Authoritarianism: Respect for Authority — the President, Teachers, Police

presidents, the president, teachers, principals, respect for authority, police, police state, scapegoats, dog-whistle talk, antisemitism, racism, ainti-immigrant sentiment, police training, holocaust, russian interference in 2016 presidential election, limits of presidential powers, freedom of speech, kneeling NFL players, police brutality, human rights, public schools, American public schools, American education, education, police shootings, respect for authority, authoritarianism in america, authoritarianism, respect, police powers, abuse of powers, police violence, police in schools, school resources officers, presidency, president Trump, public schools, discipline in public schools, submission to authorities,
This entry is part 6 of 11 in the series Fascism in America

Americans, your respect for authority is out of control. You adore your president like a god, you forget that the police is supposed to serve and protect you and that teachers are supposed to teach and care for your children. That’s authoritarianism.

scapegoats, dog-whistle talk, antisemitism, racism, ainti-immigrant sentiment, police training, holocaust, russian interference in 2016 presidential election, limits of presidential powers, freedom of speech, kneeling NFL players, police brutality, human rights, public schools, American public schools, American education, education, police shootings, respect for authority, authoritarianism in america, authoritarianism, respect, police powers, abuse of powers, police violence, police in schools, school resources officers, presidency, president Trump, public schools, discipline in public schools, submission to authorities,(10-20-2017-updated 07-08-2018) The president is virtually untouchable, you hand your childrens’ lives over to teachers and principals, and you live in a police state without even knowing it. It’s ridiculous how you let authorities abuse their powers to the extent that they do. Powers that, half the time, they shouldn’t even have. You sacrifice your freedom with your unquestioning respect for authorityYou really need to take a step back and have a good look at your tendency toward authoritarianism

In the previous post I gave a short history of the law enforcement in the Netherlands, and of the basic training when I was the librarian at one of the police training schools from 1984 to 1992. That should help to put what I have to say about the police in America and American “respect for authority” in general in context.

Authoritarianism: favoring blind submission to authorities, favoring a concentration of power in a leader or an elite not constitutionally responsible to the people. So no labor unions, no strikes, power lies with corporations, police, government.

 The President is Just an Elected Official

Take the president: The president has also been given too much authority, voluntarily and informally, usually by Republicans when the president is Republican. Notice how Republicans revere the president almost like a god and how hysterical they can get when someone does or says something they find insulting to the president. Although he (so far) is voted into office, he is then treated by many like a king. Look at Trump. If anyone does not deserve respect, it’s the guy who doesn’t have a respectful bone in his orange body, but he’s the president, so he’s untouchable. The thing is, the president should not be an unchallenged authority figure. He should not be adored like a god. He’s an elected official — he answers to the people.

The Police Should Not Be Killers

And the police: The police the are not heroes (as a collective). They should have the authority to stop you when you’re breaking a law, and the authority to arrest you when necessary, and to use force if needed in the process of said arrest. That force should always be the absolute minimum required–that’s what people in most democratic countries would agree on. But  the majority of Americans–white Americans, anyway–seem to accept that the cops use way more force than necessary. American police have the right to shoot to kill whenever they feel threatened, and since they’re so poorly trained, they feel threatened a lot. And that’s accepted — that they have the right to kill you if you scare them. Think about that for a minute. I’ve written more about this here.

Compared to police shootings, officers asking you where you’re going when they stop you for speeding might seem trivial, but in what kind of countries, other than America, do you think the cops have the right to randomly ask you where you’re going? Where you’re coming from? What you do for a living? Yes, these seem like trivial matters compared to cops shooting unarmed black kids, but it’s a common fact that if you give someone power, they will abuse it if they’re not held accountable. It starts with these small discretionary powers (which cops in other western countries don’t have) that makes them feel separate from civilians, some of them to a degree that they are capable of shooting civilians down like dogs.

Schools Should Not Be Prisons

And then the American public school system: In most American public schools the children are treated like prisoners. I worked in a public school for about eighteen months, and I discovered that the middle school kids got paddled; I observed high school kids needing a hall pass to go to the restroom; I watched the principal get up from a meeting (with me, about the library), storm out of the room and stop a student in the hallway, yank at his shirt and yell, “What’s this? What’s this?” because said shirt was not tucked into his trousers, and then wander off, completely forgetting about the meeting, because this principle was seriously ADHD. Honor roll students who skipped a class because they felt they could afford to had to spend an entire day in a closet-sized room without windows, with the janitor, as punishment, and there was always a row of kids on chairs by the principal’s office, usually for the offense of having used the f-word. Well, FUCK me for thinking schools were about educating children.

In my daughter’s public school, she has to ask permission to go to the restroom. She’s a junior (11th grade). I assumed that was a matter of politeness, but I was wrong. Some teachers actually answer that question with a no. I’ve told her that they don’t get to have that kind of power over her seventeen-year-old body, and that the next time she asks and a teacher says no, she can just announce that she’s going. And if the teacher has a problem with that, he or she can take it up with me. She did it once — I haven’t heard from that teacher yet.

And who thought it was a good idea to put cops in schools? Especially considering the behavior of American cops? And now the NRA is promoting having guns in schools, supposedly to protect children in case a school shooter appears, but how long would it take before one of those guns was used against one of the children? Against one of your children? By one of those school cops or by one of the teachers when they lose it? This is on a smaller scale than the central government, but it’s authoritarianism nonetheless. Allowing this kind of abuse of and power over your children — I just don’t have words.

Democracy Be Damned

This attitude, this normalization of officials overstepping their boundaries, this handing over your human rights a little at a time, inevitably leads to fascism if you don’t stop it and turn the ship around. Trump said during his campaign, “Only I can fix it” and he got elected. Trump says that the team owners should fire kneeling NFL players and half the country roars in agreement, freedom of speech and the limits of presidential powers be damned. A poll (sorry, can’t find it, but I know I saw it, months ago) showed that the majority of Trump supporters wouldn’t have a problem with him staying in power beyond his term limit, and clearly the Russian interference in the 2016 election is a non-issue for most of them. That’s a dangerously large portion of the country that doesn’t give shit one about democracy. At all. Authoritarianism in America is real.

How to change it all?

I make some suggestions in this post on how to change the police training in America. That would be a beginning.

I read in an article in the New York Times a couple of days ago that in America any comparison of anyone to Hitler has always been a no-no in debate because Hitler killed six million Jews and nobody else has done that, therefore the comparison is ludicrous and it kills the discussion. That certainly explains the reactions I’ve been getting the past two decades, but it’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard. First of all: Hitler didn’t kill six million Jews, the German people did, under Hitler’s leadership. The Germans by and large bought into the ideology of the great German Reich — the greatest country in the world! — and the superiority of the German people. They readily accepted the Jews as scapegoats and they worked themselves into a frenzy at rallies until they adored Hitler like a god and would do anything for him, for the Nazi Party and for the German Reich. And that Included killing Jews by the trainload and making lampshades out of their skin.

My point, as always, is that the Holocaust and the other horrors of fascism didn’t just happen overnight, and they weren’t carried out by a few monsters. Germany was at the height of what the western world considered “civilization”. It had always had problems with antisemitism, just like America historically has always had and still has problems with antisemitism, racism and anti-immigrant sentiments.

Fascism rose in Europe, especially in Germany, as the result of national humiliation, economic depression and the desire to feel great again. Germany was defeated in WWI, which ended in 1918. The Treaty of Versailles determined that Germany had to repay the allied countries for their losses. So Germany was suffering tremendously post-WWI, and they felt humiliated from the defeat and the punishment. Here in America many white Americans feel existentially threatened and humiliated after eight years of having a black president. They want to feel great again.

The Weimar Republic (the German government post-WWI) was a weak democracy. It was relatively new and it was seen by many as ineffective. There are many things about American democracy that make it weak and ineffective, and not even that democratic. That leads to disillusion.

In Germany, a strong man, Hitler, rose up and promised to make Germany great again. He used nationalistic language, talking about the Germanic people, the Aryan race, the Übermenschen, and he used Jews as the scapegoats. Trump, though democratically elected (although that is coming more and more into question), poses as a strongman—”Only I can fix this”. He also uses nationalistic language, talks about making America great again, putting America first, he uses dog whistle terminology aimed at racist whites who feel under attack. He uses undocumented immigrants and others as scapegoats.

You’re Not Special

Second: Americans, you can’t stick your heads in the sand and repeat the mantra that America is the greatest democracy in the world over and over, and comfort yourselves with the fact that nobody here has killed six million Jews.  Killing any number of any group of people out of hate, in the name of feeling superior, in the name of a leader (“You’re in Trump country now”), is despicable and should be stopped. If it isn’t stopped, all you can say is that Americans haven’t killed six million Jews or Blacks or Hispanics or LGBT people yet.

In order to halt fascism, in order to prevent someone like Hitler from rising, you have to open your eyes, recognize the warning signs and act. Forget about your damn respect for authority and worrying about offending someone. Stop thinking about the president and your children’s principal and the police as the authorities. They are there to serve you, not the other way around.

This post is part 6 in the series Fascism in America. The next post will be about totalitarianism.

(This post was first published on the blog Resident Alien: Being Dutch in America, under the title: “Fascism in America 6: Authoritarianism”, 10-20-2017)

Sources:

  • Third Grader Handcuffed in School. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=72vu6nxZX58
  • Blow, Charles M. “Trump Isn’t Hitler. But the Lying …. (Opinion) The New York Times, October 19, 2017.  https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/19/opinion/trump-isnt-hitler-but-the-lying.ht
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