In recent years a disturbing trend has revealed itself in America. Long considered the home of freedom and liberty, extremists either identifying outright as neo-Nazis or actively cultivating homage to the National Socialist Party have grown in size and influence in the United States. They populate our social media with hateful memes and rhetoric. They march through cities, baring swastikas and, in the tragic case of Charlottesville, Virginia, killing an innocent bystander. With Identity Evropa, they’re recruiting young white men and engaging in murderous violence. With The Base, they’re preparing for future bloodshed with paramilitary exercises. Meanwhile, too many citizens who don’t consider themselves fascists at all are cheering as totalitarian behavior is carried out before their very eyes.
Considering America’s long-held reputation as a foe of fascism, these developments have come as a great surprise to many. The cherished American myth that positions the U.S. as the protagonist of world events doesn’t allow room for these things to occur. The story goes that America has opposed fascism at every turn, that it mobilized in the 1940 to sweep the scourge of Nazism from the face of the Earth. The story goes that America, with its moral bearings and stark and nonnegotiable principles, is simply immune from the repugnant poison of blatant human cruelty.
Unfortunately, the reality is a little more troubling.