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
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 American
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 thoughts in 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 shoe doesn’t 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