James Waterman Wise, a U.S. Representative from the sixth district of Georgia from 1915 to 1925, is credited with making the following statement: “American fascism would likely come wrapped up in the American flag and heralded as a plea for liberty and preservation of the Constitution.”
The statement was made during a time when fascism was on the rise in Italy, not long after the close of the first world war and very shortly before the rise of Nazism in Germany.
The statement has incorrectly been often misquoted as “When terrorism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a Bible” although, as the picture below shows, the latter statement could be just as accurate.
Mr. Wise was obviously very prescient in foreseeing the advent of circumstances that would be on the rise in this country nearly a century later.
The fascism that so concerned Mr. Wise showed its ugly face in Charleston, South Carolina in May 2020 when reportedly peaceful protests were disrupted by violent agitators who turned the protests into outright rioting and looting, and resulted in the death of a woman when one of the agitators deliberately drove over her with his car.
This was the riot after which President Trump described those involved as “good people… on both sides.”
Terrorism is becoming apparent nearly every day now as shooters are killing numbers of people at once in various locations. But even though these mass shootings usually involve only one perpetrator, there should be little doubt that the urges that drive them are rooted in the same brands of hatred that fostered fascism and Nazism and the current terrorism, an unequivocal detestation of a single group of people or race.
And fascism nearly raised its head again more recently in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho when 31 individuals were apprehended before their planned disruption of a Gay Pride celebration. While they were apparently not armed with guns, they carried items intended to inflict harm to anyone opposing them.
But the most flagrant display of domestic terrorism occurred just over a year ago, on January 6th, 2021 when hordes of armed and carefully prepared individuals assaulted the nation’s house of democracy, attempting to overthrow a national election and a peaceful transfer of power in the presidency.
Now, with the ongoing committee hearings on that event, the American public is finally able to see the real horror of that day, of the machinations of a defeated president to illegally hold office while instigating his followers to take power by force, something that has never occurred in this nation in its over-two-hundred-year history, even in the most turbulent times.
Now we are seeing, in vivid detail, how narrowly this attempt failed and at the same time are being exposed to continuing efforts to create the same atmosphere that existed leading up to that day, with the ongoing false assertions that, somehow, the 2020 election was a fraud and was stolen, even after every legal attempt to illustrate that assertion failed and continues to be debunked at every turn.
Every American, regardless of their political persuasion, should realize that the democratic principles that they have enjoyed their entire lives were threatened and nearly lost that day, all to accede to the narcissistic ravings of one man. And those who continue to believe and espouse the delusion that Donald Trump did not lose the 2020 election will bear the eternal shame and approbation of those beliefs.
Our elected officials who refuse to acknowledge the overwhelming truth of what happened on that day will be the ones whose history will live long after they have vacated the public stage because they know the truth. They know how near was the defeat of the form of government that they had sworn to uphold. They know that the lies continue and fester and grow and infect our public discourse.
And they know — and should know even better than all the rest of us — that if our future elections turn on the baseless lies that have emerged from the last one, the legacy of democracy that is handed down to our children and grandchildren will not be the one that we inherited.
And therein lies the greatest shame of all.