Opinion

Confronting the 'F' word

Recent protests against police brutality in Portland, Oregon have seen the deployment of unmarked federal officers to quash protests and arrest peaceful protestors.

Recent protests against police brutality in Portland, Oregon have seen the deployment of unmarked federal officers to quash protests and arrest peaceful protestors.

Image By: Nathaniel St.Clair

On July 16, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported that federal law enforcement agents dressed in camo and with no identifying crests, badges or name tags were arresting peaceful and law-abiding protesters in Portland.  

Protesters were thrown in the back of unmarked vans, bound, blindfolded and brought to the federal courthouse where they were read their rights, searched, had their information taken, interrogated and released with no court date, paperwork or citation. 

The federal agents are the Trump Administration’s method of quelling the “unrest” in Portland. Thankfully, these secret police tactics have been largely rebuked by national and local officials. 

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler rebuked the police practice as “completely unconstitutional.”  On Twitter, Senator Bernie Sanders went as far to characterize it as the actions of a police state. The state of Oregon is suing the federal government over their secret police practices.  

Countless more pundits, journalists, politicians and activists have had myriad condemnations for the secret police in Portland — calling it brutality, the actions of a police state, unconstitutional, un-American — but most are tip-toeing around the “F” word. The “F” word that, when used, gets you labeled an alarmist. 

Make no mistake, the secret police tactics being used to quash dissent are best described by the “F” word that so many politicians are avoiding.  It is time for elected officials, for those who call themselves Trump’s #Resistance, to call him out for what this is: fascist.

I was critical of describing President Trump as fascist early on and I’ll be the first to admit that “fascist” is a word thrown around a lot  — often irresponsibly — to describe strict bosses or political enemies. But it is even more irresponsible to whitewash fascism and dance around calling it out when we see it. 

In his Pulitzer Prize winning novel “It Can’t Happen Here,” Sinclair Lewis describes a plausible scenario of the United States descending into fascism. Lewis’s novel has been used for decades as something of a manual for the early warning signs of fascism.  

Something that is emphasized in the book is that a regime’s movement to fascism is at first gradual, and then all of the sudden. I worry we are teetering on the precipice of fascism.

Secret police are grabbing people off the street as they leave protests, on thin suspicions. They have no warrants and no accountability. I would ask “how long until this practice spreads around the country?” but the President has already ordered the deployment of his paramilitary secret police to Chicago.

How long until they take people from their homes? How long until a critical tweet or comment makes you “suspicious” enough to get a visit from an unmarked van with camouflaged federals? How long before DHS has a designated section of anonymous stormtroopers whose job it is to disappear opposition?

Both Oregon senators — Democrats Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley — have introduced a bill to outlaw these policing practices and we can only hope it passes. If history from the first rise of fascism tells us anything, it is that fascist movements must be completely defeated in their infancy. The second fascism rears its ugly head, it must be immediately cut from its shoulders. 

Otherwise it will only grow more ingrained and more malignant. Every day that fascism continues without being called out and actively fought, it can grow stronger and harder to defeat.  

But calling out fascism is the bare minimum. 

To all elected Republicans and Democrats: any hesitation, any bush-beating or equivocating is nothing short of collaboration. To the 324 members of Congress — a majority of Democrats — who voted against cutting the military budget by 10% and instead to give Trump all the money he asked for: you are enabling fascism. To all the performative #Resistance Democrats in Congress who handed Trump all the money he wanted but declared victory because bases are no longer named for confederates: you are collaborators.

If this proves anything, it is that electoral politics can only do so much in the fight against the rising tide of fascism. We the people must stand up and defend our communities from fascist persecution. We must march, we must disobey, we must truly resist. 

Philip is a junior studying Journalism and Strategic Communication. Do you think the United States is edging towards fascism? Do you think elected officials should do better and the public should resist? Send all comments to opinion@dailycardinal.com

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