Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The F Word

It seems that we should keep this list tucked back in our memory. Don't know much about fascism...well, let's help you out a little.

The 14 Defining Characteristics of Fascism
(From Free Inquiry, Spring 2003)
Dr. Lawrence Britt has examined the fascist regimes of Hitler (Germany), Mussolini (Italy), Franco (Spain), Suharto (Indonesia) and several Latin American regimes. Britt found fourteen defining characteristics common to each:

1. Powerful and Continuing Nationalism
- Fascist regimes tend to make constant use of patriotic mottos, slogans, symbols, songs, and other paraphernalia. Flags are seen everywhere, as are flag symbols on clothing and in public displays.

2. Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights
- Because of fear of enemies and the need for security, the people in fascist regimes are persuaded that human rights can be ignored in certain cases because of "need." The people tend to look the other way or even approve of torture, summary executions, assassinations, long incarcerations of prisoners, etc.

3. Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause
- The people are rallied into a unifying patriotic frenzy over the need to eliminate a perceived common threat or foe: racial , ethnic or religious minorities; liberals; communists; socialists, terrorists, etc.

4. Supremacy of the Military
- Even when there are widespread domestic problems, the military is given a disproportionate amount of government funding, and the domestic agenda is neglected. Soldiers and military service are glamorized.

5. Rampant Sexism
- The governments of fascist nations tend to be almost exclusively male-dominated. Under fascist regimes, traditional gender roles are made more rigid. Divorce, abortion and homosexuality are suppressed and the state is represented as the ultimate guardian of the family institution.

6. Controlled Mass Media
- Sometimes the media is directly controlled by the government, but in other cases, the media is indirectly controlled by government regulation, or sympathetic media spokespeople and executives. Censorship, especially in war time, is very common.

7. Obsession with National Security
- Fear is used as a motivational tool by the government over the masses.

8. Religion and Government are Intertwined
- Governments in fascist nations tend to use the most common religion in the nation as a tool to manipulate public opinion. Religious rhetoric and terminology is common from government leaders, even when the major tenets of the religion are diametrically opposed to the government's policies or actions.

9. Corporate Power is Protected
- The industrial and business aristocracy of a fascist nation often are the ones who put the government leaders into power, creating a mutually beneficial business/government relationship and power elite.

10. Labor Power is Suppressed
- Because the organizing power of labor is the only real threat to a fascist government, labor unions are either eliminated entirely, or are severely suppressed.

11. Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts
- Fascist nations tend to promote and tolerate open hostility to higher education, and academia. It is not uncommon for professors and other academics to be censored or even arrested. Free expression in the arts and letters is openly attacked.

12. Obsession with Crime and Punishment
- Under fascist regimes, the police are given almost limitless power to enforce laws. The people are often willing to overlook police abuses and even forego civil liberties in the name of patriotism. There is often a national police force with virtually unlimited power in fascist nations.

13. Rampant Cronyism and Corruption
- Fascist regimes almost always are governed by groups of friends and associates who appoint each other to government positions and use governmental power and authority to protect their friends from accountability. It is not uncommon in fascist regimes for national resources and even treasures to be appropriated or even outright stolen by government leaders.

14. Fraudulent Elections
- Sometimes elections in fascist nations are a complete sham. Other times elections are manipulated by smear campaigns against or even assassination of opposition candidates, use of legislation to control voting numbers or political district boundaries, and manipulation of the media. Fascist nations also typically use their judiciaries to manipulate or control elections.

While the United States is certainly not fascist by the standards of the countries in Britt's study, there are moments when these abhorrent little tendencies float to the top like oil on water. Maybe we should set up a test, "...if you answered 'yes' to 7 or more, then you're in need of assistance..."?

Certainly, some people have fascist thoughts and even try to impose fascist ideas. Are there enough of them to worry about? Let's check back after the next elections

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Real family values in the 21st century!

I'm very surprised that more progressive people like you aren't talking about this. It is a huge chink in the armor of the religious right and it's fallen into our laps with little fanfare. Let's shout it from the rooftops!

The recent article by Jonathan Rauch published in the National Journal magazine ("The Leading Weekly on Politics and Policy") highlights research in the new book, "Red Families v. Blue Families: Legal Polarization and the Creation of Culture," written by two family law professors from George Washington University and the University of Missouri. What they have discovered is a monumental leap in the argument against the right's hold on the that thorn in our non-religious sides, family values.

The paradox is this: Cultural conservatives revel in condemning the loose moral values and louche lifestyles of "San Francisco liberals." But if you want to find two-parent families with stable marriages and coddled kids, your best bet is to bypass Sarah Palin country and go to Nancy Pelosi territory: the liberal, bicoastal, predominantly Democratic places that cultural conservatives love to hate.
Isn't this an important piece of amunition against the junk that the "family values" crowd spreads whenever they want to silence someone about improving sex education, teaching evolution in the public schools or recognizing diversity in the community? What would they do if they learned that their side is failing the very tests they hold up to belittle the progressive crowd?

Parenthood and sexual activity are extremely important in our human development and it's unreasonable that we are allowed to forget how hard it is to resist the one that leads to the other. And if you recognize that we can physically engage in sexual activity long before we realize how important the consequence is, then you have a leg up on helping to keep parenthood from derailing adulthood. This is where Red America fails, doesn't see the folly of their dogma and hurts young people in the process.

Older parents make better parents....wiser, smarter and with better finances....everything you need to have a more stable parenting where children are involved. And Red America makes it a rule to put as many obstacles in the way of delaying parenthood. They would prefer no sex education while preventing access to abortion, which contributes to early marriages for people who lack emotional maturity and who are likely to fail under the pressures of taking care of a newborn. Not to mention the young people who miss going to college for more advanced education which could make their lives more stable and successful. It's almost as if the Religious Right is designing an outcome so their children will fail. (And perpetuate the dependency on an outmoded religious doctrine.)
Cahn and Carbone find an asymmetry. Blue norms are well adapted to the Information Age. They encourage late family formation and advanced education. They produce prosperous parents with graduate degrees, low divorce rates, and one or two over-protected children.
Red norms, on the other hand, create a quandary. They shun abortion (which is blue America's ultimate weapon against premature parenthood) and emphasize abstinence over contraception. But deferring sex in today's cultural environment, with its wide acceptance of premarital sex, is hard. Deferring sex and marriage until you get a college or graduate degree -- until age 23 or 25 or beyond -- is harder still. "Even the most devout overwhelmingly do not abstain until marriage," Cahn and Carbone write.
So why isn't the mainstream and even the not-so-mainstream media talking about this? Why aren't we all hammering this point home everytime we encounter the neanderthal-like arguments that teenagers (especially the females) must be "punished" for engaging in behavior that their religion detests....while offering nothing practical to improve their chances of avoiding pregnancy?

Our society has suffered enough from this nonsense and we must stand up against these cruel and backward arguments. Let us all step into the 21st century and demand that we stop adhering to dangerous religious practices that no longer have a place in a modern society. Buy the book or better yet, send a copy to the political leaders where you live.