Fascism is a loaded term. So loaded that it's next to impossible to talk about or even think about in a way that doesn't begin and end with Hitler and concentration camps and gas chambers. If it wasn't so pathetically xenophobic not to mention just plain silly, all the recent blather about Islamofascism would be welcome if for no other reason than it moves the discussion beyond the Nazis.
Our limited field of vision when it comes to fascism leaves us vulnerable to overlooking its emergence in subtle, more unrecognizable forms and early, less cancerous stages. Could we see it if it's not ushered in by a parade of goose-stepping soldiers?
Franklin Roosevelt saw it. Even seemingly innocuous stuff going on in our own backyard – like the game of footsy AT&T and our state government are playing – makes FDR's words of warning echo loudly.
Nobel Prize-winning novelist Sinclair Lewis also tried teaching us what to look for. "When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross," he wrote.
More recently, Laurence Britt offered his 14 characteristics of fascism. Not all fascist regimes have been genocidal, Britt reminds us, but they all have to one degree or another exhibited these common traits:
1. Powerful and continuing expressions of nationalism.
2. Disdain for the importance of human rights.
3. Identification of enemies or scapegoats as a unifying cause.
4. The supremacy of the military and avid militarism.
5. Rampant sexism.
6. A controlled mass media.
7. Obsession with national security.
8. Religion and ruling elite tied together.
9. Power of corporations protected.
10. Power of labor suppressed or eliminated.
11. Disdain and suppression of intellectuals and the arts.
12. Obsession with crime and punishment.
13. Rampant cronyism and corruption.
14. Fraudulent elections.
If we are to safeguard democracy, these are the things we need to watch for. Do you see any signs of trouble?