Individual Freedoms

I write this to explain oh so briefly why I am concerned recently by the seeming pre-occupation of the American citizenry with nationalistic, immigration, and religious issues. Aware of the carelessness with which both writers and speakers as well as readers and listeners toss around terminology, allow me to remind everyone of the meaning of “Fascism,” as well as some of the more notable Fascists throughout history. Here I might mention the most recent, although the list would be a frighteningly long one were we to look back further in history: Hitler, Mussolini, and Franco. According to Merriam Webster Collegiate, the meaning is as follows: “. . . exalts nation and often race above the individual and stands for centralized, autocratic government, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition.” I might add, then, that given those interests, fascists are typically arch foes of communists, since each represents an opposite side of the coin of social philosophy. At the risk of seeming redundant in my remarks, I offer the following observations of concern.

For the past several years, there has been a movement in this country toward a more and more “right wing” slant among the electorate, if not the citizenry as a whole. We have seen the rise of what were once “fringe” religious groups to public recognition, to the extent that their views have actually come to be recognized by major political entities as “guideposts” in their campaigning. I assume that their political gurus and advisors believe they have their fingers on the pulse of a serious movement. I don’t pick up an issue of a newspaper, even heretofore respected newspapers with a decidedly left bent, that I don’t find a story which by its very presence gives some credence to this movement. The writers still refer to such zealots as the minister from Florida who announced he was going to burn a copy of the Q’uran as representatives of a “fringe,” but no longer are those zealots relegated to a tiny article hidden below the stock report in the business section—or ignored altogether; they are given front page coverage. As a population, we seem not to be concerned by terrorism as much as we are worried by “Islam.” Suddenly Muslims in general, not those terrorists who just happened to be of the Islamic faith, are the focus of concern, even those who are American citizens, who are fighting in our military organizations, who serve in our governmental agencies and branches, who are Boy and Girl Scout leaders, and so on. The Battle lines are being drawn, if they have not been already; it’s Christians versus Muslims. All this in America, where the First Amendment of the U. S. Constitution guarantees all citizens freedom of religion, both to worship as they see fit as well as freedom from religion if that is their wish. Individual rights are what our constitutional amendments are about.

Speaking of individual rights, nowhere do we see the attempts to erode those rights, often in the name of nationalism, than in the matter of immigration. When those most concerned about what is referred to generally as “immigration,” when what they really mean is the presence of “large numbers of Hispanics or Latinos in our midst, either legal or illegal” what goes unsaid but is the real focus is what they see as a threat to the superiority of the WASP in America. White people, largely of Anglo-Saxon ethnic heritage, and a Christian protestant, religious bent have held sway in this country for most of its history. Whatever one may think of that fact, its demise seems clearly on the horizon; the population in this country built by immigrants, some voluntarily here and others not, is changing in complexion as I write this. The population of America, which has been predominantly white since its founding, is steadily changing color, literally. Barring Civil War, which some fear mongers will tell you is on the horizon, that fact will not change. Unfortunately, there is a large political/religious faction in the country who imagine God as a white man and the country in the same hue; change is never, I suppose, easy. Indeed, most people facing change go only “kicking and screaming” along with its inexorable flow. The bad news is that those who most fear this particular change couch their concerns in extremist language. Our president and his administration and his supporters regularly refer to Democrats as “socialists” and “communists,” and anyone else who voices any opposition, even solidly logical and reasonable, to their positions, no matter how illogical or unreasonable they may be. Does that not smack of typical Fascist rhetoric? Think about it.

I said at the outset that this would be brief, and I intend for it to be so. In conclusion, I share with you an observation by the winner of the Nobel Prize Winner in Literature in 1930, a man who in his day was widely recognized not only for his books (among which were Main Street, Babbitt, Arrowsmith, and Elmer Gantry, all recognized as classics of American literature) but his on-the-mark socio-political observations as well. As is often the case with a first-class mind, there comes the ability to see through the present day chaff to some of what Neils Bohr—another Nobel laureate—called Great Truths. Lewis observed in 1935, “When Fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in a flag carrying a cross.” I am not opposed to communism as an idea; I just do not believe it can work, and numerous experiments with communal living over the past two to three hundred years have, I believe, borne that out. The Communism with which most people are familiar is a far cry from that, however; those so-called “Communist” governments of the Soviets and China, as well as others on a much smaller scale, were nothing more than Fascist, dictatorial regimes that did what all such despotic regimes do. I continue to be optimistic that “wiser heads” will prevail; however, I remain ever aware of the truth of Martin Luther Kings warning: “Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.” We must, as a society, at all costs oppose any efforts that would result in Fascism in this country. Our country was founded on the principles of individual freedoms, and we must not let those freedoms be eroded by extremists of any sort, political, religious, economic, moralistic, nationalistic, racial, or whatever. May the force be with you.