When we think of the “F word” we think
of the language recently used by Vice President Dick Cheney.
Cheney wouldn’t stand for a member of the United States Senate,
Vermont Democrat Patrick Leahy, having the nerve to request
hearings on allegations of war
profiteering by corporations such Halliburton. Full of
the righteous indignation legitimized by one party rule, Cheney
confronted Leahy and took him to task for doing his duty as
a Senator. When the Senator forgot his place and persisted
in his questioning, Cheney replied, “Go
f_ _k yourself.”
Cheney’s response sums up the Bush
administration’s mission statement in a nutshell. You are either
with us or against us. Don’t talk back, don’t ask questions.
Shut up and do as you are told, even if you are a United States
Senator. Cheney’s vulgarity was far worse than the utterance
of a four letter word and should end the denial about the true
nature of the Bush administration. Americans must now fight
against the most insidious “F word” of all, fascism. If the
analogy seems off base, a prominent jurist who personally experienced
European fascism in the 1930s made connections between that
system and our current dismal political situation.
Federal judge Guido Calabresi
and his family fled from Italy during the Mussolini regime. Calabresi
drew a parallel between
the Supreme Court decision that made George W. Bush president
in 2000 and the manner in which Mussolini came to power.
“In a way that occurred before but
is rare in the United States…somebody came to power as a result
of the illegitimate acts of a legitimate institution that had
the right to put somebody in power. That is what the Supreme
Court did in Bush versus Gore. It put somebody in power. The
reason I emphasize that is because that is exactly what happened
when Mussolini was put in by the king of Italy.”
Fascism conjures up awful images of goose-stepping
Gestapo and doesn’t fit Americans’ concept of themselves. There
is no Fuhrer or Il Duce in this country. Even Judge Calabresi
points out that
Bush is no Hitler.
While it is true that
we have no Hitler Youth or book burning ceremonies we should
not allow the absence
of those phenomena to encourage denial of the sinister changes
taking place. All the elements of fascism are present, albeit
Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia,
who should have recused himself from the Gore v. Bush decision
because his son worked for the Bush campaign, does not want
his speeches taped. Scalia is so shy that a reporter recording
one of his speeches had her tape erased by
a zealous United States Marshal. Reporters whose notes and
recordings are destroyed are lucky compared to those foreign
journalists who are strip searched, handcuffed and locked
up overnight if they arrive in the United States without
a journalist visa.
In Springfield, Illinois, Rick Garcia, political
director of the gay rights group Equality Illinois, wrote his
a memory book dedicated to the late Ronald Reagan. His words
were not a paean to Reagan, but an expression of the pain caused
by Reagan’s inattention to AIDS and the subsequent needless deaths
that followed. Julie Staley, a reporter for television station
WICS was not content to disagree with Garcia when she read his
thoughts. Ms. Staley found a security guard who assisted her
in confronting Mr. Garcia and berated him
for his lack of adherence to right wing personality cults.
It is not surprising that an admirer
of Ronald Reagan would request the help of law enforcement
in order to squelch dissent, but it is terrifying that Ms.
Staley was correct in assuming that law enforcement would comply
with her wishes. While progressives dither among themselves
and wonder whether the word fascism is appropriate, those who
believe in that system are already using force and coercion
to keep us in line.
Ms. Staley might object
to being called a fascist, but a denial doesn’t mean that the
fit. America can be saved only if enough people are ready to
speak words that make others uncomfortable. Thinking people
are already uncomfortable and shouldn’t be afraid of making
Julie Staley and her ilk angry. They are like alcoholics living
with enablers. They haven’t been told that their behavior is
unacceptable and the result is predictable. They become more
and more empowered as we suffer a steady loss of our dignity,
rights and liberties.
Frederick Douglass surely had powers
of clairvoyance. His words ring as true in the 21st century
as they did in the 19th. One cannot read that famous quote
in 2004 without wondering how much more we will endure. Unfortunately,
the only side ready to wage ideological battle on these issues
is the right wing. Democrats are quite simply over matched.
They lack the willingness to fight back or even acknowledge
that there is a problem when a Vice President feels free to
use abusive language because a Senator insists on advising
the executive branch as required by the Constitution.
Judge Calabresi ended up proving his point in a way he could
not have intended. Just a few days after his original remarks
were made public he apologized for
having made them. If federal judges with lifetime tenure can’t
be honest, then the system is no longer democratic. Like Frederick
Douglass, Calabresi was right the first time.