I imagine what I’m feeling now about the rise of the extremist, pseudo-Christian right (aka the Talibangelists, aka Christofascists) in the USA, Canada, and in other democracies is what my English father must have felt watching the events in Germany from 1934 on. He would have seen photographs and newsreels showing the brownshirts, the SS, the rallies of eager followers raising their arms in salute, the adoring crowds lining the streets to wave as their fuhrer drove by.
My father would have read with a sinking heart the stories in the newspapers or heard the radio news about the decade-long rise of the fascists and other authoritarian parties in Italy, Spain, the USSR, Japan, China, and elsewhere. Even in the UK and the USA, right-wing extremists had large followings. It must have seemed that democracy was near the breaking point.
And here they are again: the fascists marching on the US capitol, or driving into Ottawa in a truck convoy, or invading Ukraine and shelling civilians. You can see them again, today, on every news channel, every social media feed. From Vladimir Putin to his puppet, Donald Trump and his Repugnican enablers who continue to spread Trump’s lies, to Fox “news” broadcasters doing their best to imitate Joseph Goebbels, to the National Front’s Marine Le Pen running for president of France and getting 40% of the vote, to our own Pierre Poilievre with his rage tweets and disinformation.*
They all read from the same playbook. The extremist right is on the move again, and it seems to be winning.
And, like I suspect my father felt, I fear for the future of our democracies. Governments are under assault from extremists. Even as I write this, another alt-right convoy of would-be insurrectionists is headed to Ottawa to disrupt the nation’s capital on Canada Day, with the intent of getting the elected government to resign and replacing it with an authoritarian, racist regime. The Guardian noted:
Group communications on Telegram, YouTube videos and other channels show convoy sympathisers believe in white replacement theory and other conspiracies. QAnon activists and propaganda were often seen at the wintertime occupation… Now that Canada has dropped most mandates, the convoyers appear to be demanding Justin Trudeau’s resignation as prime minister. They have been gaining traction with Conservative politicians, recently having held a meeting with their “allies” in parliament.
Last week, American historian Heather Cox Richardson noted in her blog that SCOTUS has now gone from protecting people’s rights and freedoms to stripping them away (emphasis added):
Today, thanks to three justices nominated by Trump, the Supreme Court stripped a constitutional right from the American people, a right we have enjoyed for almost 50 years, a right that is considered a fundamental human right in most liberal democracies, and a right they indicated they would protect because it was settled law. Today’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision overturned the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that recognized a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy. For the first time in our history, rather than conveying rights, the court has explicitly taken a constitutional right away from the American people.
These two extraordinary events are related. The current-day Republican Party has abandoned the idea of a democracy in which a majority of the people elect their government. Instead, its members have embraced minority rule.
The pseudo-Christians on the Supreme Court of the USA (SCOTUS) and in the Repugnican Party today are, with only a tiny few exceptions, no better than the Nazi party was in my father’s day. They share the same extremist ideologies: totalitarian control, toxic patriarchy, racism, xenophobia, inciting violence, spreading divisiveness and fear.
Some apologists for the extremists argue that overturning Roe v. Wade was merely giving the decision on abortion to the states, but the same week, SCOTUS removed states’ rights to legislate concealed weapons. Clearly, it’s not about states’ rights, but about promoting their extremist ideology: guns are good, women’s health and rights bad. As historian Heather Cox Richardson wrote about these two decisions:
…the court used stunningly bad history, clearly just working to get to the modern-day position it wanted. Abortion was, in fact, deeply rooted in this nations history not only in the far past but also in the past 49 years, and individual gun rights were not part of our early history.
Leaving the decisions about a woman’s reproductive health to the whims of a regional government is a blatant statement that women are second-class citizens who do not have the full, national rights and freedoms that men have. Almost immediately, Repugnican-controlled states passed laws banning all abortions, even when the mother’s life is threatened, or the pregnancy is the result or incest or rape. Not unexpected from states known for egregiously gerrymandering their electoral districts, banning books, banning teaching racial history, banning gays, and passing laws to restrict voting rights. They were already totalitarian governments.
If you believe this decision was about states’ rights, then you probably also believe the US Civil War was also about states’ rights, rather than slavery and racism. That makes you a racist who hasn’t read any factual history. Or maybe just watches Fox “news.”
And then SCOTUS went against the Constitutional principle of separation of church and state by allowing a high school football coach to force students to pray in a public, taxpayer-funded school. Not any prayer, mind you: these rights and freedoms are limited solely to some Christians and pseudo-Christians. Should any Satanists, Muslims, Jews, Wiccans, Buddhists, or Hindus attempt to force others to pray in their faith in public spaces, it would not be tolerated. It was not a decision about freedom of religion: it was always about promoting an extremist, pseudo-religious ideology. As a piece on MSN noted:
“The court has opened the door to prayer in schools more than at any time in the last 60 years,” said Erwin Chemerinsky, a constitutional law expert and dean of the law school at UC Berkeley. “There will be much litigation. And it is not at all clear where the court will draw the line.”
Some apologists try to use religious reasons for opposing abortion and women’s right to choose. No, these apologists are NOT pro-life: they are anti-abortion, anti-choice, but very much pro-theocracy. But so what if your personal faith forbids it? Don’t have one. There is absolutely no reason you should (or should be able to) impose your faith or morality on others. Yet SCOTUS did just that: imposed a narrow, pseudo-religious view on the rest of the nation.
“I don’t know if this Supreme Court would take a decision this far if it were another religion besides Christianity,” said Tracy Abbott Cook, one of the parents in the discussion group. “And why does this coach have to bring religion into this moment in public? Maybe people want a break from religion and politics when they go to a sporting event. . . . Why muck it up?”
No, these decisions weren’t about laws, freedoms, rights, or justice. They were about pushing their extremist, pseudo-Christian theocracy closer to reality. It’s not even about faith because NOWHERE in the oft-touted bible is abortion even mentioned. Any claim to a biblical basis for this anti-abortion argument is fictional. It’s based on misogyny and control, not religion.
And it’s also racist because, according to the CDC quoted in this article, women of colour are “roughly three times as likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women… Nearly a third of all abortions in this country are performed on black women, making them, proportionally, the largest group affected by overturning Roe v. Wade.”
When the SCOTUS decision overturning Roe v. Wade was announced, a female Repugnican lawmaker at a Trump rally praised the traitorous ex-president for appointing those extremist judges to the supreme court who provided the victory for “white life.” That says it all…
“President Trump, on behalf of all the MAGA patriots in America, I want to thank you for the historic victory for white life in the Supreme Court,” she said, to cheers and applause.
And don’t go on about morality in an ancient book that praises David for killing men to slice away their foreskins simply so he could use them to buy Saul’s daughter, Merab, as his bride (1 Samuel 18:27). Or that praises the killing of children and the disembowelling of pregnant women (Hosea 13:16). Or the brutal slaughter of every non-virgin Midianite woman so the army can take the surviving virgins for sex slaves (Numbers 31:15-18). Or when a father offers his daughters to a mob of men for them to gang rape (Genesis 19). Or how those same daughters screw their drunken father and get pregnant by him (Genesis 19). Or a “prophet” who wants god to give children a “miscarrying womb” because some of their ancestors weren’t as religious as the prophet demands (Hosea 9:14). Or that lauds killing children and disembowelling pregnant women (Hosea 13:16). Or disembowelling pregnant women again (2 Kings 15:16). And killing every man, woman, infant, nursing child, ox, sheep, camel and donkey in an enemy’s town just because (1 Samuel 15:3). And delights in followers seizing infants and dashing them against the rocks (Psalms 137:8-9).
Heather Cox Richardson pointed out that the recent SCOTUS decisions also violate another amendment to the US Constitution which says, “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” Richardson wrote:
In using the power of the federal government to guarantee “the equal protection of the laws,” [the 14th amendment] made sure that a small pool of voters couldn’t strip rights from their neighbors. It is this effort today’s Supreme Court is gutting.
As Politico magazine pointed out in a recent article, the Talibangelist opposition to abortion was not originally based on some biblical interpretation or even religious objection, but a political move in response to some religious, segregationist institutions having their tax-free status revoked:
According to Paul Weyrich, a conservative activist and architect of the Religious Right, the movement started in the 1970s in response to attempts on the part of the Internal Revenue Service to rescind the tax-exempt status of whites-only segregation academies (many of them church sponsored) and Bob Jones University because of its segregationist policies. Among those affected was Jerry Falwell, who referred to the civil rights movement as “civil wrongs” and who had opened his own segregation academy in 1967. The IRS actions against racially segregated institutions, not abortion, is what mobilized evangelical activists in the 1970s… Because evangelicals had considered abortion a Catholic issue until the late 1970s, they expressed little interest in the matter; Falwell, by his own admission, did not preach his first anti-abortion sermon until February 26, 1978, more than five years after Roe.
And overturning Roe v. Wade is also a direct attack on religious beliefs of other faiths which do not believe life begins at conception. It forces all faiths to conform to a fringe pseudo-Christian belief. An opinion piece on MSNBC discusses how it attacks Jewish beliefs and laws:
“Banning abortion is a violation of our religious liberty and ability to fulfill even our religious obligations, the Free Exercise clause of the First Amendment,” Rabbi Ruttenberg told me in an email. “The Talmud [the text that serves as the primary source of Jewish law] considers the fetus ‘mere water’ for the first 40 days after conception and part of the pregnant person’s body after that – as potential life until birth, not as actual life at conception. Enshrining one specific theology as law is a violation of the Establishment Clause.”… The foot soldiers of the modern anti-abortion movement remain overwhelmingly Christian. According to Pew Research, 33 percent of American evangelicals believe that abortion should be legal in all or most cases, compared with 82 percent of Buddhists and 83 percent of Jews.
Further, this decision was part of a larger effort by the rightwing extremists to attack and punish political opponents. Repugnican senator Josh Hawley not only praised the court’s move, but crowed about how states would now use their power to consolidate and enforce rightwing control:
Missouri’s junior Republican senator, Josh Hawley, hopes Republicans use right-wing laws — like abortion bans — to terrorize political opponents and accumulate more power.
His plan calls for making GOP-led states so unlivable for non-conservatives that they’re forced to flee — and then taking political advantage of their absence. This isn’t the strategy of politicians who intend to live in a country where people make decisions of their own volition. This is an authoritarian plot to offer Americans three options: Comply, run or be crushed.
It doesn’t end with these three decisions, of course. The extremists on SCOTUS are going after gay rights, same-sex marriage, contraception, and environmental protections in the coming weeks. They ware making Margaret Atwood’s dystopian Gilean, in her novel, The Handmaid’s Tale, into a reality. She recently wrote,
The Alito opinion purports to be based on America’s Constitution. But it relies on English jurisprudence from the 17th century, a time when a belief in witchcraft caused the death of many innocent people… Similarly, it will be very difficult to disprove a false accusation of abortion. The mere fact of a miscarriage, or a claim by a disgruntled former partner, will easily brand you a murderer. Revenge and spite charges will proliferate, as did arraignments for witchcraft 500 years ago.
This is the New World Order being created by the extremists; a totalitarian, patriarchal, and racist state run by pseudo-Christians.
The late author, Umberto Eco wrote an essay on 14 common features of fascism, including: the cult of tradition; rejection of modernism; disagreement is treason; fear of difference; appeal to social frustration; obsession with a plot; contempt for the weak; machismo and weaponry; selective populism; and Newspeak. Read it and see how many you can recognize in these modern. rightwing movements. Eco wrote,
…the fascist game can be played in many forms, and the name of the game does not change.
I think we should all be very scared for what this means to our democracies in the very near future. The world did not teeter into fascism in my father’s day, but only because a brutal war intervened. We may not escape them this time around.**
* Rather surprisingly, the Toronto Star — which has become increasing rightwing since its purchase by a pair of deeply conservative brothers — published an opinion piece recently about the dangers Poilievre and his extremist views present to Canadian democracy. In it, the author wrote:
…the Conservative leadership race front-runner either somehow truly believes in the crazy ideas and causes that he spouts, or he’s a dishonest non-believer who just shamelessly promotes such nonsense in order to gain support from angry, disaffected Canadians in his bid to become party leader.
What’s more disturbing is that I don’t know which of these two appalling options is more dangerous — for what they say about Poilievre as a potential prime minister, or what they suggest about where Canada is headed as a nation.
Clearly, right-wing extremism and populism is gaining acceptance in Canada — and Poilievre is enthusiastically milking this gathering storm.
** On his blog, Dean Blundell has a piece titled, “We Are Pierre Poilevre Away From Banning Abortions in Canada,” in which he writes,
There’s a global war against liberal progressives/anyone who doesn’t advocate for neo-conservative traditionalism, and this thread details why Canadian women should be VERY fucking scared right now…The same super PACs who patiently spent hundreds of millions stealing women’s reproductive rights are the same people putting on the Canada Day Convoy. They are filling Pierre Poilievre’s war chest with dolla-dolla bills while activating dumber conservative extremists to cannon fodder for their shit housing… The same conservative extremist traditionalist groups responsible for overturning Roe V Wade are the same powers/people who want this fucking weasel to be our next PM.
I agree with his perspective. On AlbertaPolitics.ca, David Climenhaga wrote a piece titled, “As predicted, Canadian Conservatives want you to shut up about U.S. Supreme Court’s repugnant Roe v. Wade ruling.” In it, he wrote:
In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling stripping half the United States’ 330 million people of their constitutional right to abortion, Canadian conservatives were busy trying to deny the intention of many in their political movement to do the exactly same thing here, as soon as possible… It would be naïve to imagine the so-called right-to-lifers who pack the ranks of Canadian conservative parties are any less determined to achieve their political and cultural goals than their ideological fellow travellers south of the world’s longest undefended border.
As noted on the CBC website, the House of Commons public safety committee is also worried about the rise of extremism in Canada (emphasis added):
The federal government has to do more to counter the threat of ideologically motivated violent extremism in Canada, including strengthening terrorist financing laws to counter it, the House of Commons public safety committee has recommended.
In a report tabled before the House of Commons rose for the summer, the committee also recommended the federal government work with provinces to prevent what it described as a rising threat in Canada and to take steps to hold online companies more accountable for extremist or hateful content circulating on their platforms.
And if you think it can’t happen here in Collingwood: just take a read through this document from the BC Human Rights Tribunal case against Maclean’s Magazine over an article by an Islamophobe (Islamophobia is a popular topic among the extremist right) and search for Collingwood.