“To accept passively an unjust system is to co-operate with that system; thereby the oppressed become as evil as the oppressor.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.
There is an old parable about a Zen master who lives on the outskirts of a small village and practices his skill as an archer as part of his daily meditation. When the villagers ask him why he doesn’t use his extraordinary archery skills to hunt animals or fight in battles, the Zen master replies, “I do not use my bow and arrows to kill things.”
One day marauders attack the village and begin to slaughter the inhabitants. When the Zen master sees what is happening, he grabs his bow and quiver of arrows, and with amazing speed and accuracy, kills one marauder after another until they retreat and leave the village.
The villagers are stunned and ask the Zen master why he chose to break from tradition and use his archery skills for killing. The Zen master looks at them impassively and says, “It wasn’t necessary until today.”
Americans who have enabled large corporations and corrupt politicians to turn America into a fascist state should take heed of the Zen master’s tale. The fascists may not be in their backyards yet, but they are getting closer each year. And there is no Zen master living nearby to stop them.
So who are these enablers, and why are they doing nothing to prevent the Bush/Cheney regime and their fascist friends from taking over our democracy?
As I see it, they fall into three primary categories.
Fatalists: The fatalists are the you-can’t- fight-city-hall crowd. They know the system is corrupt. They know things are getting worse. They know one day the forces of fascism may hit them personally. But just like Martin Niemoller, the German minister who stood idly by as the Nazis destroyed his country, they do nothing. They don’t vote, they don’t speak out, and they don’t protest or become politically involved.
How many Americans fall into this category? Quite a few, I would guess. We know, for example, 50 percent of Americans don’t bother to vote because they are either too apathetic or too convinced that the Republican and Democratic candidates are equally corrupt. But when asked why they don’t vote for a third party candidate like a Ralph Nader or become politically active and protest, they say it wouldn’t make any difference, that the rich power brokers would still rig the system for their own benefit. So they are content to sit on their couches, flip to the next channel, and wait for the apocalypse.
Corporatists: These are the “Sunshine Assassins” of our country, the brainwashed, middle-income corporate soldiers who work for large companies and defend corporate America even as they lose their pensions and medical benefits, work longer and harder for the same pay, and watch their jobs get outsourced to other countries.
Nevertheless, they still believe– with religious fervor, by golly!– that America is the greatest country in the world. But when asked if they’ve ever lived in another country to test the validity of their premise, most of them respond that they haven’t. And when asked if they are aware that middle-income Americans rank way down on the quality-of-life list (longevity, health care, paid time off from work, etc.) compared to the citizens of most European countries, they seem surprised.
They also seem surprised to learn that the CEOs of the companies they work for make over 500 times their salaries and are awash in tens of millions of dollars of stock options while their own salaries, adjusted for inflation, are lower than they were 30 years ago.
I don’t know how many Americans fall into this category, but there are quite a few. In fact, if we add up all the corporate soldiers who work for large companies and the military/industrial complex, we’re talking millions. I would also include in this category the millions of right-wing evangelical Christians who still believe that people like George W. Bush and Rush Limbaugh are on their side, that Michael Moore is evil incarnate, and that progressive social reform is for commies, even though their lord and master, Jesus Christ, was the quintessential social reformer.
If you add up these two groups, my guess is they make up a lion’s share of the 25-30% of the public who still support George W. Bush and his occupation of Iraq. Notice I used the word “occupation” and not “war,” and journalists should stop calling our presence in Iraq a war because that’s the terminology promoted by the Bush administration to hold onto support from the public. In other words, it’s much harder for Americans to swallow the concept of “losing a war” than “ceasing an occupation.”
Programmed by their corporate masters and the mainstream media, the corporatists never even consider this use of language as a propaganda tool, the same way they never consider the reality that their boy Bush stole both presidential elections, that he uses the Constitution of the United States like toilet paper, and that he is a war criminal responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent people. Instead they continue to believe that liberals and secularists cause all the problems in America and the country would be a better off without them.
The Uninformed: Unlike the fatalists who know better but do nothing, or the corporatists who are brainwashed into acting counter to their own best interests, the uninformed don’t know anything about the political process– and don’t want to know anything about it. They don’t read or ask questions or use critical thinking skills. They just live their lives from hand to mouth and hope for the best.
No one knows for sure how many people fall into this category, but there are millions of them. Most of them live their lives in fear and in quiet desperation. Many of them are poor and underprivileged and work at dead end jobs, the very people who should vote en masse to try to change their lots in life. But they don’t because they are preoccupied with day-to-day survival.
Well, there you have it– the enablers of fascism in a nutshell. The question is, how do we motivate the fatalists, deprogram the corporatists, and encourage the uniformed to become informed by the next election so we can put America back on a path back to democracy?
One thing is for sure, we’d better not depend on the Democratic Party for action. As of this writing, they still have not started impeachment proceedings against Bush and Cheney and still have not stopped funding the U.S. occupation of Iraq– which, regrettably, makes them the most egregious enablers of fascism of them all.