I was listening to a discussion on NPR this morning about the rise of neo-Nazism in Europe. The discussion, of course, was current because of the killings in Norway by an extremist Christian, Muslim-hating Norwegian who wanted to bring about a revolution that would "purify" the population and stop the inflow of immigrants from the Near East. The rise of neo-Nazism in many European countries has been a concern for awhile and has led to the election of some fairly right-wing governments in many countries, including the United Kingdom. What the participants in this discussion failed to mention (at least during the time that I was listening) is that this is not just a European phenomenon. Neo-Nazism is very much a modern American phenomenon as well.
You need only look at the state legislatures and governors around the country that were elected last year to see the extent of this philosophy's hold on American imaginations. In states throughout the country that are ruled by Republican majorities in their governments, we see a concerted effort to reduce the freedoms of citizens and increase the government's control over individual lives. State after state continues to try to restrict collective bargaining rights, to restrict women's rights to abortion (or even to contraception), to refuse basic human rights to homosexuals, to tear holes in the social safety net by reducing the availability of unemployment compensation and Medicaid, to impose discriminatory laws against Muslims and immigrants whose skin color the majority doesn't like, and to make it as hard as possible for people to vote. This is not a complete list, but these are some of the more popular actions taken by our home-grown neo-Nazis in this season of intolerance.
In taking these actions, they are egged on by right-wing talk radio where hate speech is the standard means of communication, and, of course, they receive encouragement and sympathetic coverage from their favorite television network, Fox News.
The Southern Poverty Law Center which tracks hate groups across the country has noted the rise in neo-Nazism and the explosion in the numbers of the groups which they track. A look at their "hate map" which shows where such groups are located in every state is a real eye-opener. Texas, for example, has 59 such documented groups.
The point is that it isn't just Europe that needs to be concerned about the rise of Nazism and the threat to personal liberties. Our country, too, trembles on the brink of a fall into the abyss and it is not just an abyss of financial failure. Intolerance is a cancer in our country and it is growing.
As William Faulkner once assured us, "The past is never dead; it isn't even past." And as George Santayana said, "Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it." Personally, I don't want to repeat the 1930s and 1940s.