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We must understand fascism to protect our democracy

This January, I read the novel “Fascism: A Warning” by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. This book is great for identifying fascism while giving an overview and general understanding of the ideology. Recognizing and understanding fascism, its meaning, and its effects is vital for protecting democracy.

Let us begin by asking what fascism is as an ideology and its components:

Fascism presents a complicated question with many answers. The ideology preys on fear to enhance the goals of nationalism by rallying citizens against a perceived enemy, usually a religious or racial minority. Additionally, fascism utilizes state control of industries and the control of free speech so that individuals are restricted from speaking ill of the government.

The ideology of fascism exists today, as observed in Russia with the rise of “Putinism,” seeing rampant nationalism, distrust of democracy, and oppression of ethnic and religious minorities.

Recently, we have been seeing a rise in right-wing populism, as evident from the increased success of the Alternative fur Deutschland in Germany, Hungary’s ruling Fidesz party, and the National Rally in France, politicians from each of these having displayed an affinity for fascist ideological tendencies.

These groups serve as reminders that fascism did not die when the last concentration camp was liberated, only growing dormant and once again rearing its ugly head.

It is our duty as people to take action by voting for politicians who fight for respect regardless of an individual’s sex, race, class, and, most importantly, the protection of democracy, for respect of institutions, and constitutional rights. If not, we are no better than fascists and surrender ourselves to the evilness of fascism.

Fascism originated in Italy under Benito Mussolini, who initially identified as a Socialist, then drifted away from the ideology as he became a fanatic of nationalism.

After World War I, Mussolini was unhappy with the outcome for Italy. Initially on the side of the Central Powers (German Empire, Austria-Hungary, etc.), he switched sides in 1915 to fight for the Alliance.

Mussolini had hoped that Italy fighting alongside the Alliance would see more land under Italian control. In the end, Italy got the runt of the deal in Mussolini’s mind.

He authored his manifesto, “Fascismo,” establishing a new political party.

During this time, public distrust of the Conservatives and Socialists became common, and a weak economy was ripe for Mussolini. Distrust and fear planted seeds that became more evident later on, growing into today’s politics.

Mussolini led the March of Rome in 1923, which, after a behind-the-scenes struggle, King Victor Emmanuel II agreed to let Mussolini form his government. This resulted in the degrading of Democracy and attributing the genocidal atrocity of the Holocaust.

Ideologies that pray and step on others for gain by excessive tyranny will see fascism take hold, even possibly here someday.

Picture an old rotting tree producing gloom and hatred that should be torn down.

The branches springing off represent various ideologies under the ugly umbrella of fascism, with components differing from Mussolini’s main ideology.

Generally, these branches contain one common thing: fear.

When people become fearful, they prioritize themselves and their interests and drift further away from the political center.  Someone considered charismatic comes along and preaches that one group is not to be trusted and/or is causing malice in society. This sees an eventual rally in support.

The next branch is economic turmoil. A country goes through a major crisis, seeing high unemployment, hyperinflation and discrepancies between the public and the government.

The next branch represents a distrust of democracy. Legislative and Judicial branches of the government are reduced or done away with entirely. The final branch represents nationalism. Contrary to patriotism, people become hardened in the belief that their ethnicity is above all and that further claims should be pressed to encompass all under the same ethnicity in the same country.

Nationalists believe that those who are inferior should be oppressed, either by intimidation, harassment, or killing. Several leaders who fit this category include Hitler, Franco, Mussolini, and many others, who followed each branch of the tree for evil. If we can recognize fascism, we can better protect our democracy.

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