Saturday, February 25, 2006

Is It Fascism Yet?

America, circa 2006: We find ourselves engaged in a costly and unjust war to which there is no end in sight, despite the fact that our commander-in-chief declared our "mission accomplished" nearly three years ago; Congress continues to authorize increases in military spending while slashing the budgets of the very social programs on which so many of our soldiers and their families depend; right-wing pundits like Ann Coulter and Sean Hannity offer advice on "how to talk to a liberal. . .if you must" and how to defeat the "evil" of liberalism; SUVs throughout the country are plastered with star-spangled stickers sporting slogans that range from the innocuous "Support Our Troops" to the jingoistic "Let's Roll"; soccer moms are revered while working mothers are reviled; 43 of our 50 states have banned same-sex marriage either through statute or through amendments to their state constitutions; at Guantanamo Bay, in violation of the Geneva Conventions, the US military has detained indefinitely hundreds of "enemy combatants" and subjected them to procedures the International Red Cross has described as tantamount to torture; those who committed the atrocities at Abu Ghraib remain largely unpunished and the man who declared such interrogative techniques legal is now the US Attorney General; the exposure of Jack Abramoff's political ties has revealed the largest corruption scandal since Teapot Dome; our president affects the good ol' boy persona of a blue-collar American despite his northern roots and his heritage of wealth and privilege, claims to speak directly to God, and has boldly announced that "either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists."

In such a climate, one has to ask oneself -- especially if one was paying even the slightest bit of attention during one's high school History classes -- is it fascism yet? Political scientist Lawrence Britt has studied the fascist regimes of Hitler, Mussolini, Franco, Suharto and others and has identified 14 characteristics common to all fascist governments:

  1. Powerful and Continuing Nationalism: Fascist regimes tend to make constant use of patriotic mottos, slogans, symbols, songs, and other paraphernalia. Flags are seen everywhere, as are flag symbols on clothing and in public displays.
  2. Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights: Because of fear of enemies and the need for security, the people in fascist regimes are persuaded that human rights can be ignored in certain cases because of "need." The people tend to look the other way or even approve of torture, summary executions, assassinations, long incarcerations of prisoners, etc.
  3. Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause: The people are rallied into a unifying patriotic frenzy over the need to eliminate a perceived common threat or foe: racial, ethnic or religious minorities; liberals; communists; socialists, terrorists, etc.
  4. Supremacy of the Military: Even when there are widespread domestic problems, the military is given a disproportionate amount of government funding, and the domestic agenda is neglected. Soldiers and military service are glamorized.
  5. Rampant Sexism: The governments of fascist nations tend to be almost exclusively male-dominated. Under fascist regimes, traditional gender roles are made more rigid. Divorce, abortion and homosexuality are suppressed and the state is represented as the ultimate guardian of the family institution.
  6. Controlled Mass Media: Sometimes to media is directly controlled by the government, but in other cases, the media is indirectly controlled by government regulation, or sympathetic media spokespeople and executives. Censorship, especially in war time, is very common.
  7. Obsession with National Security: Fear is used as a motivational tool by the government over the masses.
  8. Religion and Government are Intertwined: Governments in fascist nations tend to use the most common religion in the nation as a tool to manipulate public opinion. Religious rhetoric and terminology is common from government leaders, even when the major tenets of the religion are diametrically opposed to the government's policies or actions.
  9. Corporate Power is Protected: The industrial and business aristocracy of a fascist nation often are the ones who put the government leaders into power, creating a mutually beneficial business/government relationship and power elite.
  10. Labor Power is Suppressed: Because the organizing power of labor is the only real threat to a fascist government, labor unions are either eliminated entirely, or are severely suppressed.
  11. Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts: Fascist nations tend to promote and tolerate open hostility to higher education, and academia. It is not uncommon for professors and other academics to be censored or even arrested. Free expression in the arts and letters is openly attacked.
  12. Obsession with Crime and Punishment: Under fascist regimes, the police are given almost limitless power to enforce laws. The people are often willing to overlook police abuses and even forego civil liberties in the name of patriotism. There is often a national police force with virtually unlimited power in fascist nations.
  13. Rampant Cronyism and Corruption: Fascist regimes almost always are governed by groups of friends and associates who appoint each other to government positions and use governmental power and authority to protect their friends from accountability. It is not uncommon in fascist regimes for national resources and even treasures to be appropriated or even outright stolen by government leaders.
  14. Fraudulent Elections: Sometimes elections in fascist nations are a complete sham. Other times elections are manipulated by smear campaigns against or even assassination of opposition candidates, use of legislation to control voting numbers or political district boundaries, and manipulation of the media. Fascist nations also typically use their judiciaries to manipulate or control elections.

Sound familiar?

Friday, February 24, 2006


I did an environmentally irresponsible thing today: I drove an hour and a half to Duck just to get my hair done. Although I admit this was poor stewardship of the planet, I don't regret my little trip because A) I really really needed my hair done, B) I got to see a pretty cool sunset, and C) on my way back home I heard one of my favorite 80s power ballads: "Love Song" by Tesla. I would have totally missed that if I hadn't been in the car. So too bad if the rest of you can't breathe.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

2 Dead Presidents = 1 Long Weekend

Presidents' Day weekend and at long last. . .visitors from Northern Virginia! Eileen and Molly drove down after school on Friday and spent the long weekend with me. We hung out in Norfolk on Friday night and then headed down to Corolla on Saturday afternoon. I greeted them with sangria and cheese dip, which we enjoyed while consulting the tarot cards. Although Molly was hoping for some indication that a rich Southern lawyer was about to enter her life, instead she got a lot of crap about loss and hardship. But it’s February, a month of loss and hardship. I’m sure her rich Southern lawyer is due in like March, or maybe April at the very latest.

After sangria and tarot cards we walked across the street to Colley Cantina (of course) for food and margaritas. Once we had a good buzz going we met up with Dave, Steve & Jen, Jess & Rob, and others at O’Sullivan’s to see everyone’s favorite local cover band Lovesick Cousin. (Lovesick Cousin was recently voted “Best Local COUNTRY Band” by readers of Port Folio Weekly, our alternative newspaper, but they’re really not a country band. And Steve’s really not in love with their lead singer.) Anyway, the alcohol flowed freely, Lovesick Cousin was fun as usual, Molly & Eileen got to meet Dave, and I got to meet a few of Dave’s friends.

Saturday morning Molly, Eileen, and I had breakfast at the Donut Dinette down the street, which is a pretty cool little diner if you’re not a vegetarian, or even if you ARE a vegetarian but can somehow comes to terms with the fact that everything you eat there tastes like bacon because, well, it’s fried in bacon grease. After our bacon breakfast we drove down to Corolla, stopping only to pick up crabmeat and booze. We lay around chatting all afternoon Saturday, then we showered and got ready for a wild and crazy night! Actually, no. . .we showered and immediately put on our pajamas. I made my slightly famous crabcakes (bacon grease-free!) and we drank a LOT of champagne and wine amidst girl-talk. Topics discussed: boys, sex, birth control, (not to be confused with) abortion, the status of women, motherhood vs. career, and probably some others that I can’t quite remember because, quite frankly, at some point I became drunk.

Sunday we did a little shopping, walked up to the beach for a bit (well, Eileen didn’t because it was 34° and she’s a candy-ass), played the question and answer (but not the moving pieces or keeping score) part of Trivial Pursuit, and watched Garden State. . . all while drinking sub-par bloody marys. (Now, technically there was nothing wrong with these particular bloody marys, but Dave makes his very own kick-ass bloody mary mix and I’ve grown quite spoiled by his bloody marys.) Garden State is a pretty funny movie, but the funniest part for us was cracking the 4 digit parental control password Brian had for some reason set up on the DVD player. Eileen tried 0000 -- no dice. Molly suggested 1212 -- still no luck. I said, "Hmmm. . .try 0420" -- BINGO! We laughed for a good five minutes over the irony of setting your parental control password to the secret code for marijuana use.

We had big plans to hit up Metropolis for drinks and dinner, but alas, it was mysteriously closed and we got stuck at Northbanks, which was the only place open in Corolla, unless you count Sundawgs (and I don’t). We made it home in time for Eileen and Molly’s Sunday night shows: Desperate Housewives (which I myself was WAY into last year) and Grey’s Anatomy (which, according to just about everyone I know, is the best show on television). I think I managed not to get hooked on either, which is good considering I don’t own a television, although I must admit I’m a little tempted by Grey’s Anatomy (but not tempted enough to get a TV).

We rose at the crack of dawn (really, 6:30!) on Monday morning to find snow on the ground and snow still falling. We were on the road by 7:15 in the hopes of having Eileen and Molly home by 1:00. Sadly, it was not meant to be. . .we arrived in Norfolk to find Eileen’s battery dead and her car surrounded by other cars, which prevented any type of jumper cable action. See, this is where I fault the tarot cards: instead of (or perhaps in addition to) telling us all that stuff about loss and hardship (Molly), being at a crossroads and having your hard work pay off (Eileen), or trusting your intuition and following your heart (me), they might have reminded Eileen that she left her damn dome light on. Alas, I suppose tarot cards deal exclusively with weighty matters.

Despite the crappy ending, it was the best girls weekend I’ve had since mine and Nisha’s birthdays at the beginning of October. Photographic evidence:

Sunday, February 12, 2006

How to Talk Like a Norfolk Teenager

Basic Vocab

Wack: generally not cool: e.g., "I can't believe the Redskins lost, that's totally wack." or "Mr. E is making us read The Lexus and the Olive Tree, some wack book about globalization."

Jank: thing, stuff, etc.: e.g., "Did you grade our quizzes yet? I wanna know how I did on that jank." or "We had a pizza party in English today. . .that jank was good!"

Bootleg: sub-par, not name-brand: e.g., "You don't have an IPod? That's so bootleg." or "That shirt is so bootleg. I bet she made it in home-ec."

Scramblin': really really wack, with a touch of bootleg: e.g., "Those kids were cheating right in front of you? That's so scramblin'." or "What's up with her scramblin'-ass hair? Either dye it or don't dye it!"

Fry: to make fun of, put down, disparage; e.g., "Ooooh, she fried you!" (This term is most often employed as a threat: e.g., "I'm about to fry you, Jasmine!" It is rare for any "frying" to actually take place, but the mere possibility of being fried should make you tremble in your boots. I mean your Tims.)

On Snitching

Snitching is, of course, telling on someone. And do you know what happens to snitches? Snitches get stitches. Some of them even wind up in ditches. Which is why we should all just stop snitching. If we entertain any thoughts of being considered cool, we should at the very least own an anti-snitching t-shirt.

This stop snitching thing apparently originated in inner-city Baltimore and is pretty serious stuff in urban areas throughout the country. The t-shirts have been banned from courtrooms in several localities on the grounds that they intimidate witnesses. I imagine in some contexts the shirts would be pretty intimidating, but on a fluffy-haired white boy from Larchmont they don't quite have that effect. Nevertheless, I will think twice before snitching, since one of those fluffy-haired white boys said to me last week, "It's bad enough you're a teacher, but to be a teacher AND a snitch? Now that's low."

Monday, February 06, 2006

The Last Time I. . .

was at the beach: January 1st

left the house without making the bed: January 31st

slept later than I meant to: this morning

smoked a cigarette: January 6th (I had previously been on quite the streak dating back to Thanksgiving, but I hit a bit of an emotional rough patch.)

filled up my gas tank: January 14th

visited the Emergency Room: February 3rd

said I would do something and then didn't do it: um, I think never

had a hangover: December 11th

consulted the tarot cards: February 5th

listened to the same CD more than 5 times in a row: right now (The Be Good Tanyas, Blue Horse)

listened to the same song more than 10 times in a row: January 5th (Jeff Buckley's cover of Nina Simone's "If You Knew.")

pretended not to be angry when really I was: February 4th

ate meat: Christmas

dreamt about sharks or tornadoes: it's been a month or two, thank god

checked Ellen's blog in the hopes that she might have posted something since freakin' November 22nd: February 2nd