"When arguing that every age has its own Fascism, Italian writer and Holocaust survivor Primo Levi added that the critical point can be reached 'not just through the terror of police intimidation, but by denying and distorting information, by undermining systems of justice, by paralyzing the education system, and by spreading in a myriad subtle ways nostalgia for a world where order reigned.'"
Fascism rarely makes a dramatic entrance. Typically, it begins with a seemingly minor character—Mussolini in a crowded cellar, Hitler on a street corner—who steps forward only as dramatic events unfold. The story advances when the opportunity to act comes and Fascists alone are prepared to strike. That is when small aggressions, if unopposed, grow into larger ones, when what was objectionable is accepted, and when contrarian voices are drowned out.
She quotes a "well-educated but not politically minded German who experienced the rise of the Third Reich" (from Milton Meyer's They Thought They Were Free):
To live in this process is absolutely not to be able to notice it—please try to believe me.... Each step was so small, so inconsequential, so well explained or, on occasion, "regretted," that, unless one were detached from the whole process, unless one understood what ... all these "little measures" that no "patriotic German" could resent must some day lead to, one no more saw it developing from day to day than a farmer in his field sees the corn growing... [Until] one day, too late... you see that everything, everything has changed and changed completely under your nose.
She concludes her penultimate chapter with possible/probable & terrifying scenarios. It doesn't look good, folks. But she goes on to exhort our better angels:
The temptation is powerful to close our eyes and wait for the worst to pass, but history tells us that for freedom to survive, it must be defended, and that if lies are to stop, they must be exposed.
And I conclude:
Whatever is going to happen is already happening, wrote the poet Ted Berrigan. I hope we can as a nation "build & maintain a healthy center for our societies, a place where rights and duties are apportioned fairly, the social contract is honored, and all have room to dream and grow."