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A Call for a Month of Teach-Ins and Write-Ins on Democracy vs.Fascism.

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Democracy vs. Fascism
Democracy vs. Fascism
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The signs are everywhere that America is on the precipice of fascism. Most frightening is the evidence that millions of Americans are craving authoritarianism, which is another guise for fascism. We can see it in the direst signs: rallies in support of extremist candidates, extremist candidates winning primaries for the upcoming mid-term elections, aggressive and open displays of hate by white supremacist groups, the documentation of more than 700 active hate groups across the U.S., the adoption of voter restrictions in at least 19 states with more states proposing similar restrictions, and the installation of officials committed to overturning election results if preferred right-wing candidates lose in ballot counts. Add to that surveys that show authoritarian leanings by growing numbers of Americans.

Yes, we can understand the pain, suffering, and dissatisfaction of people struggling against economic, social, and political forces that are diminishing their quality of life. And it's clear too that the basic needs of many families are not being met. In the face of these debilitating forces, it is not hard to understand the appeal of an authoritarian leader who promises to deliver relief. But the cost of that relief may be the destruction of democracy. In fact, history tells us that fascism will not improve the lives of citizens in the long term. On the contrary, it poses many dangers to the quality of life while removing the protections, freedoms, and options that democracy provides.

Unfortunately, too many Americans don't understand the basics of democracy and its adversary, autocracy or dictatorship. And that deficiency can be traced to the failure of our educational systems, which have been woefully deficient in teaching these subjects. For that conclusion, we don't have to look further than a report by the University of Pennsylvania that two-thirds of Americans can't name the three branches of government.

Fascism may entice people with immediate rewards and the elimination of the "thems" the leader and followers may not like, such as people of color, Jews, Muslims, Latinos, or immigrants in general. But history has shown that any group under fascism can quickly become the "thems." The new "thems" will discover too late that they have lost the rights and protections they had in a democratic society.

Consider that former Vice President Mike Pence endorsed every utterance of President Donald Trump, And then when Pence refused to comply with his request to commit the illegal act of overturning the results of the 2020 election, Trump echoed the Jan, 6th insurrectionists' call to "hang Mike Pence." In an instant, Pence became one of "thems."

What about gun ownership under authoritarianism. After recent gun violence tragedies, opposing sides in the controversy on gun control have doubled down, even though Congress has passed a gun control bill. One side believes that any gun control legislation is just the beginning of the takedown of the Second Amendment. They cling to this belief despite the fact that no proposals for sensible gun control threaten the Second Amendment. Pro-gun advocates firmly believe that an authoritarian leader will guarantee their right to own guns of any sort and number.

Those craving authoritarianism will be surprised to learn that one of the early actions an authoritarian regime will take is restricting gun ownership. History has shown that over the last 150 years authoritarian regimes on the right and on the left have taken guns away from the public. For verification, note the policies of current authoritarian regimes. Try to get a gun in Cuba, North Korea, or China. In Russia, you might be able to buy a gun. But first, you will have to submit to a psychiatric exam. Then if approved you must attend training sessions and will have to register the gun with the local police who will make periodic unannounced visits to your home to check on your gun--where it's kept, the firings and ammunition, and to be sure no gun in your possession can shoot more than 10 rounds of ammunition.

Authoritarian-ruled China has among the world's strictest gun control laws. In 2017 a woman who used air rifles to shoot balloons at her booth at a fun fair for tourists was given a three-year prison sentence. In Singapore, a democratic government with authoritarian leanings, if a gun is used in a criminal act, even if no one is injured or killed, it draws a mandatory death penalty sentence.

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Bernard Starr, PhD, is the author of The Crucifixion of Truth, a drama about historical antisemitism set in 16th-century Italy and Spain. Starr is a psychologist, journalist, and professor emeritus at CUNY, Brooklyn College. At Brooklyn College (more...)

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