By Horus Alas
Sunday, Jan. 29. First Bloc meeting of the semester. I sauntered in late, as per usual.
For the most part, my colleagues pitched stories centered on the days-old new presidential administration. “I just came back from out of the country, and this doesn’t feel normal,” one of them said. There was ample talk of protests, dissent and a pervasively ominous mood in our political climate.
I had likewise returned from out of the country earlier in the week, on Tuesday night.
“… And I agree, this does not feel normal,” I told our editors. “What’s going on here feels more like one of those governments that was popping up in Europe in the 1930s,” I added.
These are just a few of the things that had gone on in the United States since I left on Friday, Jan. 20, and went to our first meeting on the 29: President Trump issued a Muslim ban, barring nationals and even green card holders from seven majority-Muslim countries from entering the U.S.
He signed executive orders to continue construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline and the Keystone XL Pipeline, despite last year’s popular outcry against both measures. He spent his first day in office contesting media reports of low attendance at his inauguration and repeatedly—and without proof—accused the press of lying.
Trump signed an executive order to begin construction on his long-promised border wall with Mexico, which will ultimately be paid for by American taxpayers even if he imposes a 20 percent tax on imported Mexican goods as a punitive measure.
The list goes on, but I think my point is clear.
In its first 10 days, the new administration has shown no respect for the rule of law, an eagerness to exact vengeance on those who disagree with its views and, perhaps most disturbingly, a vicious antagonism of the press and a refusal to face objective facts.
At the beginning of this article, I noted a relation between the Trump administration and the interwar regimes of Europe.
To be clear, those 1930s governments in Europe that I’m referring to include Franco’s Spain, Mussolini’s Italy and Nazi Germany. These were all fascist regimes that came about at the height of the Great Depression, as Europe in particular was undercut by the aftereffects of the First World War.
Four years of global conflict on a scale then unseen by mankind had ravaged Europe to the point of devastation. Recovery was slow throughout the 1920s, only to be swept away by the global economic calamity of the 1930s following the United States’ stock market crash.
In the aftermath, the people of the formerly great powers of Europe were desperate. Their buildings and economies were in ruins. They were eager to listen to any orator who could convince them everything would be okay.
This was precisely the power vacuum into which Francisco Franco, Benito Mussolini and Adolf Hitler thrust themselves.
Franco vowed to restore Spain to its Catholic roots and combat the growing presence of Bolshevism and secularism. Mussolini pledged to revive the Roman Empire, beginning with a cheap incursion into Ethiopia. Hitler promised to restore Germany to its imperial grandeur prior to the First World War and to create a nation of pure ethnic Germans in the process.
Each of these regimes carried out atrocities in the name of their twisted ideals.
Franco’s Fascist Falange executed a series of mass murders, rapes and other unhinged acts of repression against republicans, intellectuals, anarchists, communists, et al. in what became known as the “White Terror.”
In Italy, Mussolini abolished free speech and assembly, along with opposition parties. It was advantageous to repeat Mussolini’s mantra that it was “better to live one day as a lion than 100 years as a sheep,” as Italian culture was swallowed up by rampant militarism and nationalist zeal.
And must I really go into detail about the horrors unleashed upon the world by Nazi Germany?
What each of these regimes had in common—and what terrifyingly rears its head in the Trump administration—is the conviction that the state must be subordinate to a single individual.
As David Frum writes in this month’s essential cover story for The Atlantic:
“There are certainly fascistic elements to [Trump]: the subdivision of society into categories of friend and foe; the boastful virility and the delight in violence; the vision of life as a struggle for dominance that only some can win, and that others must lose.”
Like the fascist strongmen of the 1930s, Trump aims to pit American society against Muslims, Mexicans and our decades-old system of trade and alliances. Like Mussolini, he relentlessly touts himself as a champion; his detractors and critics are invariably losers.
And like Hitler, he has a sinister vision of our country as one that needs purgation to rid itself of foreign influence and become great again in the eyes of its traditional sovereign—the white man.
We all have good reason to fear the tyrannical, brutish tactics of the Trump administration.
… And yet!
Fear at this point will do us no good. We have elected a demagogue without a conscience to the highest office in our country. We saw him for what he was long before now. We knew deep within ourselves that he would ruin us, and even that wasn’t enough.
In honor of their exploits at the Battle of the Ebro and Battle of Jarama, the Spanish Republican troops fighting against Franco composed the song, “¡Ay, Carmela!” Its fourth stanza proclaims defiantly, “But bombs can do nothing when there’s a lot of heart.”
Our choice at this point is clear.
We will either acquiesce to the lies and terror of our new administration’s warped worldview, or we will fight it without mercy and demonstrate exactly what we’re made of.
Featured Photo Credit: As the protest drew further down Pennsylvania Avenue, more and more protesters eyes began to be caught by the golden letters and American flags covering 1100 Pennsylvania Ave NW. A few years back this building would be known as the Old Post Office Building. Today: The Trump International Hotel.
Horus Alas is a senior philosophy major and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Leave a Reply