This is the personal blog of Rick Staggenborg, MD. The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect the official positions of Take Back America for the People, an educational 501.c3 nonprofit established by Dr Staggenborg.

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Sunday, March 4, 2012


In 1941, German-born sociologist and psychoanalyst Erich Fromm explored the roots of fascism in the seminal Escape From Freedom. He concluded that fascism could arise in any nation whose people allow themselves to submit to authoritarian government. Sinclair Lewis had written in his 1939 novel It Can’t Happen Here that fascism could arise in America if the collective consciousness of its people became one in which populist demagogues promising relief from the Depression were seen as the answer to economic suffering.

As events have proven, fascism can indeed arise in America. The citizens of the United States grew fat and complacent after WW II, believing that it was their  manifest destiny to prosper, never questioning where the source of much of that wealth and American power. As the military-industrial complex grew and became a threat to the rest of the world, Americans were willfully ignorant of the suffering that our profligate consumer-oriented society was based on. The Vietnam War was supported by a majority of Americans who did not have to fight it for years, while 58,000 men and women gave their lives for corporate Empire. 

Fromm’s thesis was that there are two kinds of freedom: freedom from and freedom to. He argued that as children we are free of much of the decision-making that adults have to engage in. As we grow older and are forced to make more decisions for ourselves, anxiety and uncertainty result. Many therefore escape from the freedom to make choices about their own lives by accepting what they are told by the corporate media, politicians and their peers. They refuse to grow up and accept responsibility for making their own informed decisions about political questions or their role in a society that increasingly functions to benefit the rich.  

Freedom to is the freedom to make our own choices according to our own values and beliefs. This requires questioning the prevailing ideas of our society. If we are unwilling to do so, we surrender the freedom to have a role in determining our individual and collective destinies in exchange for relief from the anxieties that come from challenging orthodox beliefs that often do not reflect our own values. This is what we have done in giving up on a broken political system that is the result of our willful ignorance, complacency and lack of sense of social responsibility. We have allowed fascism to emerge in the cradle of democracy.

It is not too late to save ourselves from being enslaved in a fascist New World Order. If we examine our deepest beliefs we will find that most of us do possess a sense of social responsibility. That means that we have a responsibility to work together to mold a new society in which the needs of the least among us are as important as our own. 

We must give up on the na├»ve belief that in a fascist system all have an equal chance to live the American dream, which is quickly becoming the American nightmare. Those of us who have shirked our responsibility to think for ourselves must learn to we can't avoid our responsibility to each other and call ourselves free. We must realize that in a society governed by a wealthy few, we do not have the power to control our individual destiny, let alone our collective fate. We can know true freedom only if we work together to become a society in which we are all free from want, free from oppression and free from the threat of endless war.  

Once upon a time there was a truly United States. It took the misery of the Great Depression to make us realize that a system designed to benefit the few at the expense of the many would inevitably become oppressive and that only together could we take back the reins of government. Were it not for the social safety net that is now under attack, since 2008 we would have been in an even greater Depression. 

Those who accept the myth of the corporate media and politicians that "creeping socialism” is bankrupting the nation are living in an artificial reality divorced from that of most Americans. When we seek to escape our responsibilities as sovereign citizens by letting an economic elite make the decisions that affect all of us, we are submitting to the authoritarian mindset that is at the root of fascism in every place that it has taken hold. 

If rugged individuality is the defining characteristic of Americanism, we should learn to think for ourselves. No one is truly free in a society of people who do not feel any responsibility toward others.
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