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Sadness of WWII: Our valiant soldiers defeated Hitler/fascism, but it is now alive in America

Yes, it can

Read the novel at Project Gutenberg:

Part One

The question was asked by acclaimed novelist Sinclair Lewis in 1935, during the worst of the Great Depression — and just when Hitler was accelerating his power in Germany.

The question Lewis asked is frightening: “What will happen when America has a dictator?”

We used to laugh about something so far-fetched, but Lewis’ prophecy, even after the destruction of Hitler and Germany in World War II, is looming on the horizon of America in the 2020s.

How did the U.S. become a country of Neo-Nazis and Holocaust Deniers and Aryan-lovers like Hitler’s Germany?

World War II’s horrific destruction

Writing this on the anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, is an ominous task.

No one knows exactly how many people died as a result of the autocratic leaders of Germany and Japan and Italy in that war. Some historians believe that between 40 and 50 million people died as a result of the conflict. The Soviet Union lost 18 million, and Poland lost approximately 20 percent of its population because of the fascists in Germany who were driving their quest for an Aryan domination.

The cost to the United States was approximately 300,000 combat deaths, the most in our history.

So, the destruction of Hitler and the Japanese by the Allies, led by America, was a monumental accomplishment, though at a terrible cost. Then, when America defeated the USSR in the Cuba Missile Crisis, which led to the fall of Communism in that country and the destruction of the literal Berlin Wall in Germany, the world appeared to be on a positive trajectory.

What has happened since those victories?

Why is fascism growing in America? The late Secretary of State Madeleine Albright wrote about the danger in 2018. Albright was an immigrant of Jewish parents who immigrated to the U.S. from the former Czechoslovakia. A review of that book summarized Albright’s loss of optimism about America,

The fall of the Berlin Wall caused euphoria in the West. George H. W. Bush declared that “the end of the Cold War has been a victory for all humanity,” and Vaclav Havel predicted Europe would create “a new kind of order” where the powerful would no longer suppress the less powerful and disputes would no longer be settled by force.

How far away those days seem. What happened to this optimism? Why has the momentum toward democracy and international comity slowed? Why, as Madeleine Albright asks early in her new book, “are we once again talking about fascism?”

Who better to address these questions than Albright, whose life was shaped by fascism and whose contribution to the cultivation of democracy as a stateswoman and private citizen is unparalleled? In “Fascism: A Warning” Albright (with Bill Woodward) draws on her personal history, government experience and conversations with Georgetown students to assess current dangers and how to deal with them.

Sheri Berman, “Can It Happen Here? Madeleine Albright Examines

Fascism Then and Now,” New York Times, April 20, 2018

Albright’s examination of the problem historically and how it has grown in America makes clear that the conditions in America over the past six years — and previously — are similar to those in Nazi Germany,

First, fascism flourishes alongside economic, social and political chaos. Take the classic cases of interwar Germany and Italy. The Weimar Republic was buffeted by the Great Inflation and the Great Depression, violent left- and right-wing uprisings and the humiliation of a lost war, together with a punitive peace. Interwar Italy was battered by high inflation and unemployment, and paralyzed for almost two years by strikes and lockouts as left- and right-wing gangs battled in the streets. These conditions resulted in citizens who were fearful and desperate.

Sheri Berman, “Can It Happen Here? Madeleine Albright Examines

Fascism Then and Now,” New York Times, April 20, 2018

Compare that to America during these years. Inflation and a pandemic with the loss of 16 million jobs in 2020 and terribly high unemployment, the humiliation of so many jobs going to China and other Communistic and autocratic countries, an attack by the right-wingers upon the seat of democracy — the U.S. Capitol — and even elected officials saying that the U.S. is not a democracy, and the similarities are legion.

Lehigh professor’s new book agrees

Dr. Anthony R. DiMaggio is a professor at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania, and his recent book is entitled “Rising Fascism in America: It Can Happen Here.” The subtitle is a tribute to Sinclair Lewis,

The American Fascists chant "Blood and Soil" in 2017

Here is part of a review of the book,

To dismantle the threat of fascist politics in the U.S., the people must emerge from denial that it has taken root. Fighting fascism must become a regular topic of conversation in homes, schools, media and everywhere else discussions about the future of the nation take place.

So concludes political scientist Anthony DiMaggio in his new book “Rising Fascism in America: It Can Happen Here.” The sub-title refers to Sinclair Lewis’s 1935 dystopian novel, “It Can’t Happen Here.”

Lewis’s novel charts the rise of a populist demagogue, Buzz Windrip, an aspiring fascist meant to mirror the rise of German dictator Adolf Hitler. Windrip is dismissed as a joke. The novel’s hero, Doremus Jessup, attempts to sound the alarm.

DiMaggio’s book functions as an alarm-sounder, too—though he acknowledges that fascist politics are not the same as a fascist government.

“To be clear, I am not arguing that the United States is a fully consolidated fascist country—equivalent in its political institutions to what existed in Germany and Italy between 1922 and 1945,” writes DiMaggio. “The United States is not a one-party dictatorship. Rather, the concern is with the threat of a rising fascistic movement to the stability of the republic, which is to say that undercurrents, or elements of fascistic politics in America have steadily grown more extreme in recent decades, particularly in recent years under Trump’s presidency” …

DiMaggio repeatedly points out that while Trump may have successfully leveraged fascistic political leanings, he rode a wave that was already in progress.

… Trump “rose to power because of the longstanding cultivation of racist, authoritarian, and xenophobic beliefs on the American right in the years and decades running-up to his election in 2016,” writes DiMaggio.

Lori Friedman, “Fascism in America: It’s Happening Here, According to Professor's New Book,” Lehigh News, Lehigh University, June 8, 2022.

The enablers

DiMaggio goes one step further in assessing blame, and it is not just on the right-wing elements in America,

He points to a number of societal “enablers” who contributed to creating the fertile ground for “a neofascistic political movement” to flower. These include scholars, journalists, the Democratic Party and neoliberals who, he says, all downplayed fascistic political movements and the dangers of Trump’s rise. One example he cites is the media use of the word “populist” to describe presidential candidate Trump, which helps to avoid unpleasant discussions about the problem of a rising fascistic movement in the United States.

“It is not so much that populism is ‘wrong’ as a way of framing Trump and his politics, so much as it is a vague and less critical way of portraying his politics,” writes DiMaggio. “Furthermore, it obscures the authoritarian and neofascistic components of Trump’s politics.”

Lori Friedman, Lehigh News, Lehigh University, June 8, 2022.

Part 2: Fascism’s history in America

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