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The Many Fascists of Evil

September 11, 2004
By William Harris

I recently spent some rare quality time with my partner in our kitchen on a humid, hazy Boston afternoon in September, after the Conventions. While we waited for dinner to cook in the oven and enjoyed a hopelessly petit bourgeois appetizer spread of blush wine, domestic Camembert, corporate grapes and cigarettes "imported" from the "Smoke Cheap or Die" State, the conversation veered toward domestic politics.

"The President is a Fascist," my partner said.

"I agree," I replied, picking grape skin from between my front teeth with a fingernail I had just trimmed the day before. Did I mention we were also eating grapes? They were on sale last week. 77 Cents per pound. NOT Cesar Chavez grapes, I thought at the time. Shame on me, but I'm broke. We're broke. We're middle class. For us, the prime rate is 23 percent.

He continued, "Rumsfeld and Ashcroft are also Fascists. So is Rice."

"Huh," I added, searching for a toothpick. "People hear Fascist and think Hitler, or Mussolini. But, modern Fascism started with people like this," says my Republican friend. He's looked up "corporatism."

I become very busy with the orphan toothpick I have just discovered in the "utility drawer." I remain enthusiastically silent. The grape skin becomes a personal issue.

"I think they are evil," he said as he chose a thick slice of Wisconsin Camembert from the plate to accompany three thick-skinned seedless on-sale grapes of unknown origin already in his other hand. He chased this with a sip of blush wine and a drag on his practically tax-free major brand cigarette. I spit the grape skin, expertly excised by the rogue toothpick, into the sink.

"I agree," I replied. "They are EVIL".

Now, what's funny about this exchange is that my partner is a registered Republican and a Texan who nonetheless voted for Gore and does not intend to vote for Bush in November. I am a committed partisan liberal Democrat from New England who is also an Episcopalian. He has no plans to join the Democratic Party. Or the Episcopal Church. Having lived in Texas, I refuse to go back to a state that has fought not one but two wars of independence for the right to own slaves (see my article "Texas Tea Party" in the DU Archives). He takes very moderate GOP stances on fiscal issues, and credits both Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton as champions of these values. I think Reagan should have been impeached and that Clinton should have been a Republican. We both agree that Grover Norquist's stated goal of drowning the Federal Government in a bathtub is in questionable taste. No Southerner or New Englander of even marginal breeding would actually say this out loud, we agree—"That's trailer park language," says my partner. Besides, Texans barely have an organized government and Norquist is from Massachusetts. It's a pox on both our houses, except that we happen to share that house. How is it that we share a kitchen?

Well, mainly because we agree on the definition of evil. The definition we find, effortlessly, in Webster's English Dictionary as I pull some more guilty, non-union grapes out of the fridge.

Calling the Bush Regime "Fascist" seems extreme in my paycheck-to-paycheck kitchen, especially since the dictionary definition still calls up the spectre of Mussolini and "belligerent nationalism." Bush certainly doesn't subscribe to that, what with the "coalition of the willing" and all. No Fascist has ever been seriously accused of "pre-emptive strikes." At least not in half a century or so, since Hitler invaded Poland in search of "Lebensraum" and ridding the world of leftist Bolsheviks. A long side conversation about European military history confirmed this in our kitchen. US-backed South and Central American Dictators did come up, though we agreed that hundreds of thousands of dead were a fair price to pay for the musical "Evita." We bet a 20 dollar bill that it's Bush's favorite. Now, THAT'S compassionate conservatism. I am then reminded by my partner that bringing up Franco-Russian treaties in force in 1914 in the same breath as the treaties between the Central Powers is "no fair." What Wilson's doughboys were doing in Russia in 1920 (and had done in Haiti, Mexico and other places) is "out of line." As he munches his grape, he becomes very Republican for a moment. Because I am a Patriot, I agree that "terrorist acts of ethnic and religious extremists against a recognized sovereign nation didn't give the Germans and Austrians the right to declare war on the terrorists' [Serbian] allies, like Russia and France." I bite my lip not to suggest that what we were doing in Mexico in 1916 was disgusting. I keep silent on Iraq. I have a sudden empathy for Woodrow Wilson. "Poor bastard," I think.

At this point, images of Iraqi diplomats and Al Qaeda operatives sipping absinthe the color of Niger yellowcake uranium in a Prague café dance like sugarplum fairies in my mind. In my twisted imagination, the waiter is a ripped, 16 year old Rick Santorum. I remind myself to re-learn European History from the victors' point of view. And lay off fantasizing about GOP Senators old enough to be my uncle. I wonder what an Iraqi would tip: one Czech Crown, two? My blood sugar must be elevated. What would Agent Plame say?

Calling the Bush Regime "evil," however, opens an interesting can of worms and an entire rack of full of custom-fitted golf cleats in which the President and his administration seem to walk effortlessly.

Evil: adj. 1. Morally bad or wrong; wicked. 2. Causing ruin, injury, or pain; harmful. 3 Characterized by or indicating future misfortune; ominous. 4. Purportedly bad or blameworthy; infamous. 5. Characterized by anger or spite; malicious.

Evil: n. 1. Something that causes harm, misfortune, or destruction. 2. Something morally bad or wrong; wickedness. 3 An evil force or power. 4. Something that is a cause of source of suffering, injury or destruction.

My partner and I agreed that when it comes to "Morally bad or wrong" folks could have different interpretations, thus definition a1 and b2 are subjective. We decided to have a "no spin zone" for this discussion. a1 and b2 were out.

Between bites of Wisconsin Camembert, however, we decided that each of the remaining definitions met our criteria for the Bush Administration. There was almost no discussion about this—a nonbinding, bi-partisan bill passed in our own kitchen. Evil is a source of suffering, injury and destruction. Politics, we noticed, are not a consideration according to the dictionary.

My partner and I may disagree about politics and the political interpretation of history, but we both agree on the subject of the nastiness of the Bush administration (we call it the "Regime"). We also agree that it wouldn't be a bad idea if I paid more attention to the origin of our grapes. Fair trade, says he, is good practice.

 
Bill Harris is a writer, composer, Anglo-Catholic and organist-choirmaster on Beacon Hill. His partner is a surgeon of significant talent and good judgment.

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