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Apathy, Cynicism, and Complacency are the Fascists’ Biggest Friends

In the media stampede to normalize the ascension of the “post-fascist” Brothers of Italy party to power with one-quarter of that nation’s vote, the emerging theme is that worrywarts shouldn’t run around screaming about the return of Mussolini because most Italians aren’t extremists at all, and are rather apathetic about the whole thing. You see, record numbers of Italians didn’t bother to vote. This is so even though Italy’s historically low 64% voter turnout corresponds to historically high U.S. voter turnout in 2020. Anyway, the folks over there don’t expect the new government to last long or accomplish much of anything, and the soon-to-be prime minister is promising not to rock the boat too much.

Weren’t we just here, reader? And I don’t mean in black-and-white newsreels, but in full-color, digitized reports of the 2016 U.S. presidential election and its aftermath. Remember all those bumper stickers that year, rooting for a “giant meteor” to smash us all to bits and “just end it already”? Trump was a buffoon, but Hillary was a corrupt old bag, was the conventional wisdom, so what did it matter which of them won? Also, Trump was a businessman, a “New York Republican,” so surely fears that he was a right-wing nutjob were overblown. I remember a young woman of my acquaintance who had to use a motorized wheelchair to get around, who was unbudgeable in her insistence that Clinton and Trump were equally bad and she wouldn’t vote for either of them. I wondered why it didn’t bother her more that Trump had mocked a reporter with a disability, as a sign of his eagerness to be cruel to the weak, and the feral response this taunt evoked in his followers.

Some of us knew better, but we were dismissed as hysterics. Presidents come and presidents go, and nothing really changes, was the general sentiment. After the election, Trump went on TV and reassured everyone that he didn’t “want to hurt” the Clintons, all those lock-her-up chants notwithstanding. But then came his endless lies. Then came his praise for torch-wielding Nazis screaming antisemitic slogans. Then came the crime against humanity of kidnapping refugee babies from their parents. Then came the pandemic and Trump’s malevolent and not merely incompetent response to it. Even then, we “hysterics” were told not to spread panic or use the f-word, because our “institutions” were strong, and once Trump lost the 2020 election, he’d have no choice but to leave office. But some of us knew that fascists don’t leave office voluntarily. And the Italians will relearn that lesson soon, as we Americans learned it on January 6, 2021. Chief Brother Giorgia Meloni is in sync with Hungary’s Victor Orbán and is no doubt studying his methods of corrupting democracy so that she can never be voted out of office. Not that any fascist ever flinched from breaking a few thousand heads to demonstrate the vigor of the national will, or something.

Humanity keeps vomiting up endless variations on the same vile history of massacre, because despite every solemn promise and the earnest efforts of survivors, historians, and museum directors, nobody ever learns anything, or at least the masses don’t, and neither do most of the politicians and journalists who at the end of the day are their faithful representatives. So here we are once again, with the killers taking the seats of power and laying their murderous plans, and the bystanders yawning at what they take to be more politicians’ antics.


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