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Shopping Cart Fascists
October 1, 2018
by William P. Meyers

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Picking and choosing fascist traits

A fascist, in modern American speak, is someone who you do not like who is authoritarian and perhaps totalitarian.

In history fascism began in Italy and was led by Benito Mussolini, who eventually became the leader and, for all practical purposes, the dictator of Italy from 1922 until 1943.

No doubt Mussolini was authoritarian and at least leaned towards totalitarianism. In theory his Fascist Party rejected both Communism and capitalism. He wanted the nation and state to transcend the conflict between workers and capitalists. In effect the state told everyone what to do, including capitalists. In addition Mussolini made a deal to work with the Roman Catholic Church, which became the only permitted religion. However, when conflicts arose with the Church, which they did on many issues, Mussolini believe he had the right to overrule the Pope. To seal the deal Benito, the son of an atheist father and a Catholic mother, celebrated a Catholic wedding and had his children baptized Roman Catholic.

In Europe and all across the world numerous would–be leaders tried to emulate Mussolini’s success. Austria and Poland, for instance, had governments in the basic fascist mold. The next big success was in Germany, where Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Party came to power in 1933. Hitler had rivals within the party and their followers had differences on many issues. In particular some took the socialist part of National Socialist party to have a more Marxist meaning than Hitler did, who emphasized the nationalist part.

Hitler was also Roman Catholic, but his party had a Lutheran majority. He was clearer on the totalitarian part of the deal than Mussolini.

Also worth studying is General Francisco Franco, the only of the fascist dictators to survive World War II. He was the favorite of the Pope and in many ways less radical than Hitler or Mussolini. He had little regard for workers and liked capitalists, but mainly loved the Church and the military.

So even among our three most famous examples of fascist leaders, there was some variance.

The term shopping cart Catholic has been popularized by conservative Catholics who do not strictly follow the commands of the Pope and Church. Typically a shopping cart Catholic claims membership in the Church and goes to mass a few times a year. But other planks of the platform, so to speak, are rejected. Some doubt there is a hell, or that non-Catholics will automatically go there; many practice birth control. It varies, but in general these people see Catholicism as a culture more than set of rules that must be followed because Catholic theology is correct. At an extreme one might claim to be a Catholic but not believe in God.

Modern American fascists are more likely to model themselves on Hitler than on Mussolini. Most are nationalists and racists. Not so many are practicing Roman Catholics. Many are pro-capitalism. They are a mashup of American conservative trends and genuine fascist influences. Shopping cart fascists.

On the other hand, there is the use of the word fascist by the "left." The left loves to try to tell other people what to do, but sees no hypocrisy in not wanting to do what our democracy has decided on. As many people have pointed out, communism and fascism have a common denominator: totalitarianism.

The problem is society and government do have to set some rules into law, and enforce them. Almost everyone would gain some advantage by breaking some law at some point. So fascist, in these United States, has simply become a quick way of saying we do not like a law, or its enforcement, or the person who wrote the law or enforces it.

New forms of totalitarianism seem to be evolving in the United States, but we have a counterbalancing culture of personal freedom. Freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and freedom of the press, as an essential core.

I try to be careful in my use of the word fascist. Someone can be authoritarian without being fascist. Not every law I do not like is a fascist law. And as much as I do not like the Republican Party, I think calling it fascist does little to help people understand why I oppose many Republican policy positions.

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