Fascism Comes to Battle Creek
“At stake in our present battle is the survival of the American nation itself. We will destroy our country if these people get in…”
Donald J. Trump, Hersey PA Rally, December 10th, 2019.
One might not know this about me, given that my name is also the name of my father, but my mother’s parents immigrated to the US from Germany in the 1950s, after the war. When I was eight years old, my late grandmother began telling me about her youth, growing up under Hitler and the Nazis. These lessons shape every fabric of my being, yet few know this about me. But as Trump, who is undoubtedly a fascist, comes to Battle Creek, I feel compelled to issue a warning similar to what my grandmother told me when I was a small boy. Make no mistake, our decisions today, in the lead-up to the 2020 elections, and thereafter, will decide our shared future. We may wish to turn our heads from a darkening reality, but there is no place to hide. As Trump openly threatens a coup if he loses the election, standing on the sidelines makes us complicit in his barbarism.
The last words my grandmother spoke to me before she passed were in the form of a question. “Will God forgive me,” she asked, because even though she died in 2012, she knew these days were coming and felt guilty for having survived when so many around her were systematically exterminated. If we do nothing and our country degenerates further into the madness Trump has forced upon us, we risk damning those around us now and for generations to come.
My grandmother was born November 1929, as the Great Depression made its way across the Atlantic, worsening conditions in Germany and creating a hotbed of unrest. The Nazis pretended to be on the side of the little guy against big business. The largest political party in the country were democratic socialists, the communist party was growing, but the left failed to unite, failed to offer meaningful solutions to people desperately in need, and the Nazi Party grew because of this incompetence. Fascism, then as now, emerges from the middle class as well as those who were once middle class, but due to prolonged economic decay, lost their status, looking for scapegoats, and out for blood.
My grandmother and her parents thought they were safe from the Nazi horror because they didn’t resist, but the harsh reality found them in late 1936. Her uncle spoke out after he competed in the summer Olympics that year. But even him, a supposedly model “Aryan,” was then abducted. The Nazis drilled a hole in the side of his skull. Lobotomized for speaking out against their atrocities, he was then sent to live with my grandmother and her parents. If you think things couldn’t possibly get that bad here, perhaps you should ask yourself what it was like for the children who have thus far died in concentration camps run by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
For decades, as US corporations closed down factory after factory for other countries where people could be made to work for pennies, the ranks of impoverished here have grown. The Great Recession of 2008 made this situation far worse, especially for people of color, yet its impact has not gone away. In Battle Creek, the jobs that were lost have been replaced mainly by ones for little pay, including so-called “temp jobs” that create a permanent underclass, while inequality runs amok.
Instead of dealing with the systemic cause of these problems, money is thrown at those deserving financial stability, band-aids to what has become a social crisis. Over time, what many call a “non-profit industrial complex” has emerged but without fundamentally altering the balance of power in the community, grants from foundations will not solve this crisis. On the contrary, these foundations have done much to manufacture our consent to a status quo that now normalizes fascism as our systems cascade towards oblivion. Desperate for advertising dollars, the so-called “local” paper, The Enquirer, now owned by massive conglomerate GateHouse Media, further helps to normalize fascism under the guise of corporate, profit-driven “neutrality,” uncritically giving voice to those who desire to use violence against protesters today.
So while the left fails to offer meaningful solutions to those in need this very moment, those who have been abandoned support a madman in hopes he will save them. However, he will not. Trump stands on the side of those who profit from our misery, who grow rich from our sacrifice, and who require a contradictory mass movement to ensure their domination in the face of a rising left that threatens to win governmental seats of power come November 2020. The rich and powerful are afraid.
In Germany’s November 1932 elections, the Nazi Party received the most votes, though barely one third. This is what allowed Hitler to become Chancellor. Together, the socialist and communist parties received more votes than the Nazis and the rich became terrified. They needed Hitler to do what they and their government had not been able to do, though they foolishly believed he could be controlled. Support for the Nazi Party had been on the decline, so as the March 1933 elections drew closer, someone set fire to the capitol building, most likely the Nazis themselves, which Hitler used as an excuse to ban his political opponents and go on the warpath against the left to ensure his dictatorial rule. Even the middle class was decimated, but the profits of the largest corporations grew many times over.
Our government is broken, our economy risks degenerating into recession yet again, and Trump is like a category 5 hurricane headed straight for our democracy. So let us take our lessons from those who have faced cataclysm, who endured and grew stronger out of the rubble. As such, let us look to the de-colonial struggles in places like Puerto Rico where, after the devastation of Hurricane Maria, communities across the country came together, forming neighborhood-based assemblies to provide immediate support to one another, making sure no one was left behind. From this mutual aid, their grassroots assemblies became a democratic force for addressing all the problems people were faced with and, eventually, they provided their own foundation for a mass uprising that forced the colonial governor to resign. Their struggle continues today.
It may take a similar mass uprising to ensure the forces of fascism do not destroy our country, while a great many among us have already been left behind to suffer in silence. Make no mistake about where things stand today. Against us are forces of class oppression, of white supremacy, of hetero-patriarchy, and antisemitism who seek nothing less than our blind servitude to their destructiveness, one that will push the climate over a cliff, risking the annihilation of our very species and all life on the planet.
Some of us are forced to count among our ancestors mass murderers whose crimes against humanity have inspired a new generation of monsters today. This includes the late Admiral Donitz, who was married to my grandfather’s cousin, became Fuhrer after Hitler killed himself, and was convicted in Nuremberg. New monsters have arisen, but have yet to secure their complete victory. The upcoming elections will not solve this crisis and as we get out the vote, we must brace ourselves for greater darkness before the dawn. Only popular power can succeed and we must now prepare for the decisive struggle to come.
We must stand against fascism. They will destroy us unless we stop them first. If you doubt my words, just ask and I will show you my scars.