America’s long descent into fascism

Written By Nardos Haile, Co-News Editor

Since our infancy, we have all had fabricated, hardwired views of America fed to us through chanting the Pledge of Allegiance every day before the beginning of class and singing the National Anthem at a Friday night football game. This is all a part of the greater American identity known as American Exceptionalism.

To Americans, America itself is an idealistic utopia that promotes hard work, perfection, control and competition. The country and its people strive to be number one and the center of attention through any means necessary.

The paper-thin veil, shielding an enchanted society to the ugly underbelly of America’s past, was exposed after the election of President Trump. We started using words like populism, authoritarianism, and fascism without actual context. But America’s descent into fascism didn’t begin with President Trump. 

I know people like to think the political climate and rhetoric only now suddenly became polarized within the recent five years. But that’s because their privilege afforded them the luxury to coast and daydream through life without the looming threat of American fascism hanging over their heads, that is until people started protesting and rioting against a fundamentally shattered American system. 

Fascism is roughly defined as a far-right ideology that centers on the concentration of power at the governmental level. Fascist governments thrive on the suppression of dissenting voices through force and sometimes even death and torture. Fascism does not allow for differences of opinion, thought, and punishes people for protest and speech. The uniformity that comes with fascism rejects and “others” people outside and inside the state. It is hell-bent on creating one national identity that exalts the state, its leaders and renounces the surrounding world.

Each American president has had its manipulative hands in creating the current American Empire. In recent years, the never-ending and unsanctioned War on Terror in countries like Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria, created cycles of unchecked abuses of power perpetrated by America through its self-serving interests and bucket loads of fascism.

President Bush set a dangerous precedent with the Iraq War. The legality of this war is still debated today. The international community or the United Nations, stated it believed the war was unjustified and unsanctioned by the U.N. and a violation of Article 51 of the U.N. Charter. This provision states that if an armed attack occurs, states are permitted to retaliate in self-defense but only if there is an imminent attack. 

Iraq posed no imminent threat to America, so the Bush Administration created the biggest political blunder of all time. Their key into Iraq was through the fictionalized threat of weapons of mass destruction in the arsenal of Saddam Hussein. 

Bush himself believed that as commander-in-chief, he had the unilateral and constitutional power to declare war without approval from Congress, which violated Article I, section 8 of the U.S. Constitution. Which states that Congress has the sole power to declare war.

Post 9/11, Bush and his administration also passed the Patriot Act. This was the beginning of modern-day governmental oversight encroaching on the American people’s civil liberties. Also, it invited xenophobic and islamophobic sentiments into American discourse and society.

The Patriot Act opened the door to a slew of new laws that allowed the government more powers to investigate crimes relating to terrorism in the country.

Moreover, the act, specifically section 215, allowed federal agencies the unparalleled access to obtain search warrants for any person’s records by stating the investigation was a matter of national security and combatting terrorism. They didn’t need any proof or even reasonable suspicion of terrorist activity to be granted a warrant.

The Patriot Act expired during the Obama Administration, but, during his terms, America had become the biggest surveillance state in the 21st century because of the creation and fast-moving expansion of the National Security Agency, or the NSA. 

In 2013, NSA contractor Edward Snowden leaked that the NSA had been spying on Americans through their phones by the justification of section 215.

After the reveal of the unconstitutional surveillance, Snowden fled the country to Hong Kong and eventually received asylum in Russia. The Justice Department charged Snowden with violating the Espionage Act of 1917 and theft of government property. 

In order to control dissent and prevent a breach of top-secret government information like Snowden’s happening again, the Obama Administration prosecuted more whistleblowers than double the number under all previous presidents combined.

The surveillance power established in the Obama years then was passed down to current President Trump. A president whose administration had been recently accused of allegedly and unlawfully spying and intercepting phones of protesters in Portland, Oregon.

American intelligence agencies have extensive power and knowledge due to the retraction and infringement of our civil liberties. The agencies use this information to further promote America’s agenda and influence and to ultimately uphold power in the international and national sphere. 

America thrives on control. Our government leaders squander our human rights and other people’s human rights overseas for justification of imperialist, unjust wars that have slowly but surely led us down the pathway of a commodified American version of fascism. 

It’s the reason why the last three administrations, both Republican and Democrat, have participated in horrific and predatory immigration policies that violated international law, the prosecution of outspoken whistleblowers informing the public of the government’s illegal activity, the violation of the 8th Amendment in the use of cruel and usual punishment towards detainees, and the unlawful surveillance and bombings overseas in the Middle East.

The erosion of the rule of law isn’t so obvious to the eye as some would like to believe. It never starts with just one president. It happens over time, slowly and gradually until it’s fully normalized. It seems people don’t see it even when the sitting president continues to use and deploy militarized federal agents into major cities to unconstitutionally snatch, arrest and charge protesters with harsh federal crimes. Fascism doesn’t happen in a vacuum. We’re the ones that got us here in the first place.