Plowshare rarely releases statements on issues. In the 13 years I have been Director, I think we have only put out three or four of them. But, almost in sorrow, we have felt led to share the statement below.
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PLOWSHARE STATEMENT ON PRESIDENT TRUMP
Plowshare Peace and Justice Center has observed the political situation in America for the past two years with increasing concern. It has been a volatile and violent time in our republic. And meanwhile great damage is being done to our country. Because of the rapid changes, we have been hesitant to offer a statement on this period. We share one now with the caution that it contains reflections at this moment. Who knows what the future holds?
SOMETHING NEW IN THE AMERICAN EXPERIENCE
President Donald Trump represents something new in the American experience. For the first time, a Fascist has become the President of the United States of America.
Plowshare doesn’t use the word Fascist lightly or as an insult. The Merriam-Webster definition is:
“A political philosophy, movement, or regime….that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition.”
The Fascist intentions and actions are clear. What has not happened are the success of many of the actions.
Americans are familiar with historic Fascists of foreign nations (Hitler, Mussolini, Franco, Peron, etc.) But Trump represents Fascism with an American face. He is the con man as dictator. He is also an “instinctive” Fascist. Disinterested in articulating a political philosophy, he simply thinks the country is a mess, and he is the one to straighten things out. (“I and I only can fix things” as he remarked in his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention).
The characteristics of Fascism are all there. Among them are glorifying himself as the Leader; demonizing others; asking for loyalty to himself, rather than the Constitution; supporting overtly Fascist groups; encouraging violence; offering simplistic solutions; lying consistently; holding theatrical rallies; etc., etc.
Because the media and politicians are not familiar with mainstream Fascism, they seem to have settled on describing President Trump as a “populist” as if that awkward term has a meaning.
We have also noted an unfortunate focus on the President’s personality. This has distracted from the Fascism he represents. It has also distracted from the Fascist movement he leads.
A NEW AMERICAN MOVEMENT
A new movement has assembled in response to President Trump’s campaign. For the first time, a mainstream Fascist movement exists in America.
The United States of America entered a second Gilded Age with the beginning of President Reagan’s administration. Like the first Gilded Age after the Civil War, American Big Business has increasingly driven the poor and the working class to the wall. The Republican and Democratic Parties, with the exception of some individuals in their ranks, have abandoned them. The poor and working-class have seen their jobs either shipped overseas or automated. They live in poverty and, all too often, drug addiction.
President Trump was handed a clearly thought out plan to win the Presidency. He intended to forge a coalition of white voters of all kinds (pro-choice, birthers, racists, militarists, capitalists, social conservatives, etc.) And the biggest part of this coalition were the poor and working-class who are living in a contemporary Depression. They put him over the top in the election.
As is characteristic of Fascism, most of Trump’s followers will not reject him. Fascism is primarily a religious movement, not a political party. They regard him with the feelings they would have for the Messiah. (As Trump noted, “I could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and not lose any voters”).
As noted above, because of the obsession with President Trump’s personality, there has been lack of focus on this mainstream Fascist movement. Would things have been better if a less impulsive, better organized and more intelligent person had led this movement? And what happens to this movement post-Trump?
Perhaps the greatest tragedy of this Fascist movement is that its participants do not recognize it for what it is. They have been sold a bill of goods by a con man. Those of us old enough to remember World War Two or to have older relatives who fought in it or know victims of Fascism recognize it for what it is.
WHAT IS TO BE DONE?
Plowshare Peace Center has reflected upon what is to be done in the present political situation. Americans grow up in a society soaked in violence. For many of us our first reaction is to commit violence. This has been demonstrated by members of the Antifa (short for “antifascist”), a loose collection of individuals and groups who believe in active, aggressive opposition to far right-wing movements. But we are concerned about what we as practitioners of non-violence can do.
We have noted the widespread resistance to President Trump’s policies. Wherever we look, the courts, the military, athletes, Congress, businesses, the political parties, the press, comedians, government officials and, above all, average Americans have courageously and loudly stood against those policies. This has been thrilling to watch.
Here are some non-violent ways to act:
**Resistance. Resist in whatever non-violent way you can. Support others in their resistance. Show up for them.
**Popular Front. Vote for a candidate who can defeat Trump and for candidates who can defeat his candidates. This may be difficult for you as we tend to look for the perfect candidate.
**Economic Boycott. Boycott all President Trump-related enterprises. What he really cares about is money. This will affect him.
**Investigations. Support the investigations into President Trump’s interactions with Russia and his other possible crimes. If this leads to impeachment, we have noted that many of us live in Representative Bob Goodlatte’s district. We will have an influence on the move to impeach.
**The Vulnerable. Stand up for the vulnerable. If you are a member of a privileged group (white, male, straight, middle- or upper-class, American citizen, etc.), speak up on behalf of those who are more vulnerable (people of color, immigrants, women, gay, bisexual, or transgender people, etc). Now more than ever, we need to unite with the vulnerable to give them our support.
**The Press. Support independent journalism. One of the first things Fascists attempt is to construct an alternative reality or to destroy the free press.
**Local & State Initiatives. Support local and state initiatives that oppose President Trump’s policies.
**The Constitution. Now, more than ever, the Constitution remains our main bulwark against Fascism. Struggle in every way against the undermining of the Constitution.
**Love. Love one another. Reach out to everyone around you, including those who support President Trump. Everything is temporary. Some day we will have lived through this era of madness. We must not let Fascism destroy our American community.
FASCISM AFTER TRUMP
Plowshare believes that the poor and working-class in this country are in the process of being destroyed. One of the few good things of this second Gilded Age is that if mainstream political parties and groups do not address this, alternative parties and groups will do so. The first Gilded Age saw the Progressives, the Socialists, the Wobblies, and the Unions emerge. If we are to survive as a country, this attack on the poor and working-class must be addressed.
Many resources exist, especially on the internet. We recommend Timothy Snyder’s Tyranny: Twenty Lessons.
THINK OF IT, ALWAYS
Plowshare Peace Center leaves you with a quote that is timely:
“When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love has always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall. Think of it, always.”
From the Plowshare Peace and Justice Center Board and Director, November 2017