There is a vast gulf between love of nation and nationalism. The former is based on humility and service to fellow citizens; the latter is based on hubris and ego that ultimately destroys all nations that dabble in this malicious form of patriotism. The twin killers of all empires are greed and arrogance. Like all super states before us, we are charting a course where debt and pretension will in short order decimate the United States.
Let me say from the outset; I write on this topic from a place of familiarity and sadness. You see, the reason my family and I fled my once home Ethiopia and came to America as immigrants is because nationalistic fervor shattered a country that survived intact for more than 3,000 years. I was born the same year Marxists swept into power; a Red Menace toppled Emperor Haile Selassie and reigned terror upon my birth land. Over 200,000 Ethiopians lost their lives in the years following the coup d’état that witnessed a takeover by the Derg government.
No one could have foreseen the sheer horror that would be unleashed when students and opinion leaders were agitating for change in the years leading up to the overthrow of Haile Selassie. The gripes of the protesters were legitimate, power was consolidated by a few in the royal courts and equity was not shared by all. A revolution was in the air and people were excited for a new day in Ethiopia.
We would learn in the most tragic way that revolutions are birthed by idealists and breast fed by tyrants. A previously unknown figure and a bit player in Ethiopian politics saw an opportunity and used the demands of frustrated students to foment a violent deposition. Mengistu Hailemariam rose from nowhere to become the despotic butcher of Ethiopia. He used nationalism and militarism to capture the imagination of citizens only to lead them into the fires of ethnic cleansing, civil strife and a war with Somalia that took the lives of countless civilians and soldiers.
I write this with the benefit of hindsight. In real time, as a six year old, I was caught up in the bluster of flag waving and military spectacles. I remember each night—before the TV stations went dark—the Ethiopian national anthem playing with the flag fluttering in the background. At each corner was the likeness of Mengistu; I once saw him as a hero I wanted to emulate. I was a child, I did not know any better and my mind was susceptible to the propaganda of the state.
Mengistu was following the same blueprint that has been used by all past and present despots. The way to blind the public to the excesses of governments and divert attention from the crimes against humanity that is committed by central authorities is through a combination of nationalism and xenophobia. Instead of speaking to our better angels, tyrants whisper to our darkest demons. They prop up bogeymen who have to be conquered and use faux-patriotism to silence dissent.
A few years after Mengistu took power, he foisted upon Ethiopia an omnipresent military state and incentivized citizens to police each other. A once united country crumbled under the weight of suspicion and apprehension. Speak too loudly and you were apt to disappear into the night; remain silent and you might still get reported for being subversive. The whole of the nation was buckled by mass anxiety. The only way to escape pervasive persecution was to exit the country without setting off alarms that you were leaving.
My family and I were some of the lucky few who got out and lived to tell about it. Those who remained were treated to front row seats as they witnessed a mini-genocide committed against their families and neighbors. Ethiopia never recovered from the Derg demolition. Once kissed by tragedy, my native land is now wedded to the new despots called TPLF who deposed Mengistu only to continue his criminality. They too wave flags and play up military parades; they too butcher citizens in the name of nationalism.
What happened to my birth land Ethiopia is slowly unfolding here in America. Just like the megalomaniac Mengistu leveraged the frustrations of the people to gain power, we have before us Donald Trump who is playing on the fears of his followers to elevate himself as he sets fire to America. To be fair, I can’t throw all blame at the feet of Trump. The truth is that America has been creeping towards fascism ever since the planes hit the Twin Towers. George Bush used 9/11 as a pretext to eviscerate the Bill of Rights and set a blow torch to the Geneva Conventions. Obama followed suit as he quickened the pace of fascism from a creep to a trot.
Trump sees the mendacity of Bush and the insidiousness of Obama and raises both with flair befitting of Caligula. A man who used five deferments to abstain from serving in Vietnam, this same coward who ran from battle during his youth sees no problem with laying waste to the lives of our men and women in the military by continuing the never ending legacies of military-financial complex sponsored wars. Just like Mengistu did to my once homeland Ethiopia, Trump is intent on using a mix of nationalism and xenophobia to fracture America and burnish his brand. Click To Tweet
The perilous path towards fascism that our nation is being led on is not happening in a vacuum. Not only are previous administrations accountable for our current predicament, there are other actors beyond Trump who are equally responsible for the abysmal state of our nation. The truth is that both parties in DC and the wider media-politico complex are gladly enabling the first grifter president. I asked Lee Camp of Redacted Tonight his thoughts about the political atmosphere that is enveloping our nation in the dark clouds of hatred and ignorance. Lee noted:
“The corporate Democrats have supported every bit of the dictator’s toolkit. They claim to “resist” Trump while voting to continue his unlimited surveillance state, his unlimited war powers and his unlimited trade authority. The also undermine actual progressive candidates who WOULD stand up to him. The Democrats work to empower Trump every day of the week.”
Be careful of demagogues who manipulate public emotions and be twice leery of those who use nationalism and false patriotism to sow dissension. At this exact moment, the Pentagon is planning a Soviet Union style military parade right in our nation’s capital. Remember when Republicans used to pretend to love the US Constitution? Well this chicken hawk president—who could not be bothered to serve his nation when he was in college—is about to put a shredder to the supreme law of the land by insisting the military pays tribute to his repugnant ego. To wit, they are going to clear Pennsylvania Avenue of all homeless veterans in order to use active duty personnel as billboards to promote our imbecile president.
If I sound animated about all this, as I noted there is a reason for my passion. I beg you my fellow Americans, wake up before it is too late. The hour is late as we go from a trot to a sprint on our way to full blow fascism. Animosity and antagonism have become our new social currency; instead of working for a better America, we are intent on burying our nation into the abyss of indifference and callousness. Added to this toxic mix of national rancor is a charlatan at the White House who gets depraved enjoyment from deranging his haters and prostrating his followers. We have before us a neo-Nero who will happily set the world afire as long as he gets mention.
Think twice about our direction and where we are being led as a nation. Ethiopians never thought it possible that a strong man would one day lead their country over the cliff of tribalism and social unrest. Two hundred thousand lives and two generations of bloodshed later, we now realize the dangers of fascism paraded as patriotism. Let us not awake to the malevolence of Trump and the duplicity of the media-politico complex by way of a bloodletting in the streets of America. #ParadedFascism
“All tyranny needs to gain a foothold is for people of good conscience to remain silent.” ~ Edmund Burke
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Check out the Ghion Cast below where I talked about how Ethiopians once banded together to take on the fascist attempt of Italians to colonize my once homeland. In it is the answer to overcome despotism, the key word is UNITY.
Check out the latest Ghion Cast where I discuss the worrying developments on Wall Street and how an economic recession can be the pretext for a wider terror against US.
Ghion Event this Sunday, February 11th in Washington DC
Busboys and Poets will be hosting the founder/editor of the Ghion Journal as a featured author on February 11th at their 5th and K Street NW location. Busboys and Poets is an iconic bookstore and cafe named in the honor of legendary poet and visionary writer Langston Hughes. The event will be a community discussion about “race and identity in America”, a timely topic given that February is “Black History Month’.
This is a community event that is free and open to all, we highly encourage an advance RSVP to ensure seating. You can see the event link at Busboys and Poets website by clicking HERE. Find out about Teodrose Fikre and the work he is doing at the Ghion Journal viewing the video below the event flyer.
Originally from Ethiopia with roots to Atse Tewodros II, Teodrose is a former community organizer whose writing was incorporated into Barack Obama's South Carolina primary victory speech in 2008. He pivoted away from politics and decided to stand for collective justice after experiencing the reality of the forgotten masses. His writing defies conventional wisdom and challenges readers to look outside the constraints of labels and ideologies that serve to splinter the people. Teodrose uses his pen to give a voice to the voiceless and to speak truth to power.