The pillars of fascism are clear to any student of history: populism, ultranationalism, anti-liberal and anti-democratic rhetoric. Media, with some exception, has abandoned all discretion with the word. Trump doesn’t meet the requirements, but he comes closer than any U.S. politician in recent memory. Unlike historical fascist leaders, Trump has no coherent ideology, let alone burning conviction.
Those of us who are alarmed by Trump’s rhetoric should be cautious, but comforted that our nation has survived such spasms of nationalism. For much of America’s history, even as far back as colonial times, Catholics were targeted as suspiciously loyal to a foreign religious power.
Children played “Break the Pope’s Neck.”
“The play of breaking the Pope’s neck, consists in twirling a plate on the edge, and letting go your hold; when if it fall bottom upwards, the Pope’s neck is held, to all intents and purposes, so far forth as the amusement is concerned, to be fairly broken. Again the neck is to be set: this consists also in the twirling and letting go of the plate, when, if it fall with the right side up, it is held to be well and truly set.”
Irish Catholic churches were torched. Crosses were burned on front lawns. Philadelphians rioted over perceived threats of “Papal invasion.” Never change, Philadelphia.
Trump and his bad ideas will almost certainly crawl back to his gold-plated penthouse at some point over the next year. If he doesn’t, it’s going to get dark.
But take heart. Just a decade before Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, a theologian named Theodore Parker delivered a sermon that illustrates how hope will, in the long run, triumph over fear.
“Look at the facts of the world. You see a continual and progressive triumph of the right. I do not pretend to understand the moral universe, the arc is a long one, my eye reaches but little ways. I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by the experience of sight … But from what I see I am sure it bends toward justice.”
Hopefully we won’t have to endure a wound like the Civil War to get there.
Feature Image via Flickr user Gageskidmore