Wednesday, May 17, 2023

The Rise of American Fascism

There has been much talk since 2016 that America was sliding into Fascism. That the election of Donald Trump heralded the beginning of the end. They pointed to Trump's policies against Muslims and made comparisons to Hitler. Said his statements and his media mouthpieces at Fox News were propaganda. Pointed to his followers gleeful embrace of the violence inherent in his rhetoric and how it reminded them of Nazi Germany, PolPot's Cambodia, and Stalin's Russia. The doomsayers were met with scorn. 

Then the Pandemic struck and in many ways derailed the Trump train. The faithful were undeterred but those who voted for Trump on a lark, hoping for something, anything different from politics as usual in Washington realized that the man they voted for was dangerously incompetent. Americans have a fairytale view of the Dark Horse, the Outsider, who will shake up "The Powers That Be" with his renegade thinking. Many thought Trump was that Outsider, while in reality he was the ultimate Insider. Someone who mingled with TPTB, dabbled in conspiracy theory and was quintessentially amoral and narcissistic. 

Here we are 7 years later and the frenzied scramble towards Fascism has begun again. Arguably with far more concerning success. 

Let's look at Florida. This week, Governor Ron DeSantis, the man who wants to be our next President, has signed multiple bills into law targeting the LGBTQ+ community. Flanked by children, he signed 4 bills into law on May 17 directly impacting the community and criminalizing their existence. These new laws ban "gender-affirming medical care for transgender youths, expand a controversial state education law that limits classroom instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity and places additional restrictions on drag performances." 

The fourth and final new law signed today bars transgender people from using public restrooms consistent with their gender identity. Because the addendums to the Don't Say Gay law declares sex an immutable biological trait, this means amended birth certificates or drivers licenses will not be enough to validate a person's gender. For Transgender Floridians there is no longer anywhere in public they can feel safe to use a restroom or locker room. Imagine, if you will, knowing that anyone at all can challenge your right to exist in these spaces and handle nature's call. What do you do? Where do you go? For a state who's economy relies so heavily on tourism, it's a dangerous situation. 

While the bill aimed at transgender medical care seems targeted at youth, it also restricts transgender adults. The additions to the Don't Say Gay also bill stops schools from using pronouns that reflect transgender youth's preference.

Together these new laws designate LGBTQ+, and particularly transgender, people in Florida as second class citizens. Homophobia and transphobia is now legal in Florida.  

Texas is not far behind.

This week SB 14 passed the House and will likely soon signed into law. Like Florida's ban on gender affirming healthcare, SB 14 prohibits procedures and treatments for children in regards to gender transitioning, gender reassignment and gender dysphoria and the use of public money or assistance for these procedures. Last year, Attorney General Ken Paxton issued a non-binding legal opinion that gender affirming care was child abuse and Governor Abbott immediately directed the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services to investigate families seeking that care for their children. Texas has worked for years to bring anti-transgender legislation to fruition. This year, it seems they've succeeded.

What, you may ask, has this to do with Fascism? Fascism seeks to create an Other that can be assigned blame for the ills of the nation. This has been done generally for years by Republican rhetoric against Democrats, Liberals, Blacks, and more. Now, by targeting a small, misunderstood minority, current Republicans believe they've found the perfect Other. Transgender people, their experiences and their lives, are foreign to many people. For those that cannot fathom feeling so disconnected from what they see as a biological trait, believing that trans folks are insane, misguided and generally bereft of humanity is not the leap in logic that many on the Left assume. 

In the so-called American ideal of the rugged individual who bucks The Powers That Be, that ideal man is the epitome of masculinity. He stands up for independence and the common man. He represents everyone's desire, at one time or another, to stick to the man. Most importantly, he represents strength. He does what we cannot. What he isn't is just as important. He isn't sensitive or woke. He isn't weak. He isn't Gay or Trans.

For some, the growing acceptance of LGBTQ+ Americans is a dire threat. And it is to those people that the GOP is appealing. Those people believe in an America that never really existed. Certainly, White Men had the power, but it wasn't truly shared amongst the classes, despite needing their support at all levels. What that "Golden Age" had going for it was the afterglow of winning the second World War, an economy that allowed individuals to succeed at unprecedented levels, and ending with an American man on the moon. For those 2 decades after the Second World War, America was on top and that success genuinely trickled down to many. Money, the symbol of success and power, was available to the Middle Class. While they could buy their own homes and TVs and cars, they still held little actual power and their unfortunate lower class cousins even less. What they had in common, however, was the Other. For a time, it was the Nazis, then the Communists. In the background, it was always the Blacks. It's how TPTB held onto that power despite the large numbers of their supporters in the lower class that had neither money or power. What they did have was some other class of people they could feel superior to despite the reality of their lives. 

In truth, America has dabbled with Fascism for years. We saw it after Reconstruction and the laws passed to keep the newly freed Black man down. We saw it again after LBJ's Great Society with the new laws targeted at Blacks via the War on Drugs. Now, there's a new Other. One that can't be easily mistaken as typical, can't be normalized, and can't be understood on a fundamental level by many. If Fascism needs an Other to distract the attention of the masses, then TPTB have found what may be their ultimate Other. 

The new laws in Florida make it difficult to exist as a transgender person in that state. They'll directly cause the suicide rate amongst transgender youth to rise. They'll indirectly increase the number of hate crimes against transgender people. Texas is poised to join them.

We're already a nation that cannot come to gripes with gun violence in our schools, our churches, and our malls. We've made it easier, in fact, to gather the arms of mass killing, especially in Texas. We have armed a populace and defined an Other. One they're told will destroy their way of life, indoctrinate their children, and make women of their men. 

We will see a rise in violence towards Transgender and LGB Americans. They will die in ones and twos in bathrooms and back alleys. They will die in tens and hundreds at drag shows and Pride parades. 

These laws make it inevitable. Will you be the one who stands aside because you're not the one targeted? Or will you stand with your LGBTQ siblings and fight? At the very least, will you get off your ass and vote?

No comments:

Post a Comment