A fascinating and frightening interview with Chris Hedges has been posted at Salon. A former New York Times bureau chief in the Middle East and the Balkans, Hedges has a new book out called American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America.
After a career spent covering fascism overseas, Hedges started examining the Religious Right in the United States and discovered amazing similarities between the American right and totalitarian movements.
I think there are enough generic qualities that the group within the religious right, known as Christian Reconstructionists or dominionists, warrants the word. Does this mean that this is Nazi Germany? No. Does this mean that this is Mussolini's Italy? No. Does this mean that this is a deeply anti-democratic movement that would like to impose a totalitarian system? Yes.Two things stand out in the interview, which was conducted by Michelle Goldberg, who also wrote about the religious right in Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism.
One is Hedges' assessment that this country is only one crisis away from seeing the dominionists come to power. Such a crisis could take the form of worsening economic problems or a terrorist attack, and the resulting upheaval and fear would drive the push for fascism.
The other thing that struck me was Hedges diagnosis of the problem that is driving people to the religious fight. The problem is despair, both economic and personal. Others have done a great job of describing the economic despair, but few have tackled the issue of the psychological despair. (Michael Lerner in The Left Hand of God is one of the few who has tried.)
For me, the engine of the movement is deep economic and personal despair. A terrible distortion and deformation of American society, where tens of millions of people in this country feel completely disenfranchised, where their physical communities have been obliterated, whether that's in the Rust Belt in Ohio or these monstrous exurbs like Orange County, where there is no community. There are no community rituals, no community centers, often there are no sidewalks. People live in empty soulless houses and drive big empty cars on freeways to Los Angeles and sit in vast offices and then come home again. You can't deform your society to that extent, and you can't shunt people aside and rip away any kind of safety net, any kind of program that gives them hope, and not expect political consequences.Like Hedges (and Lerner), I believe these problems are at the heart of the desperation in so many people's lives.
Books like Hedges are important. We all need to be aware and be politically involved in the fight against the religious right.
However, political action, no matter how strong and organized, will never stop such an anti-democratic movement. Fascism can't be stopped until we heal our society and create a culture that provides hope, community and meaning to people's lives.