Words Create Worlds.5 To Fight Against This Age: On Fascism & Humanism

“Words create worlds,” said Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel.[1]

To Fight Against this Age: On Fascism and Humanism[2] by Rob Riemen

The Words Create Worlds series of essays was inspired by Rabbi Heschel’s warning of the way certain words led to the Holocaust, Riemen’s To Fight Against this Age, and Rebecca Solnit’s Call Them by Their True Names. I felt compelled as a health professional to speak up about fascism, based on the warning flags of the current US presidency and other world movements. In my youth, I was fascinated with World War II, later as a professional I became interested in trauma and the role of the trauma therapist as a moral agent – not just a neutral technician, but a human being who takes a moral stand against human rights abuses, what Robert Jay Lifton calls a “witnessing professional.”[3] As I have watched this regime unfold over the past four years, my early uneasiness has gradually turned to alarm. As physicians, we need to remember our higher calling to function as witnessing professionals for the health of society.

I think it is time for the Doctor to make the diagnosis: fascism, the prognosis: serious.

Fascism is a sickness, an illness, a disorder. It spreads through false-fixed beliefs (delusions), scapegoating (projection), and its continuous stream of lies creates unreality (impaired reality testing). Fascism infects the individual, but it spreads through the community. As a doctor, I am trained to diagnosis and treat sickness. As a doctor, I am trained to attend to individual health as well as public health. Some would say that doctors need to shut up and “stay in their lanes.”[4],[5] However, as someone who has read Nietzsche,[6] has read Robert Jay Lifton, Jason Stanley, Timothy Snyder, Rebecca Solnit, Madeleine Albright, and Rob Riemen – I have learned from history and I have studied epidemiology – people staying in their lane and just following orders leads down a deadly road. 

It is Time to Call it Fascism

Could it really be happening again? Right here in the USA? The erosion of democracy and the growth of fascism and totalitarianism. I think it is time we started calling it anti-democracy and fascism. Umair Haque thinks so, see his article “What Does it Take to Fight Authoritarianism? The One Thing Americans Still Won’t Do,” in which he writes:

“I don’t blame Americans for not getting why they have to say fascism. It’s a complex and subtle set of thoughts to understand, this responsibility.

And yet if I say ‘not calling racism or sexism racism or sexism is legitimising it,’ you get it instantly. Get exactly that logic for fascism and authoritarianism now. That moral, social, and personal responsibility.”[7]

The Leader spews a continuous stream of “false statements,” otherwise known as lies, propaganda – to confuse and disorient opposition and to mobilize a base of followers into a false-fixed state of loyalty and unreality. There are so many lies that the footnotes start to eclipse the text. During his presidency, the president of the United States had made more than 20,000 “false statements,”[8] which we should just start calling lies and propaganda because there is a method behind the madness – the method of the fascist playbook.

It sounds like a constant stream of gibberish, (just try to read this two hour speech), it makes no logical sense, but it appeals to biases and emotions. It is propaganda: “othering” and demonizing of groups of people: Mexicans, immigrants, Muslims, and women, “Antifa,” “radical leftists,” “anarchists.” Every event is amplified and weaponized to create divisiveness. He casts doubt on the institution of elections and hints that he will not honor the results or submit to a peaceful transfer of power if he loses.

And This Also Has Been One of the Dark Places of the Earth, D. Kopacz

To Fight Against This Age

Let us turn to Rob Riemen’s To Fight Against the Age: On Fascism and Humanism (2018). Riemen is the Founder, President, and CEO of the Nexus Institute, “a leading international center for intellectual reflection to inspire the Western cultural and philosophical debate,” and is the editor of the journal Nexus.

I picked up Riemen’s book, by chance, when I was traveling for work and was in Charleston, West Virginia. I found it at a nice little bookstore, Taylor Books. I bought it on impulse and then was fascinated by it and finished it on the flight home. The book consists of two essays, “The Eternal Return of Fascism,” (originally published in 2010) and “The Return of Europa.” In keeping with the theme of Words Creating Worlds, Riemen writes that “to be able to understand something,” you have to “call it by its proper name,” specifically, “populism…will not provide any meaningful understanding,” (18).  Even more specifically:

“The use of the term populist is only one more way to cultivate the denial that the ghost of fascism is haunting societies again and to deny the fact that liberal democracies have turned into their opposite: mass democracies deprived of the spirit of democracy,” (19).

Fascism Rests on Dehumanizing Others

I have personally been concerned with the objectification and dehumanization that happens in medical education and medical practice (see Kopacz, Re-humanizing Medicine – 2014). The antidote to dehumanization is quite simple in theory: re-humanization. The more difficult questions are: What is a human being? How is the soul of the human being lost? How is the soul of the human being regained? Riemen reaches a conclusion similar to mine about the limitations of numbers and the scientific method and the need for the humanities and a whole person philosophy.

“Science and technology will never be able to provide us with a complete understanding of the human being with his instincts and desires, virtues and values, mind and spirit…The humanities and the arts” provide “the only knowledge that could provide a true understanding of the human heart,” and that “the real requirements of a democratic civilization [are] the wisdom of poetry and literature, philosophy and theology, the arts and history,” (19-20).

How does fascism return to civilized democracies? Germany, itself was a democracy, Hitler was elected and then gradually did away with democratic institutions, consolidating power. Riemen puts it bluntly, “the main reason fascism can return so easily in mass democracies: ignorance,” (21). The ignorance of history. The ignorance of social psychology. The ignorance of power and fascism. If we don’t call it by its true name, as Riemen and Solnit both implore us, we will have no chance of confronting and stopping it.

Riemen takes his title of his book, To Fight Against this Age from Nietzsche, whom he paraphrases, “we should not accept the blind power of the actual and that instead of conforming to the whole noisy sham-culture of our age, we have to be fighters against this age…It is now upon us to fight against a zeitgeist that destroys the spirit of the democratic civilization,” (27).  

You Let Your Magic Tortoise Go, D. Kopacz

The Plague of Fascism

Riemen writes about Camus’ allegory of fascism, The Plague,[9] commenting on the “fascist bacillus,” he tells us that if “we want to put up a good fight, we first have to admit that it has become active in our social body and call it by its name: fascism,” (34). We must diagnose the problem before we can treat it correctly.

Riemen’s book was published in 2018. Now we have the strange juxtaposition of an actual pandemic being used as a fascist tool for promoting divisiveness and effecting the first purge of this regime, 200,000+ dead in the United States as of late September – 25% of the global deaths for 4% of the global population, at least we are “great” at something. Even stranger, now we have a president who is actually infected with a virus he is hell-bent on spreading to others.

Riemen, following Nietzsche’s critique, sees a problem with European and Western culture – that we have lost spiritual values. “With the loss of spiritual values,” he writes, “not only did morals disappear but so did culture in the original meaning of the word: cultura animi, the ‘cultivation of the soul,’” (38). We have become the barbarians. Barbarian originally meant “unintelligible speech,”[10] again, just try reading through this transcript.

This “cultivation of the soul” and the recognition of our common humanity is what humanism is founded upon. Fascism is the opposite of humanism – it is about the degradation of the soul, it is about exaggerating the differences between human beings into a false and superficial sense of sameness rather than seeing “out of many, one,” e pluribus unum.

Writing in the mid-1930s, Menno ter Braak noted that fascist movements were focused on “stimulating aggression and anger.” Riemen summarizes that a fascist movement:

“was not actually interested in finding solutions, had no ideas of its own, and did not want to solve social problems, because injustice was necessary for maintaining an atmosphere of vilification and hatred,” (51).

Lousy at Democracy, Super-Good at Fascism

If we look at the current US presidency, we might be tempted to call it incompetent – and from a perspective of democracy it would be right to do so. However, if we view the current president through the lens of fascism – he is hypercompetent. He is lousy at democracy, but he is super-good at fascist.

Menno ter Braak focused on the use of “social resentment vented on a scapegoat who was blamed for everything: the Jew.” Riemen further summarizes ter Braak’s view:

“At the same time, this movement considered itself to be the eternal victim of the ‘left’ or the ‘elite’ and harbored a deep aversion to intellectuals, cosmopolitans, and anyone who was different…[with a] continuous use of slogans and empty rhetoric…it was reactionary,” (52).

Untitled, D. Kopacz

Fascism is Semi-civilization and Promotes the Cult of Resentment

Fascism is “semi-civilization” and promotes “the cult of resentment.” These are the rules that the current US president is very good at, he consults the fascist playbook at every turn and fascism is winning and democracy is losing.

How did fascism gain hold in European democracies? By using those democracies against themselves. Both Hitler and Mussolini were voted into power. Riemen writes that both the liberals and the conservatives caved in to fascism because they thought they could gain something from it. It is the classic devil’s bargain of “the end justifies the means.” This is based, or maybe we should say de-based, on the idea that getting power or money (the ultimate materialist focus) is more important than human values, civility, decency, or humanity.

“The liberals no longer defended the freedom principle of European humanism but became interested only in the freedom of the markets: that is to say, As long as we can earn money,” (56).

We see this today – somehow the stock market in the US seems to give permission for fascism, as long as we can earn money.

“The conservatives were unprepared to unscrupulously exchange the protection of spiritual values for the preservation of their own power, under the veils of ‘tradition’ and ‘social order,’” (56).

We see this today, the conservatives going along with the president, even when it seems to violate their own principles, as long as they can preserve power and social order. This is the definition of fascism: power and order become more important than principles, ideals, more important than human beings.

After World War II, after Mussolini and Hitler were defeated, some still worried that we had not learned the lessons of history. Riemen reminds of that both Albert Camus and Thomas Mann, both Nobel Prize winners, warned of the return of fascism.

“Camus and Mann…as early as 1947…stated that fascism was a political phenomenon that had not disappeared at the end of the war and that we could now describe as the politicization of the mentality of the rancorous mass-man. It is a form of politics used by demagogues whose only motive is to enforce and extend their own power, to which end they will exploit resentment, designate scapegoats, incite hatred, hide intellectual vacuity beneath raucous slogans and insults, and elevate political opportunism into an art form with their populism,” (60).

Untitled, D. Kopacz

A Realm Where Words are Separated from their Meanings

Riemen warns us, as early as 2010, that “this is a new outbreak of the plague,” (60). But just as you cannot treat a disease you cannot name and diagnose, you cannot appropriately respond to a movement if you cannot call it by its true name – fascism. We, in the US, were sick, even before the Covid-19 pandemic, we were in the throes of a revival of an old illness – the pandemic of fascism. We entered into a realm where “words were separated from their meanings and reduced to slogans,” (61).

Again and again, throughout this essay, Riemen reminds us that the cure to fascism is the medicine of our human unity and spiritual/moral values. This is not about religion – many of the most vocal followers of the president are “religious” people who are more interested in power than in human goodness.

“Our true identity is determined not by nationality, origin, language, belief, income, race, or any way in which people differ from one another, but precisely by what unites us and makes the unity of [hu]mankind possible: universal spiritual values that shape human dignity and that every… [one]…can adopt,” (67).

“Anyone who really wants to be a humanist rejects every form of fanaticism and learns the courtesy of the heart and the art of conversation, dialogue,” (68).

What is needed is not a political solution, but a human solution. We need to remember our original instructions and the principles and tenets of spiritual democracy. While fascism is a political movement based in materialism (money and power), its cure is a spiritual movement based in humanism (soul and spirit).

Continuous Lies as Politics

Riemen describes the Party for Freedom (PVV, Partij voor de Vrijeheid) in his native Netherlands in words that sound like the current US president’s playbook. Fascism is not creative, it is not novel, it is really just the same damn thing, over and over again – the basest aspects of our material nature. It is the propagation of dehumanization through dehumanization. The PPV offers

“the shameless opposite of the Judeo-Christian and humanist traditions: vulgar materialism, oppressive nationalism, xenophobia, ammunition for resentment, a deep aversion to the arts and the exercise of spiritual values, a suffocating spiritual bigotry, a fierce resistance to the European spirit, and continuous lies as politics,” (68-69).

Doctors Against Fascism, D. Kopacz (2020)

Doctors Against Fascism

The way you learn how to diagnose something in medical school is by seeing case after case after case – until it becomes automatic, at the first signs or symptoms, you see the incipient signs of a more serious illness. This is why we need Doctors Against Fascism – witnessing professionals to diagnose and warn us that the fascist bacillus is starting to dehumanize our population and make it vulnerable to fulminant fascism. In the USA, there has been a growing concern about the signs and symptoms of fascism since 2016. Riemen has been seeing it in Europe since at least 2010 and we see it spreading all over the globe – a pandemic of fascism in Poland, Hungary, Turkey, Russia, Philippines, England, Brazil, India, and the United States of America.

The Doctor is in and has bad news for you – the prognosis of our nation’s health is serious. We are infected with fascism – it has taken hold in the minds of many of our citizens and it is spreading through our institutions. Words Create Worlds and we are surrounded by continuous lies as politics.

This essay seems to have found a natural ending-point here. I will pick up with the rest of the review of Rob Riemen’s book, To Fight Against This Age: Fascism and Humanism, in the next installment of Words Create Worlds. Perhaps I will develop this theme of Doctors Against Fascism more.

This series, Words Create Worlds, grows out of my work with Joseph Rael on peace. In Becoming Medicine: Pathways of Initiation into a Living Spirituality, I felt compelled to write about the responsibility that grows out of mystical, visionary, and shamanic experience—that we must work toward “Spiritual Democracy.” At its deepest point, mystical experience leads to an awareness that we are all one and this comes with a responsibility to challenge words of separation which can ultimately lead to fascism. Mystical experience is a pathway that leads us to question who we are and gives us a responsibility to use our words wisely to create worlds where we are becoming the medicine that our world needs. As Rumi says, “We are pain and what cures the pain.”[11]


[1] Life Between the Trees blog.

[2] Rob Riemen, To Fight Against This Age: On Fascism and Humanism, New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2018.

[3] Robert Jay Lifton, “Foreword to the First Edition: Our Witness to Malignant Normality,” in Bandy Lee (ed) The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 37 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President, New York: Thomas Dunne Books, 2019.

[4] “Doctors Revolt After N.R.A. Tells Them to ‘Stay in Their Lane’ on Gun Policy,” Matthew Haag, The New York Times, Nov. 13, 2018. The original criticism was in a Tweet from the NRA, “Someone should tell self-important  anti-gun doctors to stay in their lane. Half of the articles in Annals of Internal Medicine are pushing for gun control. Most upsetting, however, the medical community seems to have consulted NO ONE but themselves.” https://twitter.com/NRA/status/1060256567914909702.

[5] “Take Two Aspirin and Call Me by My Pronouns: At ‘woke’ medical schools, curricula are increasingly focused on social justice rather than treating illness,” Stanley Goldfarb, Wall Street Journal, 9/12/19.

[6] Richard Huelsenbeck, German-American psychiatrist and Dada-ist who was investigated by the Nazis and forbidden to write, once said, “We are psychiatrists; we are Germans; we have read Nietzsche; we know that to gaze too long at monsters is to risk becoming one―that’s what we get paid for!” (Greil Marcus, Lipstick Traces: A Secret History of the Twentieth Century, p. 211). Marcus’ book traces the spirit of protest from punk rock back to earlier art movements that were cultural and political critiques of the times.

[7] Umair Haque, “What Does it Take to Fight Authoritarianism? The One Thing Americans Still Won’t Do.” Eudamoinia & Co, Sept 25, 2020, https://eand.co/what-does-it-take-to-fight-authoritarianism-the-one-thing-americans-still-wont-do-676dfb86794b

[8] Glenn Kessler, Salvador Rizzo, Meg Kelly, “President Trump has made more than 20,000 false or misleading claims.” The Washington Post, July 13, 2020 at 12:00 a.m. PDT

[9] Albert Camus, The Plague, New York: Vintage International, 1991.

[10] https://www.etymonline.com/word/barbarian

[11] Rumi, “We are the mirror as well as the face in it,” The Essential Rumi, trans. Coleman Barks, 106.

Words Create Worlds.3

This essay first appeared in The Badger, Year 6, Volume 6, Issue 1 (4/4/20). Thanks to The Badger for permission to reprint.

“Words create worlds.” These are the words of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, here is the full quote, remembered by his daughter, Susannah Heschel:

“Words, he often wrote, are themselves sacred, God’s tool for creating the universe, and our tools for bringing holiness — or evil — into the world. He used to remind us that the Holocaust did not begin with the building of crematoria, and Hitler did not come to power with tanks and guns; it all began with uttering evil words, with defamation, with language and propaganda. Words create worlds he used to tell me when I was a child. They must be used very carefully. Some words, once having been uttered, gain eternity and can never be withdrawn. The Book of Proverbs reminds us, he wrote, that death and life are in the power of the tongue.”[1]

Remembering the Past & Learning from History

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” (George Santayana)[2]

Are we witnessing a rise of fascism and totalitarianism? Many say we are, and it is worth looking at what these words mean and if they apply to our current situation, which Rebecca Solnit calls a linguistic crisis.[3]

Are we justified in using such a strong word as “fascism” for the language and ideas that are being tossed about under the guise of a resurgent nationalism? The Director of the McMaster Centre for Research in the Public Interest, Henry Giroux, believes so.

“I have no apologies whatsoever for using the word fascist politics. And I think that people who are afraid to do that become complicit with the very politics they condemn. Because if you can’t learn from history, then it seems to me that you end up in the dark,” (Henry Giroux).[4]

In this next installment of the Words Create Worlds series, we will turn to the work of two authors who warn us against a global movement into fascism. Both authors have familial roots in the persecution of the Jewish people during the holocaust and the Soviet take over of Eastern Europe after World War II. We will first discuss former US Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright’s book, Fascism: A Warning. Then we will turn to Yale professor, Jason Stanley’s book, How Fascism Works: The Politics of Us and Them. I do not intend this to be polemical, partisan politics, but rather to objectively document the current resurgence of fascistic rhetoric, in the United States and globally, in light of the history of fascism in the 20th Century.

“Crow Flying through Cosmos,” D. Kopacz

Fascism: A Warning

Former US Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright published her book by this name in 2018. She starts with describing her family’s experience with fascism, escaping to London in 1939 from the Nazi invasion of Czechoslovakia. The family returned to Czechoslovakia after the war, only to have to flee in 1948 from the communists, this time to the USA. The family lost numerous members to the Holocaust.

Albright sees a worldwide movement of leaders “intentionally undermining the institutions and democratic principles that have held the world together,” (xvii). She has chapters focusing on the rise of Hitler in Germany, Mussolini in Italy, Franco in Spain, Stalin in the Soviet Union, Putin in Russia, Erdoğan in Turkey, Milošević in the former Yugoslavia, Chávez in Venezuela, Orbán in Hungary, Kaczyński in Poland, the Supreme Leaders in North Korea, and Trump in the USA. She defines a fascist as “someone who claims to speak for a whole nation or group, is utterly unconcerned with the rights of others, and is willing to use violence and whatever other means are necessary to achieve the goals that he or she might have,” (245-246).

Albright includes Trump in this group of leaders leaning into fascism as “we have not had a chief executive in the modern era whose statements and actions are so at odds with democratic ideals,” (5). She points out that he has “systematically degraded political discourse in the United States, shown an astonishing disregard for facts, libeled his predecessors, threatened to ‘lock up’ political rivals, referred to mainstream journalists as ‘the enemy of the American people,’ spread falsehoods about the integrity of the US electoral process, touted mindlessly nationalistic economic and trade policies, vilified immigrants and the countries from which they come, and nurtured a paranoid bigotry toward the followers of one of the world’s foremost religions,” (5).

Albright notes that, in 2016, “fascism” was the most searched for word in the online Merriam-Webster Dictionary, except for the word “surreal,” showing a popular interest in understanding the meanings of these words. She describes the history of the word fascism, going back to Mussolini’s revival of the Roman consul’s emblem, the fasces, a “bundle of elm rods coupled with an ax,” (19-20). Mussolini is also credited with coining the term, “drain the swamp” (drenare la palude) by firing 35,000 civil servants (20). Albright traces the history of the words, “America First,” back to Charles Lindbergh and the America First Committee of 1940, which included “Nazi sympathizers” to resist entry into World War II (216). One of the things we are looking at in this column is how words create worlds and to echo and mimic the words of a fascist is to risk recreating a fascist state. She quotes George Orwell’s one-word description of a Fascist, a “bully,” (209). We can look to see if the current president of the United States qualifies as a bully – does he call people names, does he push people around and try to intimidate them and always get his way?

The question is whether what we are seeing in the United States, which seems to resonate on larger geopolitical trends, deserves to be called fascism. Albright states that “Trump is the first antidemocratic president in modern U.S. history,” and that on “too many days, beginning in the early hours, he flaunts his disdain for democratic institutions, the ideals of equality and social justice, civil discourse, civic virtues, and America itself. If transplanted to a country with fewer democratic safeguards, he would audition for dictator, because that is where his instincts lead,” (246). She writes that leaders around the world “observe, learn from, and mimic one another,” and that they see “where their peers are heading, what they can get away with, and how they can augment and perpetuate their power,” (246). She describes how this happened historically in the Twentieth Century and she fears that history is repeating itself and that “the herd is moving in a Fascist direction,” (246). Albright is issuing a warning, as her book’s subtitle states, she feels that in the US, we “are not there yet, but these feel like signposts on the road back to an era when Fascism found nourishment and individual tragedies were multiplied millions-fold,” (224).

Albright’s Antidotes to Fascism

Albright mentions a few antidotes to fascism, such as “caring about others” and “the proposition that we are all created equal” which neutralizes the “self-centered moral numbness that allows Fascism to thrive,” (66). She also says that we need to develop world views that see similarities, rather than us and them, that we need “a way of looking at the world that recognizes the humanity that we share with one another, and the interests that nations have in common,” (187). This is similar to the idea of “spiritual democracy” that Joseph Rael and I develop in our forthcoming book, Becoming Medicine: Pathways of Initiation into a Living Spirituality.

“Medicine Wheel of Dark Matter,” D. Kopacz

How Fascism Works: The Politics of Us and Them

Jason Stanley is a Yale professor and author of the book, How Propaganda Works and his recent How Fascism Works: The Politics of Us and Them. Stanley was born in the US, but his parents fled Europe as Jewish refugees. His father lived through Kristallnacht in Germany and his mother, from Eastern Poland, was in a Siberian labor camp during the war.

Stanley also speaks of the history of the America First movement (“the public face of pro-fascist sentiment”) and its roots in anti-immigration policy. He defines fascism as “ultranationalism of some variety,” with the nation “represented in the person of an authoritarian leader who speaks on its behalf,” (xiv). As does Albright, he sees the United States in a dangerous moment. A hallmark of fascist politics “comes from the particular way in which it dehumanizes segments of the population,” which leads to limiting “the capacity for empathy among other citizens, leading to the justification of inhumane treatment, from repression of freedom, mass imprisonment, and expulsion to, in extreme cases, mass extermination,” (xv). He points out that dehumanization can exist without overt fascism, but that “it should concern all Americans that as a candidate and as president, Donald Trump has publicly and explicitly insulted immigrant groups,” (xv).

Dehumanization

Dehumanization is the process of treating a person as a thing, as something less than human. I have written about this process in medical and health care settings in my book, Re-humanizing Medicine. Dehumanization can spread like an epidemic. Psychoanalyst, Robert Stoller, has written that the act of dehumanizing another “dehumanizes the dehumanizer,”[5] (Stoller, 32). The dehumanized individual has lost touch with what it means to be human and thus treats others as objects rather than as people. This recalls Martin Buber’s distinction between the I-Thou and the I-It relationships. The I-It relationship is a dehumanized relationship, it is profane and materialistic, treating human beings as raw material. The I-Thou relationship, on the other hand, sacralizes and spiritualizes the relationship between two human beings, it is a subject-subject relationship.[6] The reason that fascism is a spiritual as well as political issue is because fascism despiritualizes human beings and the world. Just as I called for Re-humanizing Medicine, we need a Re-humanizing Politics, and a Re-spiritualizing Politics after the resurgence of fascist rhetoric and action. Two of the antidotes that I describe in Re-humanizing Medicine are developing a personal counter-curriculum of re-humanization (an action plan to reinvest in one’s being fully human: body, emotions, mind, heart, creativity, intuition, and spirituality), and to join the compassion revolution – a global movement of bringing heart back into health care. We could use these processes in our current geopolitical climate.

Stanley’s 10 Common Features of Fascism:

  1. Political invocation of a mythic past – e.g. “Make America Great Again”
  2. Propaganda – to distort reality and create alternate narratives and “realities” of control
  3. Anti-intellectualism – “the liberal New York Times,” casting free speech and scholarship as liberal agendas
  4. Unreality – “fake news” and “alternative facts,” creating a state news organ
  5. Hierarchy – us/them, the deserving and the undeserving
  6. Victimhood – seeing oneself as a victim can lead to victimizing others before they victimize you
  7.  Law and order – warn about dangerous “others” and the need to control and contain “them”
  8. Sexual anxiety – fears of racial purity and appeal to need for “strong men” for protection
  9. Sodom and Gomorrah – decadent “coastal elites”
  10. Arbeit Macht Frei – This German phrase, meaning “work will set you free” was inscribed over the entrance to the Nazi concentration camp, Auschwitz[7]
“Out of One, Many,” D. Kopacz

Stanley’s book follows chapters on each of these different topics, but he reminds us that:

“The most telling symptom of fascist politics is division. It aims to separate a population into an ‘us’ and a ‘them,’” (xvi).

The antidote to fascism can also be found in the poison of it. Stanley writes that the “suffering of strangers can solidify the structure of fascism,” but that “it can also trigger empathy once another lens is clicked into place,” (xix).

This is the much-needed compassion revolution. I often find myself musing about what would happen if all these politicians who are spreading hatred and division simply asked themselves before they spoke, “Am I speaking from the heart and out of love?” Stanley sees the root power of fascism in the separation of people into us and them. Many spiritual practices cultivate the opposite of us and them, seeking states of peace, unity, and interconnection. For example, the Tibetan Buddhist practice of tonglen and Loving Kindness focus on breaking down the barriers between self and other. Hindu Kashmiri Shaivism seeks the understanding and experience that all is Śiva, that we are all God, and that there is no “us and them.” In our forthcoming book, Becoming Medicine: Pathways of Initiation into a Living Spirituality,[8] Joseph Rael (Beautiful Painted Arrow) and I discuss the concept of Spiritual Democracy, of cultivating different ways that we can move from self and other, to brother and sister, and even further to the non-dual point where we are all one. Through exploring different pathways of initiation we come to the conclusion that the spiritual path leads to a state of oneness and from this state of oneness, one feels a responsibility for all life. After seeking initiation, comes finding & receiving wisdom, and this wisdom comes with the responsibility to return to the world and to find ways of giving compassion and wisdom to others. 

Sun Through Trees Near Sol Duc River, Washington state, D. Kopacz (2019)

In the next installment of Words Create Worlds we will be, “The Fight for Humanity – or should we say – Working for Humanity.” Throughout 2019 I was writing these Words Create Worlds essays that appeared in The Badger. In working with Joseph Rael, writing our next book, Becoming Medicine: Pathways of Initiation into a Living Spirituality, I felt compelled to write about the responsibility of mystical, visionary, and shamanic experience—that we must work toward “Spiritual Democracy.” At its deepest point, mystical experience leads to an awareness that we are all one and this comes with a responsibility to challenge words of separation which ultimately lead to fascism. Mystical experience is a pathway that leads us to question who we are and gives us a responsibility to use our words wisely to create worlds where we are becoming the medicine that our world needs. As Rumi says, “We are pain and what cures the pain.”[9]


[1] Life Between the Trees blog.

[2] “‘Those Who Do Not Learn History Are Doomed To Repeat It.’ Really?” Nicholas Clairmont, Big Think, 7/31/13, https://bigthink.com/the-proverbial-skeptic/those-who-do-not-learn-history-doomed-to-repeat-it-really

[3] Rebecca Solnit, Call Them by Their True Names. Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2018, pg 4.

[4] “Henry Giroux: Will Trump’s Deliberate Racist Rhetoric Lead Us to Fascism?” Interview with Marc Steiner, Big Think, 7/18/19. https://truthout.org/video/trumps-racist-rhetoric-is-deliberate-will-it-lead-us-to-fascism/

[5] Robert Stoller, Observing the Erotic Imagination (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1992), 32.

[6] Robert Audi ed., ‘Martin Buber,’ The Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy, 104.

[7] These are the chapters from, Jason Stanley, How Fascism Works: The Politics of Us and Them. New York: Random House, 2018. I have provided my own brief elaborations after the topic headings of Stanley’s chapters. For a quick review of Stanley’s 10 elements of fascism, which also comments on the rise of Hindutva in India, see “The ten indicators of fascist politics,” Kanishk Tharoor, The Hindu Business Line, 5/17/19, https://www.thehindubusinessline.com/blink/talk/the-ten-indicators-of-fascism/article27158525.ece

[8] David Kopacz and Joseph Rael. Becoming Medicine: Pathways of Initiation into a Living Spirituality. Seattle & Marvel: Condor & Eagle Press, 2020.

[9] Rumi, “We are the mirror as well as the face in it,” The Essential Rumi, trans. Coleman Barks, 106.

Words Create Worlds.1

This is a series I have been publishing over the past couple years in the online journal The Badger. The Badger is not a political journal, but in my work with Joseph Rael (Beautiful Painted Arrow) I have been seeing the intersection between spirituality and politics – particularly when politics is against peace and is against human rights. The spiritual path leads to ever greater states of union and love – and yet we are witnessing a resurgence of fascism which is based on separation, division and hate.

Thank you to The Badger for giving permission to post these essays in my blog. You can find the hub for all the issues here, and I will provide a link to the specific issue for each of these essays.

Words Create Worlds.1

A Memoriam for those Killed in the Christchurch Mosque Shootings

Originally published in The Badger, 2019, Year 5, Volume 1

“Words create worlds.” These are the words of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, here is the full quote, remembered by his daughter, Susannah Heschel:

“Words, he often wrote, are themselves sacred, God’s tool for creating the universe, and our tools for bringing holiness — or evil — into the world.  He used to remind us that the Holocaust did not begin with the building of crematoria, and Hitler did not come to power with tanks and guns; it all began with uttering evil words, with defamation, with language and propaganda.  Words create worlds he used to tell me when I was a child.  They must be used very carefully.  Some words, once having been uttered, gain eternity and can never be withdrawn.  The Book of Proverbs reminds us, he wrote, that death and life are in the power of the tongue.”[1]

I am writing this the day after 49 people were killed in two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand (March 16, 2019). I have a personal connection to New Zealand, having lived there from 2010 – 2013. I visited Christchurch days before the second earthquake in 2011. I have a series of selfies my wife and I took walking across the courtyard in front of the Christchurch Cathedral, which was destroyed in the quake.

Since leaving New Zealand, I have been working with military veterans. The way I conceptualize my work is that I am helping to guide veterans from a war culture of the military world to the peace culture of the civilian world. It can be a tough journey after speaking words of war to speaking words of peace.

Red Begonias, Christchurch Botanical Garden, (D. Kopacz, 2011)

During this work, I was befriended by Joseph Rael (Beautiful Painted Arrow), who has been working for world peace since the 1980s when he had visions of Sound Chambers, Peace Chambers: circular structures, half above ground, half below ground, with men and women chanting for peace. He has created over 50 chambers for peace across four continents.

Working with Joseph has reinforced and shaped my identity as a psychiatrist who is not just treating mental illness, but is supporting cultural transitions and transformations, and is creating peace. Joseph would agree that “words create worlds.” He often talks about the power of sound and speech. When we were working on our book, Walking the Medicine Wheel: Healing Trauma & PTSD, Joseph would tell me, I am my brother’s keeper.” As I contemplated this saying, I realized he was not just stating a world-view of many indigenous people—that we are all interrelated and connected—but that he was also speaking an antidote to the first murder documented in the Bible. After Cain killed his brother, Abel, God asks Cain where Abel is and Cain says, “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?”[2] With these words an identity of separation is created in the Biblical tradition. Joseph, in saying “I am my brother’s keeper,” is using words as an antidote for an illness of separation which is once again becoming an epidemic in our world.

“Words create worlds.” J.M. Berger, author of Extremism, would likely agree with this statement. Writing for the Atlantic, he writes of the dangerous impact of publishing and thus publicizing the words of mass murderers.

“It is far past time to reconsider the standard for publishing such manifestos. That does not mean we should abandon the search for meaning. But manifestos are rarely simple confessional documents. They are works of propaganda, just like ISIS beheading videos and al-Qaeda’s Inspire magazine. Like those publications, journalists should report on manifestos, but they should mediate their propagandistic intent instead of blindly amplifying it. . .We have only begun to suffer the cost of these writings, crafted with an intent no less lethal than their authors’ violent crimes.”[3]

We find ourselves in a war of words. I try not to use the word “enemy.” To think of someone as an enemy is to make them “other” and this is the very root cause of violence, hatred, racism, and bigotry. To meet violence with violence or hate with hate does not create peace. Rather than enemy, I think opponent is a better term. The United States fought wars against England, Japan, and Germany. They were our opponents during the wars, but they are not our enemies. Consider the relationship between Gandhi and Jan Smuts. Smuts was the only person to sign the peace treaties ending both World War I & II. He advocated for the League of Nations following World War I. Yet, earlier in his life, he was a proponent of apartheid and he had a worthy opponent in South Africa on this, Gandhi. While Gandhi was imprisoned he made Smuts a pair of sandals. He returned the sandals for Gandhi’s 70th birthday, writing, “I have worn these sandals for many a summer, even though I may feel that I am not worthy to stand in the shoes of so great a man.”[4]

These two men struggled against each other for their beliefs, and yet they were not life-long enemies. Smuts literally walked in Gandhi’s shoes. We can wonder if this influenced Smuts’ later 1926 book, Holism and Evolution, in which he coined the word, “holism,” the concept of not seeing things through separation and isolation, but as component parts of a larger whole.

Christchurch, New Zealand (D. Kopacz, Feb 2011)

In this war of words we are struggling with our own darker natures, as well as the darker nature of all humanity. It is human nature to view ourselves as separate tribes and clans and peoples based on the superficial colour of our skin or which football team we support, or which religion we belong to. Yet there is also a deeper truth that we are all one, we are all interconnected, sharing the same Earth. The findings of scientists about Mitochondrial Eve and Y-Chromosome Adam tell us that we all are, literally—not just figuratively—brothers and sisters.[5]

This war of words is a struggle about what kind of world we are going to create: a world in which everyone is equal and everyone has a place and a voice, or a world which is only for some people, a world where some people have more rights than others. This is a struggle of words and world-views which is being waged in the hearts and minds of all human beings on planet Earth as we try to come to terms with our interrelatedness and oneness.

Gerald Arbuckle, a Catholic priest and cultural anthropologist (who is from New Zealand and lives in Australia) has been studying the effects of loneliness and isolation and the resurgent rise of fundamentalism in our world.

He calls this a “global epidemic of fundamentalism both religious and political,” and he defines fundamentalists as “boundary-setters . . . marking themselves off from others.” Arbuckle sees, “A typical fundamentalist leader is a populist, homophobic, charismatic, authoritarian man who likes to bully,” a personality type that is only all too common in positions of power across the world.[6]

To see ourselves as separate from others opens the doors to discrimination, racism, and violence. Separation leads to loneliness and authoritarian and fascist movements promise a way out of loneliness through belonging to a tight-knit in-group based on an exclusionary identity opposed to another group or culture. Fascisms power comes from having an “other” who is an enemy. We should be very suspicious of the use of this word “enemy,” for instance in hearing the press called the “enemy of the people,” which is an age-old fascist trope.

Christchurch Cathedral – February 2011, prior to being destroyed in earthquake (D. Kopacz)

New Zealand Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern’s response to these recent killings was this: “Because we represent diversity, kindness, compassion. A home for those who share our values. Refuge for those who needs it. And those values will not and cannot be shaken by this attack.”[7]

New Zealand is geographically isolated, tucked away in the South Pacific, it has a strong anti-nuclear policy, refusing to allow nuclear U.S. warships into port. In New Zealand, the police do not openly carry guns. One former patient of mine, a teenage refugee from the Balkans, told me, “As soon as I saw the police here in New Zealand do not carry guns, I finally felt safe after years of war.” Now we have a major act of terrorism in New Zealand. In the United States we have debates over gun violence. Second Amendment Rights advocates always argue for more guns after gun violence, but research on gun ownership and gun violence shows that guns are more likely to be used in suicide or against someone in the home than they are against a violent “other.” In the United States, powerful lobbies and ideologies actually banned scientific research on gun violence for fear that it will lead to restrictions in gun ownership.[8] How do we respond to gun violence, terrorism and acts of hatred? Research for individual gun ownership does not support that we should all arm ourselves. The suspected killer in Christchurch, a 28 year-old, Australian born man targeted this gun debate and wanted to fuel the flames. Reporting in the New York Times states:

“Writing that he had purposely used guns to stir discord in the United States over the Second Amendment’s provision on the right to bear arms, he also declared himself a fascist. ‘For once, the person that will be called a fascist, is an actual fascist,’ he wrote.”[9]

We should take a closer look at this word, “fascist,” including its current manifestations and history, because it is like a disease that our global civilization has had a recurrence of in recent years.

Duke professor of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, Omid Safi writes of these killings,

“This terrorist attack is not an aberration. This is not about mental illness, it is not about one person. This is where all the anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant discourse over the last few years leads to.”[10]

Safi sees the roots of these killing in the ideas and words of white supremacy and he anticipates the gun rights arguments that “guns don’t kill people, people with mental illness kill people.” Yet when we have the confluence of easily accessible lethal means and a growing epidemic of violent words, there is an increase in violent actions. “Words create worlds.”

Nietzsche warned us that those who fight something risk becoming the very thing they fight, “Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And when you look too long into an abyss, the abyss also looks into you.”[11]

Pink Begonias, Christchurch Botanical Gardens (D. Kopacz, 2011)

Clarrissa Ward, from CNN, sees a similarity in the ideas and words of the far-right and terrorist organizations.

“To me, there’s almost a symbiotic relationship happening right now between extreme terrorists on the far-right and between some of these other terrorist organizations that we’re more familiar with.

The other thing that’s interesting, and disconcerting, frankly, is how much of the language and ideas he [the Christchurch killer] talks about have also seeped into mainstream political rhetoric.

He talks a lot about the idea of invasion, that Muslim migrants are invading white Western countries. He talks about the birth rate, the idea of replacement, that white culture is being replaced. We’ve heard such words coming from the President of the United States. We’ve heard them coming from far-right governments in Europe, whether it be Italy, whether it be Hungary. . . .

When you look at the zeitgeist and the rise of the far right in Europe and the US, ideas that were once considered as taboo to talk about are now being flaunted and public discourse invariably sets a tone.”[12]

Ward raises this disturbing spectre that Western Democracies are at risk of becoming our enemies—state-sponsored terrorism and extremism. The disturbing rise of far-right ideologies and words is being supported at the highest levels of governments across the globe.

Over the next year, I would like to write about some of these topics of how our “words create worlds.” In working with Joseph Rael, writing our next book, Becoming Medicine: Pathways of Initiation into a Living Spirituality, I felt compelled to write about the responsibility of mystical, visionary, and shamanic experience—that we must work toward “Spiritual Democracy.” At its deepest point, mystical experience leads to an awareness that we are all one and this comes with a responsibility to challenge words of separation which ultimately lead to fascism. Mystical experience is a pathway that leads us to question who we are and gives us a responsibility to use our words wisely to create worlds where we are becoming the medicine that our world needs. As Rumi says, “We are pain and what cures the pain.”[13]

Cape Reinga, North Island, New Zealand – meeting of the Pacific Ocean and the Tasman Sea (D. Kopacz, 2013)

[1] Life Between the Trees blog. I first came across a shorter instance of this quote in the Omid Safi reference below.

[2] The Holy Bible: Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition, Genesis 4.9.

[3] J.M. Berger, “The Dangerous Spread of Extremist Manifestos: By sharing the writings of terrorists, media outlets can amplify their impact,” The Atlantic online, 2/26/19, https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2019/02/christopher-hasson-was-inspired-breivik-manifesto/583567/.

[4] Mahatma Gandhi, The Essential Gandhi: An Anthology of His Writings on His Life, Work, and Ideas, ed. Louis Fischer, 98.

[5] This is discussed in National Genographic DNA results. Also see Siddhartha Mukherjee’s The Gene: An Intimate History and “Y-Chromosomal Adam,” Wikipedia.

[6] Gerald Arbuckle, Fundamentalism At Home and Abroad, 28, 9, 15. Also see his recent book, Loneliness: Insights for Healing in a Fragmentary World.

[7] Lucy Bennett “Christchurch mosque massacre: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern speaks to nation following shootings,” New Zealand World Herald, 3/15/19, https://www.nzherald.co.nz/crime/news/article.cfm?c_id=30&objectid=12213187.

[8] Arthur L. Kellermann, et al, “Gun Ownership as a Risk Factor for Homicide in the Home,” New England Journal of Medicine, 10/7/93, https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJM199310073291506. February 13, 2013

Arthur L. Kellermann and Frederick P. Rivara, “Silencing the Science on Gun Research,” Journal of the American Medical Association, https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/1487470. J. John Mann, M.D., Christina A. Michel, “Prevention of Firearm Suicide in the United States: What Works and What Is Possible,” American Journal of Psychiatry, Published Online: 22 Jul 2016, https://ajp.psychiatryonline.org/doi/10.1176/appi.ajp.2016.16010069 .

[9] “New Zealand Shooting Live Updates: 49 Are Dead After 2 Mosques Are Hit,” New York Times, 3/15/19, https://www.nytimes.com/2019/03/15/world/asia/new-zealand-shooting-updates-christchurch.html.

[10] Omid Safi, Facebook, 3/15/19, https://www.facebook.com/omidsafi/posts/10157227737858793.

[11] Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, Aphorism 146, trans. Walter Kauffman (1989).

[12] Clarissa Ward, “How language in the attacker’s purported manifesto mimics the words of ISIS and al Qaeda,” CNN, 3/15/19, https://www.cnn.com/asia/live-news/new-zealand-christchurch-shooting-intl/index.html.

[13] Rumi, “We are the mirror as well as the face in it,” The Essential Rumi, trans. Coleman Barks, 106.

Racism & Narcissism: The Work of Carl Bell, MD

I reviewed Dr. Carl Bell’s collected papers, The Sanity of Survival: Reflections on Community Mental Health and Wellness in a previous blog (all quotes referenced by page number are from this book). This volume includes two papers that are worth dealing with at length as so many people are trying to understand how racism in the United States could be getting so much support from elected officials and even the president. Dr. Bell published “Racism, Narcissism, and Integrity” in the Journal of the National Medical Association 1978; (70):89-92 and “Racism: A Symptom of Narcissistic Personality Disorder” in the Journal of the National Medical Association, 1980; (72):661-665. Dr. Bell was not looking at politically motivated and politically encouraged racism, but racism in general. We will circle back around to the issue of politics, racism, and narcissism at the end of this paper.

One of Dr. Bell’s many interests, during his career, was whether racism should be considered a form of mental illness. In these papers he addresses racism as an expression of narcissism.

“Covert racism is a psychological attitude and as such, should fall under the scrutiny of psychiatry as a psychopathological symptom of personality disturbance,” (406).

“The racist individual suffers from a psychopathological defect of developmental processes involving narcissism, which precludes the subsequent development of such qualities as creativity, empathy, wisdom, and integrity,” (406).

Dr. Bell draws on the theoretical and clinical work of Kohut, Masterson, and Kernberg and sees the core lack of the development of empathy as common to “racists…murderers, child abusers, child molesters, and sadists” he has treated, (407). The behavior of these kind of crimes against humans has its roots in dehumanization and a lack of “respect for human life,” (407). Racism, says Dr. Bell, can thus lead to “violation of basic human rights” secondary to the racist individual’s “grandiosity, lack of self-boundaries, and dehumanization,” which are traits of narcissistic personality disorder, (407).

What’s Mine is Mine and What’s Your’s is Mine, Too

Dr. Bell noticed that, “Territoriality or boundaries are paramount for racists because of their lack of self-definition and tendency to extend their boundaries, which thus motivates them to make anything foreign a stimulus for protective action,” (407). This could explain the preoccupation with building walls and keeping out the “bad guys.” Even keeping medical supplies and protective equipment for the “government” rather than giving it the states and people could be seen in this light (consider “Trump’s use of medical stockpile veers from past administrations, leaving states in the lurch,” Shannon Pettypiece, NBC News April 6, 2020, and Daniel Dale, “Trump administration edits national stockpile website a day after it contradicted Jared Kushner,” CNN April 3, 2020, ).

Seeing the Other as Inferior and Less Than a Whole Person

Dr. Bell points to the “narcissist’s internal fragmentation” as leading to the inability to see others as whole people – in essence projecting off fragments on to others that one is unaware of in one’s self, (408). This is the essence of what Carl Jung called “the shadow,” which, if not owned and made conscious, gets projected off on to the “other.” What should be an internal psychological issue becomes an interpersonal, and even political, issue. Dr. Bell quotes the psychiatrist and activist, Frantz Fanon, “It is the racist who creates his inferior,” (408).  

The Stress-Induced Racist, the Socially Misinformed Racist, and the Narcissistic Racist

Dr. Bell develops three categories or explanations for racist behavior: 1) the stress-induced racist (where racism arises only during stress); 2) the socially misinformed racist (due to ignorance and cultural indoctrination); and 3) the narcissistic racist, (418-420). The difference between socially-misinformed racism and that due to narcissism is in “the degree of hostility directed toward the perceived inferiors,” which stems from what is called narcissistic rage, (408).

These types of racism would require different kinds of responses. For the stress-induced racist, learning self-soothing skills from at a personal level and alleviating sources of economic stress at a collective level. For the socially misinformed racist, education and corrective experiences might suffice, if provided within a peer context. Sometimes this happens with military veterans who are acculturated into hating the “enemy” and seeing them as less than human. After returning home, the larger culture no longer supports such a degree of dehumanization of others and no longer condones using violence for problem-solving. For the narcissistic racist, none of these interventions or appeals will have any weight, because the narcissist is only motivated by self-interest.

The Narcissistic Racist

Dr. Bell mentions the work of Adorno and Allport looking at how so many people went along with fascism in World War II, for instance the work on “the authoritarian personality.” Milgram’s studies showing that study subjects were willing to punish others when told to do so by a man in a white coat (Milgram, Obedience to Authority: An Experimental View, 1974). Dr. Bell describes the symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder (as given by the DSM-III which was the edition at use at that time):

  1. Grandiose sense of self importance or uniqueness
  2. Preoccupation with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love
  3. Exhibitionistic: requires constant attention and admiration
  4. Responds to criticism, indifference to others, or defeat with either cool indifference or with marked feelings of rage, inferiority, shame, humiliation, or emptiness
  5. Two of the Following:
    1. Lack of empathy: inability to recognize how others feel
    2. Entitlement: expectations of special favors with reactions of surprise and anger when others don’t comply
    3. Interpersonal exploitiveness
    4. Relationships characteristically vacillate between the extremes of overidealization and devaluation

It may be impossible for many to read this list and not think of one person who is always in the news for the past four years or so. The risk of a narcissistic leader is that they will use the country to play out their own personal pathology. The fact that this pathology requires an “other” is similar between narcissism and fascism – as both seek to blame someone else for social problems and to strengthen us and them divisiveness. If one can magnify and increase social and personal stresses for others, stress-induce racism will increase. If one can exploit cultural narratives of racism, introducing continuous references to inferiority and superiority, one can amplify socially-misinformed racism. Dr. Bell wrote in 1980, “If the man behind the institution is a narcissist of the grandiose type, as was Hitler, then a racist institution is bound to be established,” (420). He quotes Kohut on the narcissist:

“They seem to combine an absolute certainty concerning the validity of their ideas with an equally absolute lack of empathic understanding for large segments of feelings, needs, and rights of other human beings and for the values cherished by them. They understand the environment in which they live only as an extension of their own narcissistic universe,” (Kohut, 420).

In The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 37 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess the President, Bandy Lee, MD MDiv (ed.), two of the 37 papers have narcissism in their title and the word appears 62 times throughout the volume. The papers are, “Pathological Narcissism and Politics: A Lethal Mix,” by Craig Malkin, PhD, and “Who Goes Trump? Tyranny as a Triumph of Narcissism,” by Elizabeth Mika MA, LCPC. Two papers focus on race and immigration, “Persistent Enslavement Systemic Trauma: The Deleterious Impact of Trump’s Rhetoric on Black and Brown People,” by Kevin Washington, PhD, and “Traumatic Consequences for Immigrant Populations in the United States,” by Rosa Maria Bramble, LCSW. Many of the authors and clinicians prefer to focus on dangerous behavior patterns and the question of whether professionals “duty to warn” regarding the dangerousness of a person extends to the president.

If Dr. Bell were writing these articles now, rather than in 1978 – 1980, I imagine he would have something to say about our current political situation. Perhaps he would have said it in The Dangerous Case. The DSM-III description of Narcissistic Personality Disorder is almost a biographical sketch of the current president. The Dangerous Case appeared first in 2017 and it was cautionary. It was updated in 2019 and the warnings it raised seemed to be coming true, now, in 2020, we are witnessing greater levels of the behaviors Dr. Bell described and greater levels of fascism and totalitarianism. The example this week is the use of federal law enforcement in unmarked cars being used against protesters in Portland, Oregon, with threats to use them in other cities run by Democrats, whom the president calls the “radical left,” (“Trump Sends Federal Troops to Cities Run by Democrats,” Heather Cox Richardson, Moyers on Democracy, 7/21/20).

Dr. Bell cautions us about narcissistic racism with its “features of grandiosity―lack of empathic linkage…poor self-boundaries, with a tendency to intrude upon or molest others; and an underlying mood of fragmentation with anxiety, agitation, and rage,” (413). He could be cautioning us about the United States, right now.

Words Create Worlds, Part III, published in The Badger

Words Create Worlds. Part 3

“Words create worlds.” These are the words of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, here is the full quote, remembered by his daughter, Susannah Heschel:

“Words, he often wrote, are themselves sacred, God’s tool for creating the universe, and our tools for bringing holiness — or evil — into the world. He used to remind us that the Holocaust did not begin with the building of crematoria, and Hitler did not come to power with tanks and guns; it all began with uttering evil words, with defamation, with language and propaganda. Words create worlds he used to tell me when I was a child. They must be used very carefully. Some words, once having been uttered, gain eternity and can never be withdrawn. The Book of Proverbs reminds us, he wrote, that death and life are in the power of the tongue.”[i]

Crow Flying through the Cosmos, D. Kopacz (2020)

Remembering the Past & Learning from History

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” (George Santayana)[ii]

Are we witnessing a rise of fascism and totalitarianism? Many say we are, and it is worth looking at what these words mean and if they apply to our current situation, which Rebecca Solnit calls a linguistic crisis.[iii]

Are we justified in using such a strong word as “fascism” for the language and ideas that are being tossed about under the guise of a resurgent nationalism? The Director of the McMaster Centre for Research in the Public Interest, Henry Giroux, believes so.

“I have no apologies whatsoever for using the word fascist politics. And I think that people who are afraid to do that become complicit with the very politics they condemn. Because if you can’t learn from history, then it seems to me that you end up in the dark,” (Henry Giroux).[iv]

In this next installment of the Words Create Worlds series, we will turn to the work of two American authors who warn us against a global movement into fascism. Both authors have familial roots in the persecution of the Jewish people during the holocaust and the Soviet take over of Eastern Europe after World War II. We will first discuss former US Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright’s book, Fascism: A Warning. Then we will turn to Yale professor, Stanley Jordan’s book, How Fascism Works: The Politics of Us and Them. I do not intend this to be polemical, partisan politics, but rather to objectively document the current resurgence of fascistic rhetoric, in the United States and globally, in light of the history of fascism in the 20th Century.

Follow the link for the full article, pages 58-69.

Medicine Wheel of Dark Matter, D. Kopacz (2020)

[i] Life Between the Trees blog.

[ii] “‘Those Who Do Not Learn History Are Doomed To Repeat It.’ Really?” Nicholas Clairmont, Big Think, 7/31/13, https://bigthink.com/the-proverbial-skeptic/those-who-do-not-learn-history-doomed-to-repeat-it-really

[iii] Rebecca Solnit, Call Them by Their True Names. Chicago: Haymarket Books, 2018, pg 4.

[iv] “Henry Giroux: Will Trump’s Deliberate Racist Rhetoric Lead Us to Fascism?” Interview with Marc Steiner, Big Think, 7/18/19. https://truthout.org/video/trumps-racist-rhetoric-is-deliberate-will-it-lead-us-to-fascism/

Sun Through the Trees Near Sol Duc River, D. Kopacz (2019)