by Lauren Berger
We’ve heard the unattributed adage “When fascism comes to America, it will be draped in a flag and carrying a cross.” Indeed, when the USA has its own brand of fascism it will not appear as a reiteration of something else, but as our own – organic, patriotic white heterosexual Christian – version.
Some would argue fascism was here as our nation was born, not unlike a midwife delivering a newborn. Certainly in the last ten years we’ve noticed: increasing attacks on minority groups like immigrants, racial justice advocates, and Muslims. The embrace of militarized police in the communities they’ve sworn to “protect and serve” as though they are combatants in a state of war. The reverence of shock jocks over reasoned experts – placing value in something loud, or that rhymes, over something true. The warning signs of fascism have been around us for a while, if only we’d bothered to look—or name it when we saw it.
Meanwhile the tendrils of the brutish, “might makes right” authoritarian attitude that assumes one deserves to die if they disobey, predictably latched on. And they’ve produced ever more radical, ever more bombastic characters that inevitably begin to say the quiet part out loud. Enter the RAT.
The Reawaken America Tour, a cadre of conspiracy theorists, Christian Nationalists and those who have attained pseudo-celebrity status from their connection to Trump, is now descending on Batavia after the venue in Rochester decided it could no longer withstand the risk of such a concentration of white supremacists. Disturbingly, somehow fittingly, the new host venue for the RAT calls itself a “church.”
Equal parts Covid-conspiracy and election denial, the RAT’s long list of speakers include those who advocate for the US to have a single, Christian, religion; those who peddle anti-Semitic myths about George Soros; those who remove congregants in their church who wear a facemask; those who have said that supporters of LGBTQ rights should be executed; and those who participate in literal book burning.
The rhetoric laced with violent metaphors, stroking the fear response so familiar to conservatives who worry their “way of life” is being threatened, is not an accident. The intended takeaway of a panicked, “you should be very alarmed and ready to fight” is laid on so thick its likely participants can taste it. In a country where armed insurrectionists erected a gallows on the grounds of the US capital last year, insurrectionists who would likely jockey for front-row-seats at the RAT, is anyone still pretending they don’t see what’s going on?
Many of us like to believe we’d resist historical oppression like Nazis or enslavement. People believe they’d stand up to hateful and violent movements. Yet as the emergence of Christian nationalism becomes clearer and clearer, it seems fewer and fewer people are living up to their historical idealism. So this prompts the question: What will you do?
Will you talk about the concerning rise of fascism with your loved ones? Will you tell them this event has no place in Batavia, or anywhere else? Will you write to your newspaper, or speak at your place of worship, or post on social media? Will you organize, join groups or attend events committed to justice and equity? Will you donate to grassroots efforts and show up at protests?
If not, we will have no answer when our descendants ask. We will have no explanation for not standing up to fascism, as those we claim to admire have done. We may very well have nothing left at all.