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November 3, 2020: Barbarism or civilization

Trump has morphed into a fascist and, therefore, the upcoming election is the most important in American history. 

The election on November 3 is the most important in the history of the United States. This is because it is not between two competing views of democracy but between fascism and democracy, between barbarism and civilization.

This is not an exaggeration. Trump has morphed into a fascist. He was not one when he was elected in 2016, but out of desperation and expediency — and not out of ideology — he has increasingly taken on the characteristics of a fascist until he has become indistinguishable from one. True, he has not gone nearly as far as Hitler: He has not exterminated millions of people or taken over foreign countries. But fascists come in different stripes, colors, and sizes, some more extreme than others. In his own way, Trump has crossed the line to join their ranks.

President Donald Trump delivering a campaign speech.

Fascism is in essence a philosophy of hate — hate for certain groups of people and for democracy. In most cases, fascists and their supporters hate other human beings out of ignorance. But in a minority of cases it seems that fascism is the product of sheer evil, whatever its roots (beyond ignorance) may be. Instead of viewing all human beings as essentially equal with the same rights, fascists see a Manichaean world of superior and inferior people with the latter being a threat to the former, hence requiring their control and, if necessary, forceful subjugation. Fascism derives from this world view, fueled by leaders who play on the blind primitive fears and instincts of their followers by insisting that democracy is a mistake because its fundamental credo is equality.

If the essence of fascism is hate as I have described it, then without question Trump has become a fascist. His increasing and relentless torrent of hate for minorities, immigrants, women, transgender people, and so on over the last four years now puts him squarely in this category. And his megalomania, his unquenchable thirst for power, expressed repeatedly in his breaking of and contempt for democratic rules and norms does the same.

In the 244-year history of the United States there have been three truly crowning events, three occasions when the American people rose to such heights that they achieved a degree of transcendence unequaled by any of their other accomplishments. The first was the American Revolution, the second was the abolition of slavery, and the third was the defeat of fascism in World War II. These were the country’s finest hours, which spoke to the very best in us. (Many people might consider the original Constitution a fourth one, but its denial of full rights to slaves and women leaves it short of this distinction.) What the times call for now is a fourth one.

In the summer of 2014, I traveled through major portions of France. When I arrived in Normandy, I visited the American cemetery that had been created in the aftermath of World War II. The morning I visited I was lucky; nobody else was there, and both the director and his assistant eagerly volunteered to give me a personal tour. They brought up all sorts of interesting facts which I devoured out of both curiosity and respect. But what they said paled in comparison to the enormous weight of the thousands of soldiers buried all around me. As I walked between the rows of gravestones, peering down at the names and birthdates, I was mesmerized. Because in front of me were the remains of young men and women, many of them in their 20s, who had given up their life, the most precious thing they had, to defeat an enemy thousands of miles away on foreign soil.

Normandy cemetery.

Their sacrifice, in the name of international brotherhood and solidarity, reached into the pit of my stomach. So many times in my life I had been ashamed of things my country had done and had declared so with my voice, my feet, and my pen. But at the cemetery that day I felt enormously proud to be an American. It was one of the most moving experiences I have ever had, and it continues to move me each time my mind wanders back to the cemetery and the ultimate sacrifices those men and women made for the sake of the world.

Seventy-five years ago, the United States attained its third crowning achievement when it defeated fascism. Now, a fourth awaits us in November when, once again, we need to defeat it. Except this time it’s not on foreign shores but sitting in the White House. In 2016, Trump had no history as a politician and so it is more understandable that tens of millions of people, hungry for change and promised a great future, would vote for him. But four years later this is no longer the case. There is barely a voter who is not familiar with what the president stands for. Therefore, should he win in a fair election, it could not be blamed on blindness. In the coming month, nobody gets a pass for their vote; everyone is fully accountable.

The choice on November 3 could not be clearer: Fascism or democracy? Barbarism or civilization?

We can only hope that the American people will rise to the challenge and not follow Trump into his cesspool of fascist hate.


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