Monday, August 10, 2009

What can keep us from the precipice?

My friend and debate partner responded to my post yesterday that delved into why we might be facing the rise of fascism. My friend isn't convinced.

Two good posts on fascism and democracy. Perhaps it's time to move to Toronto?

A key factor that you have not considered is the behavior the U.S. military and police paramilitaries (including the FBI) would evince when faced with civil unrest and political violence. The legitimate government would surely use the military and paramilitaries in an effort to put down rioting and violence. (Youngstown University in 1969 taught me that the real purpose of having a military is to keep power when threatened by rebellion.) Will our military and "security" forces collaborate with the extreme-right radicals or stand fast with their long history of (largely) competent behavior on the side of the republic and legitimate government? The Weimar Republic and its successors were weak in Germany in the 1920's and early '30s. They could not / did not suppress the brownshirt radicals.

But the legitimate U.S. government is very strong, centrally managed, and technologically unchallenged -- and our military has a long and honorable history of obeying civilian leaders. Americans have never faced a military coup. That sort of behavior is bred and bleached out of our military culture very strongly.

Of course, Hitler was elected legitimately in Germany (1933) and soon became a strongman with politicized military and police forces now working for him. That could happen here -- indeed I see the Bush II years very much in that way, as a budding dictatorship that failed to ripen before it rotted and collapsed.

With gays, you may safely include Jews as scapegoats that can expect oppression from fascists once they gain power and toss out rule-of-law controls. We are the eternal scapegoats.

My friend gives two big reasons:
* America in 2009 is much more stable and prosperous than Germany in the 1920s.
* The American military has always supported the government.

I agree the first reason is a sound one on why America probably won't become fascist.

I'm not as convinced about the second. Our military has an admirable record of doing what is right, but there are two changes over the last decade that worry me.

* To meet enlistment quotas (partly because gays still get kicked out) the military has accepted recruits with known affiliations with white supremacist movements. These recruits have explicitly said they have joined to get weapons and explosives training they can use in their own battle against America. If deployed inside our borders these soldiers will not be on the side of democracy.

* The hierarchy at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs in particular, and likely at other academies, has become filled with Fundies, who may in a crunch take the side of God (as they know him) rather than the side of democracy.

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