no matter how conflicted I am about my place in America and America’s place in the world at the moment, I am a proud American.

As much as I hate the colonialism, genocide, slavery and rape upon which this nation was built, I love the promise and possibility that it represents — not in its power structures or its stone monuments, but in its people and its natural wonders.

https://www.nbcnews.com/think/opinion/celebrating-fourth-july-iranian-american-patriot-who-s-never-felt-ncna1026471

12:33 am • Tuesday • July 9, 2019

@JNOV: How is your kiddo doing? Hugs to both of you!

2:19 pm • Tuesday • July 9, 2019

@SanFranLefty: Yah about Harris. Warren is the most qualified, IMHO.

Pelosi was tutored by her dad and the Baltimore machine, which pales in comparison to Chicago, but you know. I grew up in one of the most corrupt cities, and I hated it until someone I liked was elected…

I don’t know what I think about how politicians get where they are, and I’m disturbed that I’m not logically consistent when it comes to fairness, family ties, backroom deals, etc. I blame Tip O’Neill. ;)

I need to think on this more, and I don’t know that I’ll come to a conclusion based on reason rather than on feelings and my own self-interest. And I miss Al Franken. That’s fucked up of me. Politics is a mess.

@SanFranLefty: As far as I know, she’s doing really well. Kids don’t call their parents these days. They grow up and go *poof*, especially now that families can spread all over the country.

My daughter is in NJ near NY (thank gawd not in poisonous Union County). One of my brothers in in NOLA. Another brother is in VA. I’m in WA. My mother is in South Jersey. My father and another brother are in PA. We tend to see each other at funerals (ugh).

But when I was in the Navy, I didn’t call home much (but long distance calls were expensive!), I only visited once in six years (but a plane ticket was upwards of $800!). So those are my excuses for, um, doing my thing.

She went to her first Pride in NYC. I am comforted knowing that she has wonderful friends and a wide support network. My greatest fear before she came out was that the cops would shoot her because she was presenting as her assigned gender and she’s black. Now I’m like, Sweet Baby Jesus! Now it’s not just the popo but random people who might beat her down, especially because she’s a black transwoman. But she assures me that she’s safe and when presenting when she’s going out, she’s always with friends.

Eventually you have to trust your kids to know how to be safe as possible. She’s still my baby, though.

How are you and yours? I’m glad to be off FB. I made it through the incredibly painful withdrawal, which is indicative of how addicted I was. Speaking of addiction, if you haven’t seen “Euphoria,” check it out. Rue and I have the same hair, and that’s reason enough to watch.

Also re: NJ and pollution, “Toms River” is a great read. Ooof!

4:00 pm • Tuesday • July 9, 2019

@JNOV: I interact with her all the time on FB. We have fun, as always.

4:08 pm • Tuesday • July 9, 2019

@nojo: TELL HER TO CALL HER MOTHER. please?

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