Fascism, in very simple terms, is principally an ideology of a centralized state. Further still, though the terms “authoritarian” and “nationalistic” are often misused to impugn right-wing convictions, they are indeed cardinal components of a fascist state. Whether the credos are extensions of Mussolini’s black shirts or Hitler’s brown shirts, fascism in the contemporary age is – or at least should be – easily identifiable. The heartache, violence, and protracted grief – from now ad infinitum – that has come to define and contextualize Charlottesville is, and this is very important to note, wholeheartedly unacceptable, disturbing, and absolutely agonizing.
That much is clear, abundantly clear, and the following is by no means intended to pardon or sanction the radical white nationalists responsible for what occurred. Rather, the purpose is to contribute further to the discourse, to consider why this may have happened beyond uncertain claims that racism – very much alive and well in The United States – is, in every respect, responsible. The reason, or one of many, is Trump, though not in the way you’re thinking.
When Donald Trump was duly and constitutionally elected in November, political disappointment became political paralysis. Those whose ideals differed were resolute in their, at the time, burgeoning resistance. The mantra, as best as I can tell, was to ignore constitutional precedence, disparage a very real and very anguished working class, bellow off wild pretenses that Hillary’s loss had everything to do with everyone other than herself, and engender a climate that was so violent, so unendurable in its demands, that either Donald Trump or those who voted for him were going to suffer beyond the oppositional regularity from every previous election cycle.
Charlottesville is presently the apotheosis of when political doctrines – on both the right and the left – shift from personal liberty to personal entitlement. Progressive ideals on campuses are pernicious, their threat growing every day. And back in December, the left sought to politicize the electoral college, a move that will inevitably destroy the integrity of our elections moving forward. There have been riots at Berkeley, scuffles at Evergreen State College, and an ever-growing sense of unease that any right-wing creed, any conviction that even remotely resembles a conservative ideal – “conservative” used loosely as a catchall for beliefs that value liberty and limited government – is becoming more unacceptable, more dangerous to yield now than ever before.
Principally, it’s the folly in identity politics, a mantra that inherently values the self above all others with one critical caveat: to further the cause of the individual, it is acceptable, even necessary, to jeopardize the liberty of others. Ideologues adherent to such identity-centric, self-aggrandizing notions promulgate violence every day to further their own self-interest, and these ideologues are growing in number, most of which nestle themselves comfortably within the growing fissure between conventional and progressive liberals. Indeed, Trump’s election is responsible for Charlottesville insofar as the violent, unprecedented “resistance” was liberated from the fringe, vindicated in their egomaniacal, warped view of what the world owes them, and secure in a shifting culture that values provocateurs, rewards anarchy, and condones violence, so long as the end justifies the means. Such a utilitarian approach, though, is intrinsically unsustainable, and every day that passes, despise for the Trump presidency (much of which is actually, in some way or another, warranted) swells, and that swelling partitions identity, and those identities compete for their own respective interest. The “resistance” itself yielding the potentiality for nothing more than disparate identities, more alike than they think, kicking and screaming about injustice and inequity until they’ve manifested so much violence, so much dissent and subversion of traditional political discourse, that no one can remember what the point was in the first place.
To reiterate, Trump’s presidency normalized the notion that disappointment is an acceptable tool for violence, that the clashing of two pugnacious groups – none of whom further the interests of respective ideologies – should be the new normal. With the media and cultural climate, from artists to public workers, hedging bets like they’re at a cockfight, the only losers are those reticent to fight, unwilling to eschew principle for cheap knockouts, being asked to cheer on the violence, being asked to witness the chaos unfold.
* Chad Collins is a graduate student on a Mass Media Track at the University of Central Florida. A burgeoning libertarian, he desires to expand his mind, better understand liberty, and identify and address contemporary threats to liberty online.