San Francisco on a Clear Day


High Flyers

San Francisco is a mad city - inhabited for the most part by perfectly insane people whose women are of a remarkable beauty.

- Rudyard Kipling

New Orleans is one of the two most ingrown, self-obsessed little cities in the United States.
The other is San Francisco.

- Nora Ephron

Taking off from SFO on a clear day today, I nabbed this shot from the window as soon as we got into the air.
I love the way the downtown looks almost like a bunch of toy buildings.

Source: all photos are released under a Creative Commons license | xhtml 1.1 | css | rss  as long as it's non-commercial and you remember to mention that I took the photos, feel free to reuse them in new works, but remember to use the same license I did.  Matthew Haughey


America's Liberal Myths

Dear Editor,

Most of the commentary in the Anderson Valley Advertiser seems to be based on liberal myths.  I find the belief in these myths touching and even pathetic.  What the writers fail to recognise is that in America, no less than in any other country, most people exist merely to serve the State.  A popular American president said: "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country."  He wasn't kidding.

In order to get people to accept their roles, they are given certain bromides to keep them docile.  Using the motivations of fear and greed, people are taught patriotism so that they can be formed into armies or otherwise made to further their country's interests.  They need an enemy, so that the government can remain in power and so that the establishment can maintain its economic advantage.  This job has been done so well that, to judge from the current Iran-Contra hearings, a military junta could be installed and the Constitution suspended with very little opposition from a few and with the enthusiastic support of most.  Given a charismatic and heroic figure to follow, most people would accept an undemocratic form of government, perceiving it to be not only more efficient, but easier.

The majority, silent or vocal, is more concerned with survival and recreation than with the intricacies of human or civil democratic rights.  Numbed by television and indoctrinated by the mass media, they just want to be allowed to make a living.  Participatory democracy is a bore and a bother.

But even those who question authority seem to live in la-la land and swallow the same clichés and slogans as if they really meant something.  When these phrases and mottos are disproved by first-hand experience, they rant and rave and carry on as if some law of nature had been violated.  It's both endearing and idiotic of them, but they seem unaware of the difference between truth and jargon.

Let's look at some of these slogans and show how they are uncritically accepted by the public, particularly the so-called leftists.

Wildlife And The Environment Can Be Preserved If We Try Hard Enough

Laws affecting wildlife and the environment are made by legislators more concerned with re-election than with the future of the planet.  For, this reason, unless changes are made, laws will continue to be passed to favour those who contribute most to political campaigns.  Timber, oil, mining, gas, chemical and other industries contribute more than other groups.  Hunters, fishermen and farmers contribute more than isolated individuals.  For this reason, most legislation reflects the interests of the monied establishment.

We Are All Equal - The "I'M AS GOOD AS HIM" Argument

The most cursory examination gives lie to this optimistic statement.  Rich is more than poor, have than have-not, upper class than lower class, and, in this country and many others, white is more equal than black.  Man is as hierarchical as a colony of baboons and from the first grade through the entire social structure there are divisions clearly attesting to the fact that no one is equal to anyone else.

Justice Is Available To Everyone

A corollary of the "we are all equal" bullshit.  The only people who receive "justice" are those who have status in the community or those who can afford the best lawyers.  All regulations bend for the "right people."  For example, when the Bahgwan Shree was setting up his operation here in Oregon, Farm Use permits were issued for the construction of garages to house the guru's Rolls Royces.

They Know What They're Doing

This is a fallacy that most people accept thankfully because it excuses them from taking political action and doesn't force them to think.  Actually, there are no "experts."  I've seen more arrant nonsense illustrated with esoteric language, charts and involved graphs by idiots than uttered by high school dropouts.  Believing that just because someone achieves a position of authority proves their innate superiority just maintains the hierarchy and has no basis in fact.  There are a lot of well-educated, wealthy, socially prominent white fools.  The trouble is, our system lets them make decisions for the rest of us.

We Have The Right Of Free Speech

What good does it do?  Most newspapers are owned by large corporations, and the others are made up of people who depend on their advertisers for survival and trim their sails accordingly.  The few radical magazines and newspapers that still exist are in financial trouble and in any case reach only a small minority of the public.  Adversary information is still available, but the ability to affect the outcome of abuses on the part of government, the military, or business interests is usually futile.

In areas where there is dispute, "Advisory Committees" are set up to make the people on them think they're doing something.  Those in power set up committees, study groups, and a host of fine-sounding sub-groups to keep trouble-makers out of their hair by giving them the illusion that they're actually accomplishing something.  One picketer with a sandwich board is more effective than a dozen of these dupes.

We Have To Combat Communism

Actually, we need communism.  (Uprisings by the have-nots have always been around.  Spartacus must have been a communist by this definition.)  Without an enemy, there would be no excuse for our defense budget, the profits of which now permeate the entire economy.  Also, it's nice to blame an enemy for anything that goes wrong.  Conversely, the Communists need us so that they can "combat American Imperialism" for all the same reasons.  Both superpowers call this a "balance of power."  The nice thing about this arrangement is that not only does it allow both governments to subdue its own people, lest they be accused of that deadly sin called "lack of patriotism," but it also allows them to absorb weaker nations.

Both superpowers can then hold the third world as vassals to supply them with cheap labour and raw materials for exploitation.  When these little nations try to be independent, as in Afghanistan or Nicaragua, they get killed.  When people ask what would be wrong with continuing to have a Marxist government in Nicaragua, they are told that if they did, hordes of hungry, brown-skinned refugees would pour over the border and take away their jobs and rape their sisters.

A Different Government Would Be An Improvement

Temporarily only.  Whenever man acquires power, he abuses it.  As soon as people gain power, either in America or anywhere else, they then act to preserve their power and the little guy gets the shaft.  No revolution has ever resulted in a Golden Age.  The only restraint on man's greed and other excesses is law, strictly enforced.  As James Madison said, "If men were angels, no government would be necessary."

In the United States, the founders of the Constitution recognised this and tried to draw up a document that with its checks and balances would outwit anyone who tried to run the whole show.  Little by little, that document is becoming eroded by both the left and the right, and unless the tv-drugged population starts worrying about it, it will be either suspended, or so watered down as to become meaningless.  To destroy the Constitution is the unstated goal of those looking for the absolute power that is the heart's desire of all politicians.  To brainwash the public into letting them get away with this, they invoke morality, religion, national security, law and order, and all the other sacred cows that most Americans are afraid to attack.

These are just a few of the "truths" too many people really believe are "self-evident," when, in fact, they are disproved by the mere act of opening their eyes to what is really happening around them.  Whining and bitching about unfairness, corruption, illegalities condoned by the courts and so on does nothing but make the one whining and bitching feel better and having those who agree with them echo "Ain't it awful, Mabel."

If we really want to make things better, we should be the establishment.  We must make sure that we do not let ourselves be deceived by those in power and we must make laws that will benefit our entire planet, which now faces complete destruction from man's greed and fear.  As the little saying by Shaw in the AVA says it, "Liberty means responsibility.  That is why most men dread it."

Helen Jones
Prineville, Oregon

Source: Anderson Valley Advertiser 29 July 1987 reprinted in Swans 6 September 2004

It Can't Happen Here

by Joe Keohane

Picture this - a folksy, self-consciously plainspoken Southern politician rises to power during a period of profound unrest in America.  The nation is facing one of the half-dozen or so of its worst existential crises to date and the people, once sunny, confident, and striving, are now scared, angry, and disillusioned.

This politician, a "Professional Common Man," executes his rise by relentlessly attacking the liberal media, fancy-talking intellectuals, shiftless progressives, pinkos, promiscuity, and welfare hangers-on, all the while clamouring for a return to traditional values, to love of country, to the pie-scented days of old when things made sense and Americans were indisputably American.  He speaks almost entirely in "noble but slippery abstractions" - Liberty, Freedom, Equality - and people love him, even if they can't fully articulate why without resorting to abstractions themselves.  Through a combination of factors - his easy bearing chief among them (along with massive cash donations from Big Business, disorganisation in the liberal opposition. a stuffy aloof opponent and support from religious fanatics who feel they've been unfairly marginalised) - he wins the presidential election.  Once in, he appoints his friends and political advisers to high-level positions, stocks the Supreme Court with "surprisingly unknown lawyers who called [him] by his first name," declaws Congress, allows Big Business to dictate policy, consolidates the media, and fills newspapers with "syndicated gossip from Hollywood."  Carping newspapermen worry that America is moving backward to a time when anti-German politicians renamed sauerkraut "Liberty Cabbage" and "hick legislators... set up shop as scientific experts and made the world laugh itself sick by forbidding the teaching of evolution," but newspaper readers, wary of excessive negativity, pay no mind.

Given the nature of "powerful and secret enemies" of America-who are "planning their last charge" to take away our freedom - an indefinite state of crisis is declared, and that freedom is stowed away for safekeeping.  When the threat passes, we can have it back, but in the meantime, citizens are asked to "bear with" the president.  Sure, some say these methods are extreme, but the plain folks are tired of wishy-washy leaders, and feel the president's decisiveness is its own excuse.  Besides, as one man says, a fascist dictatorship "couldn't happen here in America...we're a country of freemen!"

While more paranoid readers might be tempted to draw parallels between this scenario and sundry predicaments we may or may not be in right now, the story line is actually that of Sinclair Lewis's 1935 novel It Can't Happen Here, a hastily written cautionary note about America's potential descent into fascism, recently reissued by New American Library in a handsome trade edition with a blood-spattered cover design.

The book, though regarded as a departure for Lewis, bears all the trappings of the writer in his prime.  Lewis made his name, and his fortune, writing scathing indictments of an America enamored of materialism and mediocrity in the prosperous '20s; he won America's first Nobel Prize for Literature for it.  From Main Street to Babbitt, Arrowsmith to Elmer Gantry, there was no instance of egregious Rotarianism or middle-class hypocrisy he wouldn't gleefully assail.  Lewis was so successful in these forays that the eponymous protagonist of Babbitt, whom Lewis held up as the embodiment of all that was wrong with middle-class America in the '20s, saw his name transformed into a widely used pejorative.

At its centre, It Can't Happen Here is no different from these prior efforts.  It's just carried out on a bigger, more hyperbolic scale: Lewis takes that Babbitt mentality - the entrenched incuriosity, the smug certitude, the conformity, the complacency - and combines it with the growing desperation of the times to envision an end of America as we know it.  It's an unsettling read, especially in a day and age where wags and politicos on both sides compulsively accuse one another of plotting to destroy America.  Other such books, most recently Philip Roth's The Plot Against America, ask whether a fascist dictatorship can happen here.  But whereas Roth manipulates history in order to show what could have happened, imagining an America so blinded by celebrity adulation that it elects an isolationist, anti-Semitic Charles Lindbergh president, Lewis suggests that it already has happened, in little pockets all over America: in bridge club meetings, Rotary luncheons.  No invading army will be needed to turn America fascist.  Instead, the catalyst will come from within, and when it does it will speak colloquial American, and it will come waving the Stars and Stripes.

However broad its themes, It Can't Happen Here echoes its time, sometimes literally.  The Depression was dragging on, the New Deal was on the rocks, FDR was vulnerable, and the GOP had foundered.  People were desperate for strong leadership, and as a result there was a real threat coming from numerous quasi-populist movements led by fire-breathing demagogues promising deliverance.  Among these groups was the Share Our Wealth movement, spearheaded by Senator Huey Long, a former Louisiana governor best known as the inspiration for Willie Stark in Robert Penn Warren's All the King's Men.  Long sought to radically redistribute the nation's wealth and impose an income gap, which, while socialist on its face, was more a cynical ploy for votes than a fast-held ideology.  Equally prominent was sulfurous radio personality Father Charles Coughlin's Union of Social Justice, a nativist movement that proposed abolishing the Federal Reserve to reverse the Depression.  Both groups were as corrupt as they were illogical, and FDR feared they would combine, unseat him, and replace American democracy with a strain of Hitlerism suited to America's unique temperament.

Driven by his support of Roosevelt and informed by the insights of his second wife, Dorothy Thompson, a pioneering journalist who more than anyone helped bring home the full horrors of Hitler's rise, Lewis cranked out the book in two months in 1935, in the hope that it would help avert what he felt was a looming catastrophe.  In order to do so effectively, though, he would have to mine the collective prejudices and disenchantments inherent in the American character.  Enter Berzelius "Buzz" Windrip, Lewis's tyrant.  He's a regular guy, personable, plainspoken, "with something of the earthy American sense of humour of a Mark Twain... a Will Rogers."  Guided by his secretary Lee Sarason, he cosies up to the electorate by stoking their disdain for fancy ideas and encouraging them to follow their hearts, not their minds.  Windrip's economic policies are disastrous, his figures often incorrect, and his platform seems to change depending on who he's talking to, but none of that matters as long as he keeps expressing himself decisively.  "I want to stand up on my hind legs," he writes in Zero Hour, his widely read pre-campaign book, "and not just admit but frankly holler right out that... we've got to change our system a lot, maybe even change the whole Constitution (but change it legally, not by violence)...  The Executive has got to have a freer hand and be able to move quick in an emergency, and not be tied down by dumb shyster lawyer congressmen taking months to shoot off their mouths in debates."

When Windrip is elected, all hell breaks loose.  Dissent is crushed, the Bill of Rights is gutted, war is declared (on Mexico), and labour camps are established to help shore up Windrip's vaunted "New Freedom," which is more like a freedom from freedom.  All that's really left of the old America are the flags and patriotic ditties, which for many is more than enough.  But to Lewis it's not entirely the fault of those who will gladly abide America's principles being gutted.  The blame also falls on the "it can't happen here" crowd, those yet to realise that being American doesn't change your human nature; whatever it is that attracts people to tyranny is in Americans like it's in anyone else.

When Lewis embarked on It Can't Happen Here, his wife wondered if a dictatorship could happen in this country, whether complacent Babbitt, as she put it, could be taught to march "quickly enough."  It was a question that Lewis had already answered.  There's a scene in Babbitt where the title character blows up at his wife and admits for the first time in years that he's not as thrilled with his lot as he lets on.  His wife soothes him and sends him off to bed, where, "For many minutes, for many hours, for a bleak eternity, he lay awake, shivering, reduced to primitive terror, comprehending that he had won freedom, and wondering what he could do with anything so unknown and so embarrassing as freedom."  In other words, the marching is just pageantry.  Windrip's most formidable task, convincing Americans to renounce bedrock democratic principles, was already accomplished well before he took power.  It was just waiting for its moment.

Joe Keohane is the editor of Boston's Weekly Dig.

Source: 18 December 2005 Illustration Hadley Hooper © Globe Newspaper Company.

It Can Happen Here

by Representative Ron Paul

In 2002 I asked my House colleagues a rhetorical question with regard to the onslaught of government growth in the post-September 11th era: Is America becoming a police state?

The question is no longer rhetorical.  We are not yet living in a total police state, but it is fast approaching.  The seeds of future tyranny have been sown, and many of our basic protections against government have been undermined.  The atmosphere since 2001 has permitted Congress to create whole new departments and agencies that purport to make us safer – always at the expense of our liberty.  But security and liberty go hand-in-hand.  Members of Congress, like too many Americans, don't understand that a society with no constraints on its government cannot be secure.  History proves that societies crumble when their governments become more powerful than the people and private institutions.

Unfortunately, the new intelligence bill passed by Congress two weeks ago moves us closer to an encroaching police state by imposing the precursor to a full-fledged national ID card.  Within two years, every American will need a "conforming" ID to deal with any federal agency – including TSA at the airport.

Undoubtedly many Americans and members of Congress don't believe America is becoming a police state, which is reasonable enough.  They associate the phrase with highly visible symbols of authoritarianism like military patrols, martial law, and summary executions.  But we ought to be concerned that we have laid the foundation for tyranny by making the public more docile, more accustomed to government bullying, and more accepting of arbitrary authority – all in the name of security.  Our love for liberty above all has been so diminished that we tolerate intrusions into our privacy that would have been abhorred just a few years ago.  We tolerate inconveniences and infringements upon our liberties in a manner that reflects poorly on our great national character of rugged individualism.  American history, at least in part, is a history of people who don't like being told what to do.  Yet we are increasingly empowering the federal government and its agents to run our lives.

Terror, fear, and crises like 9-11 are used to achieve complacency and obedience, especially when citizens are deluded into believing they are still a free people.  The loss of liberty, we are assured, will be minimal, short-lived, and necessary.  Many citizens believe that once the war on terror is over, restrictions on their liberties will be reversed.  But this war is undeclared and open-ended, with no precise enemy and no expressly stated final goal.  Terrorism will never be eradicated completely; does this mean future presidents will assert extraordinary war powers indefinitely?

Washington DC provides a vivid illustration of what our future might look like.  Visitors to Capitol Hill encounter police barricades, metal detectors, paramilitary officers carrying fully automatic rifles, police dogs, ID checks, and vehicle stops.  The people are totally disarmed; only the police and criminals have guns.  Surveillance cameras are everywhere, monitoring street activity, subway travel, parks, and federal buildings.  There's not much evidence of an open society in Washington, DC, yet most folks do not complain – anything goes if it's for government-provided safety and security.

After all, proponents argue, the government is doing all this to catch the bad guys.  If you don't have anything to hide, they ask, what are you so afraid of?  The answer is that I'm afraid of losing the last vestiges of privacy that a free society should hold dear.  I'm afraid of creating a society where the burden is on citizens to prove their innocence, rather than on government to prove wrongdoing.  Most of all, I'm afraid of living in a society where a subservient populace surrenders its liberties to an all-powerful government.

It may be true that average Americans do not feel intimidated by the encroachment of the police state.  Americans remain tolerant of what they see as mere nuisances because they have been deluded into believing total government supervision is necessary and helpful, and because they still enjoy a high level of material comfort.  That tolerance may wane, however, as our standard of living falls due to spiraling debt, endless deficit spending at home and abroad, a declining fiat dollar, inflation, higher interest rates, and failing entitlement programs.  At that point attitudes toward omnipotent government may change, but the trend toward authoritarianism will be difficult to reverse.

Those who believe a police state can't happen here are poor students of history.  Every government, democratic or not, is capable of tyranny.  We must understand this if we hope to remain a free people.

Source: 21 December 2004

Talking to Your Kids About Fascism

by Gary Leupp

I have two wonderful, beautiful teenage kids.  We talk pretty frankly about those things all parents need to chat with their children about: drugs and sex, personal safety and all.  Lately I've felt it necessary to talk with them about well, you know, the f-word.  Fascism.  Not at the dinner table, where my lovely wife would much prefer to confine the conversation to classical music or the new car.  But to them one-on-one, quietly, in their rooms, with the music turned down.

I'm probably more comfortable doing this than many parents.  I teach Japanese history for a living, and every spring semester, when I get around to discussing the 1930s, I have to address this topic.  The students are typically from 18 to 22, thus not that much older than my kids, so I've more-or-less worked out how to discuss, in what schoolteachers call "age-appropriate" fashion, the obscenity which is fascism.  The following is offered as a suggested model for fellow parents, who following events in this country, may likewise feel it might finally be time to have this talk.

"Fascism" comes from the Latin word fasces, a bundle of rods with an axe blade stuck out of it.  In Rome, about 2000 years ago, it meant power.  Having fasces was a way to scare and impress people.  People disagree about what fascism is, exactly.  But pretty much everybody agrees that Germany and Italy were fascist by the 1930s, and many think Japan was too, from the '30s up to the end of World War II, and that there was fascism in Spain and Portugal and Greece and Hungary and other places.  A guy named Benito Mussolini came to power in Italy and started cracking down on people's freedoms to say and write stuff, to organiae, to protest, and then Adolph Hitler (you've heard of him) took charge in Germany and did the same thing.  Mussolini's the one who started using this term "fascism."  Then a guy named Francisco Franco overthrew the democratic government in Spain with German and Italian help.  There were differences between these thugs, and it wasn't really clear to a lot of people, at the beginning, that they were all somehow connected and that they made up a new system, like a new disease or something.

One thing that linked them was the way they tried to scare people into supporting war - endless war, a culture of war.  Italy invaded Ethiopia, Germany invaded Czechoslovakia, Japan took control of Manchuria as the first step in its invasion of China.  The fascist governments told their peoples that they were under attack, and had to fight back.  And lots of people believed them.  One of Hitler's top officials, Hermann Goering, said before he was sentenced to death after World War II that "Naturally the common people don't want war but, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along.  All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the peacemakers for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger.  It works the same in any country."  Goering was a pretty sharp guy, actually; that's the scary thing.  When these vicious guys are in power they can sometimes win over millions of people who just don't think.

Like I said, there were some differences among these war-mongering jerks, in Europe and Japan, but people in the Soviet Union, and people friendly to the Soviet Union (people called Marxists) started saying all these governments and movements supporting them were in fact connected, and were something new and worse than anything the world had seen in a long time.  So they started to use the word "fascist" a lot, and tried to explain why fascism was really, really bad.  In 1928 the Communist International warned that "in a more or less developed form, fascist tendencies and the germs of a fascist movement are to be found almost everywhere."  Most of the early critical analysis of fascism was done by Marxist scholars such as Otto Bauer, Franz Neumann, Leon Trotsky, and Karl Radek.

The Soviet Union was led by communists - people who were trying to create a society in which people were equal, and where there wouldn't be rich and poor.  (The fascists hated the communists; they were actually their main target.  Hitler thought Jews and communists were pretty much the same, and he planned early on to invade the Soviet Union and get rid of them.)  The Soviets thought the governments in the US and Britain and other countries that called themselves "democracies" weren't really democratic, because the rich people, the big companies, basically controlled them.  The Soviets thought people in those countries should do what they themselves had done in 1917 - overthrow their governments in revolutions.  But as they saw fascism getting stronger, the Soviets started thinking that to protect the world from this horrible thing, they should work with anybody and everybody who could be organised to fight it, including Western governments, whom they wanted to "just say no" to fascism.

So communist parties all over the world, who got leadership from the Soviet Union, tried to create a "United Front Against Fascism" including everybody disgusted by Hitler, Mussolini and their allies.  As part of this, almost 3,000 Americans, including the famous writer Ernest Hemingway, went to Spain to fight fascism in a group called the "Lincoln Brigade."  Too bad that lots of powerful people in the so-called "democratic" countries actually liked Hitler and Mussolini and thought that the Soviets were the real problem.  So they didn't really try to stop fascism.  At least not very hard.  Both Joseph Kennedy, US Ambassador to the UK, and King Edward VIII were sympathetic to Nazi Germany until full-scale world war broke out in 1939.  (Following discussions with Kennedy in May 1938, the German Ambassador to the UK, Herbert von Dirksen, told Berlin that the anti-Semitic Kennedy was "Germany's best friend" in London.)  The great American aviator Charles Lindburgh accepted the German Eagle award from Hermann Goering, the Nazis' second in command, in 1938.

In 1940, Italy, Germany and Japan signed the "Tripartite Pact," which said that they were all anticommunist and against the Soviet Union.  Germany attacked the Soviet Union and England, and pretty much everybody in Europe who wasn't already fascist, and World War II started.  America stayed out of it at first, except for sending weapons and stuff to those fighting fascism.  But then the Japanese military attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941, so the US entered the war big-time, in the Pacific and in Europe.  The US did most of the fighting against the Japanese; the Soviets did most of the fighting against the Germans, and in one of the greatest battles in history, turned the tide of the war at Stalingrad, and chased the Nazis all the way back to Berlin.  The Russians still call World War II their Great Patriotic Anti-Fascist War.  That's how they see it, and it really makes sense to put it that way.

But still after the war, there were fascists around, like in Portugal and Spain.  The government of the US made friends with them!  That's because the Soviets had gotten really powerful by defeating the Germans, and even though they lost, like, 20 million people in the war, they still came out of World War II with the second biggest economy in the world, and they kind of took charge in eastern Europe, while the US took charge in western Europe.  (During the war, the two governments had agreed to split the continent.)  The Soviets were still saying that people should overthrow the rich, and that was very scary for the US government.  So the US figured, well, now that we defeated Japan and Germany, and the only power that's really big is the world is the Soviet Union, and it's against rich people - like the people who run this country - what we gotta do is get together with the leftover fascists, or whoever, to OPPOSE those communist guys.  An official US government report in 1948 noted that "the men who were most active in building up and running Japan's war machine-militarily and industrially were often the most successful business leaders of [Japan], and their services [will] in many instances contribute to the economic recovery of Japan" that had become so crucial to US policy at that point, as the communists were winning in China.  Failing to secure China as its big ally in Asia, and needing to strengthen occupied Japan as its ally, the US "rehabilitated" many targeted by earlier anti-fascist purges, while they conducted a "Red Purge" against Japanese communists they had earlier freed from prison.

In 1953, the US signed the Pact of Madrid with the Spanish dictator Franco, which allowed the US to maintain military bases in fascist Spain.  The US supported the military dictatorship in Greece from 1967 to 1974 - a fascist regime that suspended elections; banned all strikes, demonstrations and criticism of the regime; and all gatherings except for religious purposes in churches.  During that period US Vice-President Spiro Agnew visited Greece, and in 1972 the United States negotiated permanent access to Greek port facilities for its Sixth Fleet.

So they hooked up with some of the creepiest people in the world, people who learned from Hitler, and admired Hitler, people in Europe and Latin America and the Middle East and Asia, and said these were part of what they called the "Free World."  Like this junta in Greece, and this guy Pinochet in Chile, and a group called the Phalangistas in Lebanon.  Your teachers in school might not call these people fascists, and they might give you the impression that fascism was something that just happened, like, 50 - 60 years ago, and then ended.  But actually, it continued.  It's still around.

Like I said, people disagree on exactly what it is and why it happens.  Some say fascism happens because there's a crisis in the economy and a lot people who, say, invest in the stock market lose a lot of money really quick.  They see rising poverty and crime, and they worry as they see working people getting organised to make real radical change - especially if the working people include a lot of people who aren't of their own ethnic group.  So they lose faith in "democracy"-voting for the big political parties and stuff-and start supporting new groups that say, "Who cares about freedom and all - we just want order and stability!"  On the other hand, other people say, "We need a revolution, like happened in Russia."  Meantime the so-called "moderate" position, that just supports things as they are, loses influence.  That's what happened in Germany.  It can happen here, too.

I'm not saying our economy is all that bad right now, or there's a crisis in it, even though the stock market's been really weird.  And the US government is pretty different from the Nazi government.  So I'm not saying you need to worry too much.  Just be thinking about these things.  There are some pretty crazy people in the government, and since September 11, they've chucked a lot of rights people thought they'd always have.  They've pretty much killed the Bill of Rights.  It could get worse.  Somebody who's supposed to be responsible for "human rights" was actually talking about rounding up Arab-Americans the other day.  They're doing this thing called TIPS, too, and some people are saying it's not really about catching terrorists, but messing with people who oppose attacking Iraq and going to war endlessly with random people for no good reason.

You've read the Bill of Rights, right?  No?  Gosh.  They don't teach that in your school?  Well, here, I'll bookmark it on your computer.  And I'll also download the "Patriot' Act" for you.  This is your homework: Study them both, and figure out how they relate.  Come on, it's the weekend, and you've got nothing better to do.

You may ask: "What should we do about all of this?"  There are good answers, but given the current circumstances, it's probably best not to discuss them on a website.

Gary Leupp is an an associate professor, Department of History, Tufts University and coordinator, Asian Studies Program.  He can be reached at:

Source: 3 October 2002

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