Sunday, February 20, 2005

Have the Seeds of Fascism Found Fertile Ground in the United States?


Political scientist Dr. Lawrence Britt recently wrote an article about fascism ("Fascism Anyone?," Free Inquiry, Spring 2003, page 20). Studying the fascist regimes of Hitler (Germany), Mussolini (Italy), Franco (Spain), Suharto (Indonesia), and Pinochet (Chile), Dr. Britt found they all had 14 elements in common. He calls these the identifying characteristics of fascism. The excerpt is in accordance with the magazine's policy.
The 14 characteristics are:

Powerful and Continuing Nationalism
Fascist regimes tend to make constant use of patriotic mottos, slogans, symbols, songs, and other paraphernalia. Flags are seen everywhere, as are flag symbols on clothing and in public displays.
Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights
Because of fear of enemies and the need for security, the people in fascist regimes are persuaded that human rights can be ignored in certain cases because of "need." The people tend to look the other way or even approve of torture, summary executions, assassinations, long incarcerations of prisoners, etc.
Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause
The people are rallied into a unifying patriotic frenzy over the need to eliminate a perceived common threat or foe: racial , ethnic or religious minorities; liberals; communists; socialists, terrorists, etc.
Supremacy of the Military
Even when there are widespread domestic problems, the military is given a disproportionate amount of government funding, and the domestic agenda is neglected. Soldiers and military service are glamorized.
Rampant Sexism
The governments of fascist nations tend to be almost exclusively male-dominated. Under fascist regimes, traditional gender roles are made more rigid. Opposition to abortion is high, as is homophobia and anti-gay legislation and national policy.
Controlled Mass Media
Sometimes to media is directly controlled by the government, but in other cases, the media is indirectly controlled by government regulation, or sympathetic media spokespeople and executives. Censorship, especially in war time, is very common.
Obsession with National Security
Fear is used as a motivational tool by the government over the masses.
Religion and Government are Intertwined
Governments in fascist nations tend to use the most common religion in the nation as a tool to manipulate public opinion. Religious rhetoric and terminology is common from government leaders, even when the major tenets of the religion are diametrically opposed to the government's policies or actions.
Corporate Power is Protected
The industrial and business aristocracy of a fascist nation often are the ones who put the government leaders into power, creating a mutually beneficial business/government relationship and power elite.
Labor Power is Suppressed
Because the organizing power of labor is the only real threat to a fascist government, labor unions are either eliminated entirely, or are severely suppressed .
Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts
Fascist nations tend to promote and tolerate open hostility to higher education, and academia. It is not uncommon for professors and other academics to be censored or even arrested. Free expression in the arts is openly attacked, and governments often refuse to fund the arts.
Obsession with Crime and Punishment
Under fascist regimes, the police are given almost limitless power to enforce laws. The people are often willing to overlook police abuses and even forego civil liberties in the name of patriotism. There is often a national police force with virtually unlimited power in fascist nations.
Rampant Cronyism and Corruption
Fascist regimes almost always are governed by groups of friends and associates who appoint each other to government positions and use governmental power and authority to protect their friends from accountability. It is not uncommon in fascist regimes for national resources and even treasures to be appropriated or even outright stolen by government leaders.
Fraudulent Elections
Sometimes elections in fascist nations are a complete sham. Other times elections are manipulated by smear campaigns against or even assassination of opposition candidates, use of legislation to control voting numbers or political district boundaries, and manipulation of the media. Fascist nations also typically use their judiciaries to manipulate or control elections.

Copyright © 2003 Free Inquiry magazine
Reprinted for Fair Use Only.

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Saturday, February 12, 2005

Is the United States an Infant Theocracy?


The word theocracy is derived from two Greek words meaning “rule by the deity.” Throughout history theocracies have gained control of nations for short periods of time. Among Christian societies the most notable theocracies were the Papal States under various popes and in the Muslim world a theocracy was established by the prophet Muhammad in Medina in 622. So the religious fundamentalism that gives rise to theocracies is not something new to our culture. No matter what the belief system or religion, theocracies all have similar characteristics.
1. The society and its leaders believe they have a divine right.
2. The divine mandate is interpreted in specific political contexts.
3. Civil rights and a code of conduct are dictated by religious dogma.
4. Individual aspirations are subordinate to the priorities of the state/religion.
5. Domestic and foreign policy is guided by a religious ideology.
6. Leaders are part of a theologically trained elite.
7. Leadership is limited by religious dogma and is rarely skilled in economics.

The framers of the United States Constitution were keenly aware of problems associated with the mixing of church and state. Perhaps we Americans should once again take a look at the vision the framers of the constitution had when they added the 1st Amendment and see if that vision resembles the country we have today?
Amendment I - Freedom of Religion, Press, Expression. Ratified 12/15/1791.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

“The Springs that Feed the Well of Social Justice”

I was recently invited to a dinner to honor the accomplishments of Franklin Roosevelt. The invocation for this event was an inspiring reminder of the fundamental principles that still flows through the hearts and minds of many of us. I am reprinting with permission from Brother Thomas Dahl.

Good Evening.
It’s always a pleasure to meet with fellow Democrats.
It’s always a privilege to offer a prayer of invocation at such a gathering.
During his earthly ministry, Jesus taught such life principles as patience, peace, mercy and humility. These are in the Beatitudes.
Tonight, we’ve come together to honor the lives of a great Democratic couple who led our country through a great economic depression and a great world war, while embracing similar principles through such visionary pro-life programs as Social Security, the Tennessee Valley Authority, unemployment insurance and public works programs, labor laws and workers rights, and the United Nations.
Today, our world faces several serious issues, some crisis issues, such as terrorism, war, natural disasters, economic instability, the lack of access to affordable quality healthcare and education, and world hunger among them.
Let us pray…My Lord, as we meet this evening, I ask You to bless our gathering and its discourse. I ask You to bless the members of our party in our community and across our country. I ask You to bless the effects that our Democratic leaders can have upon improving the quality of life for our citizens, and for all people around the world. I especially ask You to bless our service men and women at home and abroad, the citizens of Iraq and Afghanistan in their war-torn countries, and all the victims, and their families, of the recent Asian tsunami.
I ask this in Your name my Lord Jesus, Amen

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