Fascism is knocking, will you let it in?

It has been said that if a lie is repeated often enough, people will believe it is the truth. For the last few decades, those on the right in the United States have been waging a campaign of one big lie, repeated so often and with so much vehemence that they have made almost everyone believe it is the truth. That lie? “The liberal media.” “The liberal bias of the media.”

There has never been such a thing here.

There are, or, more accurately were, facts. That those facts happen to align with liberal politics doesn’t make them any less factual. But the repeated conservative mantra, the big “liberal media” lie has made it so that facts are routinely unreported lest the reporting agency be accused of bias. News agencies go out of their way to report things with a more conservative slant. For instance, in this past week, local news agencies have repeatedly mentioned the number of attendees at Trump rallies while blatantly not mentioning the numbers at rallies held by Bernie Sanders, though those numbers are much higher. This underreporting of facts means that the media does now have a bias. A conservative bias.

Yet that doesn’t stop those on the right for continuing to rail against those who would continue to ask the hard questions and attempt to maintain some semblance of journalistic integrity. There is a systematic movement to quash such things. Verbal attacks on journalists, ridicule. An unabashed attempt to control the media through intimidation.

And that’s how it starts, folks. Control of the media is one of the core characteristics of fascism.

For those who aren’t familiar with them, those characteristics are:

 

  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. Opposition to abortion is high, as is homophobia and anti-gay legislation and national policy.

  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 is openly attacked, and governments often refuse to fund the arts.

  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.

If a good chunk of these sound familiar, well, then you’re dealing with fascism, folks. It’s just that simple. And the big lie has allowed this to happen because the media, so afraid to report the truth lest they be considered liberal, isn’t going to bring itself to say it. Sure, some stalwarts will stand up, though they have been ridiculed and unfairly discredited to the point that they are sidelined at best. (Dan Rather, anyone?) So their voices go unheeded. And so the rise of fascism goes unchecked because everyone is afraid to say that the emperor has no clothes.

Well, then, I’ll say it. Donald Trump embodies the vast majority of these qualities. He is bringing fascism to America. It’s knocking at your door. Do you really want to let it in and make it feel welcome?

 

Mom vs. Halloween

Halloweens in the village of La Jolla (downtown La Jolla has been referred to as “the village” by locals as far back as I can recall) aren’t anything exceptional.

However, the kids from Stella Maris Academy will typically take a parade around the block in their costumes. Often, workers in local shops and banks will also dress up to one extent or another. One Halloween morning, my mom left the office and went to Wells Fargo to do some banking. This particular Halloween was a bit more festive than others. As she waited in line, looking at each of the tellers and managers in their mostly last-minute and half-hearted costumes, she realized that even a few people in line were dressed up for the day.

One of them–the woman standing right behind her–had what my mom considered to be the best costume of all. Now, as I’ve mentioned, my mom was an army brat and spent a good chunk of her formative years in India. The sights, sounds, and smells are forever vivid in her mind and she holds great respect and love for that country.

My mom turned to the woman behind her and, pointing to the tellers, said, “I think yours is far better than any of theirs!”

The woman was somewhat taken aback and said, “I beg your pardon?”

“Your costume!” my mom exclaimed. “It’s so much better than what any of the tellers are wearing!”

The woman straightened in her flowing saffron sari, a haughty expression on her face, highlighted by the perfectly round bindi on her forehead, and announced, “I am not wearing a costume!”

Mom vs. The Postwoman

When I was very young (single digits), summers often meant walks to the beach with my mom. We lived maybe eight or ten blocks from the ocean, though the closest part was all rocky cliffs and no beach. I’d say it was a mile and a half to the nearest actual beach. But the extra distance was no matter as it was always a nice little excursion along the meandering, tree-lined lanes leading down to the crashing waves, the sand, the tide pools, and that vast expanse of deep, deep blue.

On one such walk, I found a gold bracelet in the gutter. It had very small emeralds inset in each rectangular section. I gave it to my mom. She, being the good soul she is, took out an ad in the Lost & Found section of the local paper. No one called. I’m pretty sure she still has the bracelet somewhere.

But I digress. This story is about another walk.

Clad in shades of blue with his oversize brown leather satchel, our local mailman had passed us on the sidewalk moments before, readying envelopes for the next house on his route, lessening his load by a few small ounces at a time. While this had undoubtedly occurred dozens of times in the past, this occasion set wheels and gears flying into motion inside my mom’s head. She began wondering out loud to me why there are only mailMEN and never any mailWOMEN. (Mind you, this was the early 1970s and gender barriers at many workplaces were still rigidly in place. So this wasn’t as strange a question as it may sound these days.) Naturally, at eight years old, I had absolutely no answer for her.

We continued on our stroll under the clear, cloudless blue sky, the morning sun warming the air and our backs, and her thoughts soon left her unanswered question behind. Our conversation surely went off in other directions. While I can’t recall any clear details of the rest of the walk down or that particular day at the beach, something happened on the way back that is etched in my memory. We had just crossed the boulevard when my mom spotted her across the street. Clad in blue with the oversize brown leather satchel, she — SHE! — walked in the rear entrance of the local pharmacy.

My mom was stunned. Such an amazing coincidence! She had to know how long this woman had been working as a mail carrier.

After quickly admonishing me to stay right where I was, not to go anywhere at all, my mom hurried across the street and into the pharmacy after her heretofore mythical quarry. It couldn’t have been even a minute before she was back out and on her way across the street again. With a strange look on her face and a sparkle in her eye.

Well?

“I found her right away. She was waiting to be helped at the counter. I went up to her and asked, ‘I hope you don’t mind my asking, but how long have you been a mail woman?’

“She seemed confused and said, ‘I beg your pardon?’

“I said, ‘I’m sorry but you’re the first female letter carrier I’ve ever seen. In fact, I was just wondering this morning why there aren’t any and here you are! I just want to know how long you’ve worked for the Post Office.’

“She got the most offended look on her face and said, ‘Madam, I am NOT a letter carrier and I do NOT work for the Post Office!’

“I said, ‘Oh, I’m terribly sorry. I saw the bag and the blue clothes, and I just assumed you were.”

At which point in her recounting, my mom burst into laughter and said,

“She’s probably going to go straight home and throw that entire outfit away!”

I daresay she was right.

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Mom vs. the veil of death

This isn’t a funny mom story, but it is an important mom story. Now, I am not a religious person–at all–but this is a story that… well, I’ll tell it and then I’ll discuss.

Back in the mid-1970s, when I was around 11 years old, I recall waking up in the middle of the night because my mom was crying hysterically in the hallway. It was about 1am, and she was inconsolable. My dad finally calmed her down enough to find out what was wrong.

It was a dream she had.

She saw her dad sitting in his living room, in his favorite chair, and he died. She saw and felt the life leave his body. “It was so real, I felt it, it was so real,” she said over and over. After what seemed like an eternity (but was likely a half hour or so), she calmed down enough that we could all go back to sleep. As my dad said, it was just a dream.

At 7am, the phone woke us. My aunt Kate was calling from London. That morning, while the family was in the kitchen preparing for a birthday party, my grandfather had suffered a massive heart attack and passed away.

Sitting in his living room.

In his favorite chair.

At 9am, London time, which is, yes, 1am here in California.

So while I am not religious, I cannot be an atheist. There is something. Some connection that goes beyond this mundane world. I’ve seen it. It’s real.

Mom vs. …. any form of logic

Intercom call from mom at the office:

MOM: I can’t find that list I gave you and I need to make sure one of the cheques is being mailed to the right address. (She’s British, and after 55 years in the States she still spells the word that way, hence my usage.)

ME: Which one?

MOM: Well, it’s for Choi’s representative.

ME: I’m not sending it to Choi, right? What name did you have it going to?

MOM: Well, two people are living at the house, and…

ME: It’s only being mailed to one person, right?

MOM: Well, yes. It’s going to Christine.

ME: Alright, I have that name on the list of checks to go out. What’s the correct address so I can be sure?

MOM: Oh. I don’t have the right address, I only have the wrong one.

ME: <thumps head on desk>

I’m back — with vampires and pirates!

Life intervenes, you know? But I’m back. I’ll have new Mom stories and a mention or two of other stuff. But for the moment, I need to plug something. A comic book. Do you like vampires? Do you like pirates? Well, then, take a look at Vampyrates! http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00JB4SNNC

Vampyrates cover

Cover for Vampyrates issue 1

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Mom vs. The Dictionary

One day at work, in a particularly mischievous mood, I grabbed my Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, opened it up, put a Post-It note on a certain page, and then called my mom on the intercom.

“Mom, can you come to my office? I just noticed something you’re going to need to see.”

A minute later, she walked in the door, curiosity abounding. “What is it?”

“You’re not going to believe this, but I’ve checked and checked–the word ‘gullible’ is not in the dictionary!”

“Oh, my God! How could that happen? Let me see!”

I couldn’t even keep a straight face long enough for her to open to the page, and as soon as she saw the twinkle in my eye she knew she’d been had. My poor, poor gullible mom. A constant source of entertainment and love in my life.

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Mom vs. Trader Joe’s

In her youth, my mom’s family moved a lot. Her father was in the British Army. She lived everywhere from Dublin to London to Carlisle Castle (yeah, my mom grew up in a real castle) and several parts of India, most of which are now inside Pakistan. Now and then (which may or may not mean “daily”–hint: it means daily) her mind will wander off to her childhood in India. Honestly, I don’t know how she remembers things in such vivid detail. I’m lucky if I can recall things that happened two weeks ago. But I digress.

Several years back, oh, in the mid-1990s, I’d say, we were on an “adventure” to Trader Joe’s in Pacific Beach. My mom, who has traveled the world, now considers anything that involves a car ride of more than ten minutes to be an adventure because it’s typically farther than she’d normally walk. And walking is her normal mode of transportation. She does not drive. Has never driven. Well, she tried to learn, but that’s for another post.

If you’ve ever been to Trader Joe’s, you know they have interesting foods from all over the world. Belgian chocolates. New Zealand lamb. Various and sundry cheeses. The list goes on and on. Some food or other (likely a curry of some sort) managed to trigger my mom’s reminiscing of all things India. Staring off into space with a slight beatific smile on her face, she was completely in another place. The sights, sounds, and smells of India were all around her. Yet something in the here and now managed to impinge on her consciousness. Something ever so slightly off in Trader Joe’s. She got the attention of a passing employee to tell him: “I think there’s something wrong with the automatic door. People are going in and out, but it’s not closing, it’s just staying open. I know it was working earlier because I remember it opening when we walked up.”

“Maam, that’s because you’re standing on the mat that has the sensor in it. If you step back about a foot, the door will close.”

Mom vs. The Water Beetle

From two rooms away, Bart and I heard my mom scream at the top of her lungs. We jumped up and looked out the door only to see her running from the bathroom, ripping all of her clothes off, and yelling, “don’t look! Don’t look!”

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I grew up in the Bird Rock area of La Jolla. We don’t have alleys in La Jolla. We have “ways” and “lanes”–and though they look like alleys, they are named. I’m quite sure that we don’t have rats. But there are lots of really huge mice around. We also don’t have cockroaches. No. They may look, act, and be genetically identical to cockroaches, but in La Jolla they’re called water beetles. At least that’s what my mom tried to call them. She would slip up now and then, and the word “cockroach” would be used. But for the most part, “water beetle” was the preferred term. She was terrified of all bugs, but cockroaches held a special place of fear in her. Most likely from a story her mother used to tell her about the time she lived in China in a place where if you went into the kitchen at night and turned on the light, “the whole wall moved.” Covered in cockroaches.

Um, I mean water beetles.

For a while, my mom was prone to wearing long, flowy garments that brushed the ground. Even when out in the yard doing light gardening or simply watering. She would do this, and her mind would wander as she sprayed water around the back yard, her thoughts in far off lands (her childhood in India and what is now Pakistan, for instance) or simply in areas inconceivable to most of us.

On one such evening, after a pleasant half-hour in the back yard while the air cooled and the glowing sunset faded toward night, my mom was in the bathroom down the hall while Bart and I sat in my room, talking about and listening to music. She was combing her hair and began to think to herself how wonderful it would be if you could think of something and it would simply appear. A delicious dinner, perhaps. Or an object you needed. How amazing and useful that would be! You simply think, and it’s there. (I don’t know if she ever saw the “Shore Leave” episode of Star Trek, but it’s pretty much along the lines of where her mental wanderings were headed.) She stopped herself short, though: What if you thought of a cockroach? That would be terrible!

At that very moment a cockroach walked up onto her shoulder.

Which is where I started. My mom had one of the biggest freak-outs that you could ever imagine. She screamed at the top of her lungs and ran out of the bathroom–tearing off all her clothes as she went, yelling “don’t look! Don’t look!” to Bart and I as we hurried out of the bedroom to see what was wrong.

She ran and grabbed something to put on, while Bart and I simply stood there, utterly baffled. When she managed to calm down to a point where she could speak in a somewhat rational manner she finally conveyed the reason for her distress. Bart and I went in search of the, ah, water beetle. At first, we were looking at each other and wondering if she’d just totally flipped her lid. But after several minutes, yes, we did find the nasty thing. In retrospect, it’s obvious that the water beetle had managed hitch a ride on my mom’s long, flowing clothing. But for a while there, she was absolutely convinced she had conjured it out of thin air. I wish she’d conjure up the winning lotto numbers. Now that would be useful.

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A Morning on Palomar Mountain

Last Friday, I realized that with little on my schedule for Sunday, a holiday on Monday, and the weather finally getting to something of a reasonable temperature, it might just be time for me to visit one of my favorite places on Earth: Palomar Mountain State Park. The park was slated for closure due to budgetary cuts, but a great group called Friends of Palomar State Park stepped in, did a fund raising drive, and worked a deal with the State Park system to keep the gates open to the public. Of course, continued operation depends on people actually paying the fees to use the park, so the least I could do was spend a night there. There were several campsites available and I booked one.

The drive up was relatively uneventful, with one slight exception. In several places on the park website, it is mentioned that there’s no gas station on Palomar Mountain. I was around a quarter of a tank as I reached Escondido, and used the GPS in my phone to locate a gas station. The closest one was the Qwik Korner on East Valley Parkway. Now we all know that gas prices have jumped like crazy over the last week or so, but this was just nuts:

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Across the street at the Mobil station, the price was a relative bargain at $5.29 a gallon for regular. Yes, there were people fueling their cars at both stations. Not knowing what was ahead, I put three gallons in at the Mobil station. Turns out that another 15 miles along the road at Harrah’s Rincon Casino, there was a 7-11 with regular priced at $4.63 which, while still obscene, was at least along the lines of prices elsewhere in the county.

Reaching South Grade Road, I took the twists and turns the way I can only do when driving alone. I can’t imagine any passenger enjoying that drive. I loved it. I had to turn off the traction control as I slammed my automatic transmission from D to 2 to L and up again, hitting the turns hard and fast. Even so, I had to pull to the side three times for motorcycles to pass me.

I got to the campsite and, first things first, set up the tent while there was still a lot of daylight. Then, after a snack of some grapes and sliced turkey breast, went over to the camp host to buy some firewood. Things all set, it was time for my first hike. I took the Doane Valley Nature Trail. It’s an easy, 1-mile trail that starts in the Doane Pond parking lot, with beautiful views and lots of variety.

Back to camp. Time to split up some of the wood for kindling and build a fire. Once it had been ablaze for an hour or so, I realized I needed more wood. Back to the camp host.

The night itself was something of a loss. While I had a fabulous opportunity to view the stars (and it’s so amazing how many stars you can see up there, a mile above sea level and away from city lights), other campers were loud: radios, overly-raised voices, oh yeah, and barking dogs. Nice.

Weather.com had said that the temperature was going to drop to around 50 degrees overnight. Not too cold. I brought a suede jacket just in case and it was already getting rather chilly by 8pm. I had planned on just using my sleeping bag as a mat. I normally like it cool and use no covers save a sheet. Since I was planning on actually wearing something to bed, I figured I’d be warm enough. I was wrong. Had to get in the sleeping bag.

Woke up at 6:30, cold, just around sunrise, fingers numb. A quick bowl of cereal and brushing of teeth, and I was off on the hike I really wanted to take: early morning down the French Valley Trail. This trail begins where the Doane Valley Nature Trail ends: pretty much right in the middle of the campground area. Almost everyone was still asleep in the campground. And it was downright chilly.

Up to the left, the campsite across the narrow road from the trail head was ringed with large black crows, silent and still. They were all facing the tent on the site, waiting or watching for something, some event. One hopped a few feet forward and was again still. I’ll never know what they were waiting for, but it was an eerie early-morning sight.

On to the trail and into the first small meadow, the temperature dropped several more degrees in the open air. But it was crisp, clean air. The shriek of bluejays had begun to pepper the morning that was coming alive with chirps, whistles, tweets, and calls from other unseen birds all around.

Perhaps 50 feet into the first area of cover on the trail, a sudden bounding started in front of me then off toward the left! A large deer had been spooked by my not-so-subtle gait. I stopped, and it paused, some 40 feet away, directly left, watching me through a thin bush. When it decided I posed no threat it began to graze on some of the grasses. I watch for a while longer until it wandered off, out of sight.

Farther along, the trail split. To the left, it went down into the valley meadow, still in shadow, while the ridge beyond blazed in sunlight.

From where I stood, with the rising sun still hidden behind me, the grasses in the meadow, yellow, green, and brown the afternoon before, looked oddly white in patches. I took the right fork, up, through more trees. A slightly more ambitious trail, this one. In several places, trees had fallen, and one was presented with the choice of climbing over or going under.

Several times along the way I stopped to soak it all in. The beautiful views, the bird-filled quiet. The serenity.

When I finally reached the point where the trail left the trees and skirted the meadow, I could see the white somewhat more clearly. Bizarre, yes, but it looked like frost. Trekking on, I eventually made it to a stretch of trail that went directly through . . . frost. The crunch under my boots was confirmed when I reached down and scraped a layer of frost from a blade of grass. And then another, just to be sure.

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I’m going to say that Weather.com might have been a few degrees off in their forecast of the overnight low.

By that time, though, I was anything but cold. The altitude and the hike had raised my heart rate, for sure. Reaching the end of the meadow, the French Valley Trail met up with the Lower Doane Valley Trail at the base of the ridge that was now hit with full morning sun. I knew this trail would meet back up with the Nature Trail back toward the Doane Pond parking lot, so up I went, along the lower part of the ridge. I turned just in time to see a large hawk fly from a nearby tree to one further along my path. Smaller birds scattered as it landed.

Along this trail, from ferns and other flora either side the dirt path, gossamer strands intersected my way. Spiders had spun their webs overnight. There was no choice but to cross them, breaking the webs that would surely be rebuilt again the coming night.

Up, up, down. up. Down, along, and down to where the two trails meet. Then up, up again to the road, and back to the campsite, sweaty, breathless, and fully refreshed.

I need to do this again, and soon.

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