Herein the Poet Contemplates the Power of the Word “Fascism”

By Ana Castillo (March 2, 2017)


Herein, while the poet considers ending her long vocation as a wordsmith, she contemplates the power of language, specifically a 20th century political term bandied about by the president’s arch-enemies, that is, the free press, two rogue Republicans, all Democrats (or any woman who wears white), and all who undermine the new Nationalist Agenda, such as suspected criminals, i.e. brown people—that term being FASCISM.


In the mid-80s I accepted an invitation to keynote the German Association of Americanists annual conference, which that year was held in Bremen. It was only a few years before Reagan, as ‘leader of the free world,’ made famous his legacy and challenged General Secretary Gorbachev to tear down the Berlin Wall.


One evening, in the midst of a discussion with a couple of the German Americanists the word ‘fascist,” slipped from me in regard to my sentiments about the president of the United States and his party, who were clearly, in my view, fore most invested in the interests of the wealthy. One German scholar sat up at the mention of the word. He had been a child during the Third Reich. “You do not know what fascism is,” he said to me, “and hopefully, you never will.”


With great respect to that moment, I have not and do not use that term in association with anything that we have experienced thus far in this country. I lived through Nixon, Reagan and both Bush presidents with great trepidation. Many a time I left the country to my mother’s homeland, Mexico, and each time returned to el Norte, specifically Chicago, city of my birth.


It is only now that I watch, listen, and take note of my early activism, academic lessons as a social scientist, and like the farmer who watches her cows move to a corner of the field and knows rain is on the horizon, I will say that the terrible time the German survivor of fascism warned me about is not far off.


Last night, during his address to Congress and the world–sounding as if Bannon or maybe Miller may have slipped an ecstasy pill in their boss’s Scotch, thereby assuring he would not go off-script from the tele-prompted speech they wrote–my ears perked up when I heard him actually pronounced the word, “fascism.” He was crediting NATO for having helped rid the world of it.

This is not the time or place, or more specifically, I don’t have the time nor consider social media a forum to further drive home my point; I will just say this: The current admin will soon take the air out of the term’s sails. It will not only drop the word here and there as a reassurance that the State is dissociated from such a proven abhorrent form of governing. But, I say a rose by any other name, or in the case, maybe a better example is: if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, his name must be Donald.


What I won’t do right now is use fascism for what we are experiencing today, March 1, 2017. Don’t get me wrong, I am counting the sunrises and sunsets now. I’m that farmer headed to the corner of the field with my cows. But as a poet, I learned that the fuse of powerful language is dampened when overused or misused. The Republicans will take power that way. They may well turn such words and use them on the protestors, Democrats, or the free press—as in ‘groups’ who want to dictate and oppress our free trade freedoms. Or, ‘racists’ who want war with the Russians and Chinese. Or, not so new a ploy: Feminists are “Man haters” and “baby killers.”


They will then use a different term, those who are darkly leading this country –something that will take some of the nefarious ring from the imminent bloodshed and economic crisis we will undergo. But make no mistake, it will be defined as nothing short of corporate-motivated fascism. Those of us, the majority, in the trenches, on the side lines, in the soup lines, online, and fettered by the multiple identifies most live metaphorically crossing more than just one kind of socially maligned Border—we all must know and heed history.


If there is one thing that unifies his entire agenda, it is the romantic view of a mid-twentieth century USA, and his yearning for the glory of the return of once unrivaled Yankee enterprises here at the ‘homeland’ and throughout what we once called Mother Earth.


With love,

Ana Castillo

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