We’ve been watching it happen for years.
When a wealthy person, especially a white man, is accused of a crime, there often seems to be some magical ward of protection around them. A barrier holding justice at bay.
I’ve written about the importance of accountability and equality of justice in a democracy, and I’ve written about how demoralizing it is to see the rich and powerful ignore the rules that we the people must adhere to.
Justice ceases to be just when it is applied unevenly.
We’ve been watching this play out in the United States for quite a while. ‘Rules for thee but not for me’ seems to be a favorite playbook for the most hypocritical politicians across all nations, but in the States, it’s to a whole new level.
“Lock her up!” they chanted. But now, it’s “How dare you try to lock up a political opponent!”
Lock Him Up
It’s important to note that indictment is not a conviction.
Trump is an American citizen, and under the law he is entitled to a fair trial with the right to face his accusers in court. He is granted the presumption of innocence until he is proven guilty.
But that’s to do with the criminal court. There is no such requirement in the court of public opinion.
For the entire term that Donald Trump spent in the White House, we -both American citizens and outsiders like me- watched him repeatedly flaunt and sidestep the law, as well as simply make a fool of the United States on the world stage.
We watched him call for violence at his rallies. We saw him cozy up to dictators. We saw him break the emoluments clause and continue to profit off of his political escapades.
We watched him attempt to gain dirt on political opponents from foreign actors, we watched him steal classified documents and keep them in an unsecured location with untrustworthy visitors moving freely in the building.
We watched him court the affections of far-right extremists and hate groups, and we heard him call the rioters in Charlottesville ‘very fine people’.
We saw January 6. I watched it live. I watched people die and be beaten and break through windows and carry the traitorous Confederate flag through the U.S. Capitol for the first time in its history.
And that’s just a handful of the things he’s done in the public eye, the things we know of.
I could talk about his bid to crush industry regulations that has directly led to a loss of human life and health. I could talk about his abject failure with regard to Covid, and his spreading of blatant misinformation. Again, the cause of human suffering and death during the Pandemic.
Election interference, fraud, failing to pay his debts and his employees, the allegations of sexual abuse and misconduct, his atrocious misogyny…his attack on human rights in general.
I could go on forever.
Watching his impeachment was satisfying in a hollow way, as it did not lead to his removal from office nor any real accountability. Watching him lose the election was bittersweet what with the events of January 6.
But now, knowing that indictments are being brought against him with two other cases currently being drawn up…for the first time in a long while, I have a feeling of tentative hope.
Will he actually be brought down by this? I don’t know.
Will it stop his cult of followers if he is? Probably not.
But it will be a start. It will be a message sent to the rest of the world that the U.S.A. does actually care about enforcing its laws. It does actually care about preventing abuses of power. It does actually intend to live up to its own stated love of democracy and justice for all.
For a long time, I said I wasn’t going to celebrate until the man actually faced conviction, but lately…no. I’m celebrating now.
I’m celebrating the fact that a step has been taken in the right direction.
Fascism Can’t Be Allowed to Have a Voice
There’s a tendency to equate the word ‘fascist’ with ‘somebody I don’t like’.
This is not correct.
Fascism is, by definition, a far-right ultranationalist political philosophy which is characterized by 14 distinct traits.
- Extreme Nationalism. Patriotic mottos, symbols and songs with a focus on the grand and everlasting beauty of the nation. Rhetoric which creates a mythology of a grand and glorious past is used to inspire the people.
- Disregard for Human Rights. The rule of law is ignored, and the favored ‘in-group’ enjoys more liberty than the ‘out-group’ with the tacit consent of the people. Police abuse, extrajudicial punishment, assassinations and harsh prison sentences are the norm.
- Identification of an ‘Other’ as the Unifying Enemy. Fascists find something to hype fear around, usually an ethnic, racial, sexual, gendered or political minority. The enemy is described as weak and contemptible, and all-powerful and difficult to fight at the same time.
- Supremacy of the Military. Military service is glamorized and celebrated, and the military is given disproportionately high funding. Domestic needs are neglected in favor of military funding.
- Widespread Sexism. Gender roles are rigidly enforced, and male dominance is enforced in politics and other positions of authority. Reproductive rights, the right to divorce, and homosexuality are demonized or made criminal.
- Control of Mass Media. The government seizes control of the news media in order to have control over the information shared with the people.
- Obsession With National Security. Fear is hyped as a tool to keep the people willing to surrender freedom for the feeling of safety.
- Religion and Government are Intertwined. The most common religion in the nation is co-opted by those in power to court the loyalty of the masses. Religious messaging and buzzwords are constantly used by the government. No separation of church and state.
- Corporate Power is Protected. Business and government scratch each other’s backs. Lobbying and investment deals have a huge impact on policy.
- Labor Power is Suppressed. The organized power of the average citizen is a threat to the government and must be broken. The people cannot be allowed to unionize.
- Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts. Certain topics of academia, deemed threatening to the supremacy of the state, are suppressed. Government funding is restricted, and professors and researchers are often censored and even arrested. Prohibited artwork is confiscated and artists are arrested as dissenters.
- Obsession with Crime and Punishment. Brutal policing and harsh sentencing. Under fascist regimes, the police are given carte blanche to punish criminals, especially the scapegoated ‘Other’, and the people offer support or look the other way. People are willing to sacrifice civil rights in the name of patriotism.
- Cronyism and Corruption. Official appointments are often made by nepotism, and alliances are formed to help prevent politicians from being held accountable. National resources and treasures are often stolen by the ruling class for profit or personal gain.
- Fraudulent Elections. Some fascistic regimes still hold elections. These elections are rarely honest, and often only a sham. They exist as an illusion to give the people plausible deniability and the feeling that they still have a say. Tools, such as gerrymandering, are used to render the vote impotent.
If all of this feels a little on the nose, or you want to say my bias is showing…this paraphrased list was first written back in 2003, by an amateur historian and writer by the name of Laurence Britt.
You could also try reading the works of Umberto Eco, who wrote his essay on the 14 characteristics of fascism back in 1995. Eco included things like “Rejection of modernism,” which made social and cultural progress the enemy, and “Fear of difference,” an appeal to fear that used immigrants and minorities as a scapegoat for society’s ills.
There are many definitions of fascism, but these traits are the most commonly recognized by students of history today. Even Umberto Eco said, in his opinion as a man who spent his childhood living in fascist Italy, that only one of these traits need be present to allow a foothold for fascism to take root.
Consider the Trump administration and the MAGA Republicans under the lens of this list, and perhaps you’ll see why I’ve been so concerned.
I’m sorry, but “It can’t happen here,” has never been true.
“If fascism comes, it will not be identified with any "shirt" movement, nor with an "insignia," but it will probably be wrapped up in the American flag and heralded as a plea for liberty and preservation of the constitution." - James Waterman Wise
Justice is Served
At least I hope it will be, in the coming months. There are more indictments coming in multiple states, with some very serious charges included in the filings.
I have hope. A cautious, wavering, very fragile hope that we might get to see this train halted before another catastrophe ensues.
With indictments filed, allowing him to skate through this and get away clean would only encourage and inflame his base again. The last thing we need is for Trump to rise from the ashes of a failed prosecution.
I’ll keep my fingers crossed for now. If he is proven to have committed crimes against the people of the United States in a court of law, I’ll be happy. But it will be a while yet before we see that come to fruition.
For now, I’ll raise a glass to the District Attorney and the Manhattan courts. Good luck, guys. And stay safe out there.