As I wrote earlier today, today marks the 78th anniversary of the D-Day landings on Normandy. On June 6, 1944, elements of six infantry divisions – three American, two British, and one Canadian – landed on five beaches along a 50-mile front on the northern coast of France.
Codenamed Operation Neptune, the amphibious landings, preceded by a nighttime combined parachute-and-glider airborne drop after midnight on June 6, the largest seaborne invasion in history was the opening move of the larger Operation Overlord – the Anglo-American led Allied coalition’s campaign to liberate Western Europe from the tyranny of Hitler’s fascist Third Reich. On that historic first day of liberation, over 3,000 Allied soldiers, airmen, sailors, and coastguardsmen died, and several thousand more were wounded as they stormed the five beaches – Utah, Omaha, Sword, Juno, and Gold – or fought isolated battles in their landing zones on either flank of the invasion area.
If you’ve watched Steven Spielberg’s 1998 war film Saving Private Ryan, you probably remember that the Academy Award-winning movie (it won for Best Director but lost for Best Picture to Shakespeare in Love) is bookended by two present-day scenes shot at the American Military Cemetery in Colleville-Sur-Mer, not far from the beach known to many GIs as “Bloody Omaha.”
In that awe-inspiring final resting place lie the remains of 9,387 Americans; most of them are soldiers, sailors, airmen, and “Coasties” who were killed during the 77-day Normandy campaign, but a few women, including Army nurses and war correspondents, lie there, too, their graves marked by rows upon rows of white crosses and Stars of David.
Those 9,387 dead Americans fought in World War II to save the world, including the United States, from the evils of a racist, militaristic, and fascist regime called the Third Reich. Its ideology was not branded fascist by its Fuehrer, Adolf Hitler; that name had been taken by the party founded by Hitler’s Italian counterpart and main source of political inspiration, Benito Mussolini. Instead, the German “brand name” for the far-right group that misruled Germany between 1933 and 1945 was the National Socialist German Workers’ Party or Nazi for short.
Hitler and all his cronies are dead. The Nazi dictator committed suicide on April 30, 1945, in his underground bunker as the Soviet army fought a fierce battle with what remained of his loyal Wehrmacht and SS troops in and around Germany’s capital, Berlin. Other senior Nazis, such as propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels and his wife Magda, committed suicide after Hitler’s death. Other Nazi leaders were arrested after Germany’s surrender and tried for war crimes. Some were executed, others were given long prison sentences, Still others escaped to South America, Spain, or the Middle East, where many lived to a ripe old age in countries that had been sympathetic to Hitler and his evil ideology.
Many people believe – or would like us to believe – that fascism (both with lower case and upper case) died in 1945 with Mussolini (who was executed by his own people a few days before Hitler, along with his wife of one day, Eva Braun, committed suicide) and the evil Austrian-born Nazi dictator.
Alas, this is not so. Fascism survived and thrived in Spain and Portugal till the mid-1970s. It survives today under many names and guises, including in the countries that fought against Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany during the Second World War. France, the United Kingdom, Russia, and even our own homeland, the United States of America, are home to many groups that share far-right, racist, and ultra-nationalistic groups.
Indeed, one of the most prominent fascist groups in present-day America is a right-wing group called the Proud Boys.
The Proud Boys is an American far-right, neo-fascist, and exclusively male organization that promotes and engages in political violence in the United States. Five members of the group, including its former chairman, were federally indicted on seditious conspiracy charges in June 2022, for their alleged roles in the 2021 United States Capitol attack.
Today, on the 78th Anniversary of an “antifa” amphibious landing on the northern coast of France, Miami-born Enrique Terrio, was charged with seditious conspiracy as a result of his actions before and on January 6, 2021, the day in which a mob of supporters of former President Donald Trump stormed the Capitol in a desperate and violent attempt to prevent Congress from certifying the results of the 2020 Presidential election.
Per an article by Kyle Cheney, Josh Gerstein, and Nicholas Wu (DOJ charges Proud Boys leaders with seditious conspiracy over Jan. 6 attack):
The Justice Department has charged leaders of the Proud Boys — the pro-Trump extremist group that played a central role in the Jan. 6, 2021 Capitol attack — with conspiring to use force to oppose the presidential transfer of power.
The seditious conspiracy charges, announced in a grand jury indictment returned Monday, escalate the case against the Proud Boys and their leader Enrique Tarrio, who now face some of the most severe charges related to the attack on the Capitol. The Justice Department unveiled similar seditious conspiracy charges against an anti-government militia group, the Oath Keepers, and their leader Stewart Rhodes, in January 2022.
As someone who was born and mostly raised in the United States, I never thought that I’d live to see a time in which my fellow countrymen would have to fight fascism again. Not in my lifetime, and certainly not in the land of my birth.
And yet, because of the end of the Cold War in 1991, coupled with tectonic cultural and societal changes in the U.S. since 1945, American conservatism has gradually moved farther to the right. In my own lifetime – which is what I can bear witness to rather than read about in history books or learn about in documentaries – this process was ongoing when I was born (President Kennedy was hated by many Southerners for his hesitant moves to restrict segregation in Alabama and other ex-Confederate states; Lyndon Johnson’s embrace of the Civil Rights movement after 1963 pushed many Southern Democrats of the party’s conservative wing to leave the Democratic fold and join the Republican Party just in time to help elect Richard Nixon to the Presidency in 1968), and continues to this day, reaching an uncomfortable apex with the one-term administration of Donald J. Trump and his Make America Great Again movement.
Just as fascism rose in post-World War I Europe as a social counterweight to the threat of revolutionary Communism after the rise of Lenin’s Bolshevik Party in Russia, “Trumpism” emerged in full force after 9/11, the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, and social change that saw the legalization (and normalization) of gay marriage, demographic changes in the U.S. population that showed gains by minority groups such as blacks, Latinos, and Asian-Pacific Islanders and a decrease in numbers in the “white American” population.
Conservatism, at its very core, is based on fear. Fear of change, mostly, especially when that change involves challenges to the “status quo” of a country’s social fabric. Sometimes, conservative values can be benign, such as the notion that we should respect the principles upon which the U.S. was founded, as well as expressing our love for the country in which we live, whether we are “native-born” or immigrants.
However, many of modern American conservatism’s “values” are the same as Mussolini’s Fascism or Hitler’s National Socialism.
Let’s see what Wikipedia says about fascism, shall we?
Fascism (/ˈfæʃɪzəm/ FASH-iz-əm) is a form of far-right, authoritarian ultranationalism, characterized by dictatorial power, forcible suppression of opposition, and strong regimentation of society and the economy that rose to prominence in early 20th-century Europe. The first fascist movements emerged in Italy during World War I, before spreading to other European countries. Opposed to anarchism, democracy, liberalism, and Marxism, fascism is placed on the far-right wing within the traditional left–right spectrum.
Further on down, the Wikipedia entry states:
Robert Paxton says: “[Fascism is] a form of political behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation, or victimhood and by compensatory cults of unity, energy, and purity, in which a mass-based party of committed nationalist militants, working in uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional elites, abandons democratic liberties and pursues with redemptive violence and without ethical or legal restraints goals of internal cleansing and external expansion.”
If you thought fascism died in 1945 after the success of Operation Overlord and all the other campaigns the Allies fought in during the last 11 months of World War II, you were wrong.
We’re still fighting fascism in 2022, and we are fighting it right here at home, in America.