Still Teetering On The Brink : Sue Coe And Stephen F. Eisenman’s “American Fascism Now”

There’s a school of thought which posits that we really dodged a bullet with the last election : yeah, Trump is still out there making noise, but he left office whether he wanted to or not, and now we can go about the business of steering this flagging ship we call America back toward a course of normalcy. Never mind the fact that “normalcy” isn’t a great state of affairs for many people, and their utter contempt for the political establishment was one of the biggest factors in President Goldenshower’s rise to power, this view is entirely too optimistic even leaving aside Biden’s own pro-corporate, militaristic leanings — the threat, you see, isn’t over, largely because it didn’t start with Trump and it never really went away.

I should be clear that by “the threat,” I refer to the potential for the US to descend into an overtly fascist, authoritarian state, an even more noxious and illiberal version of the oligarchical rule that, if we’re being honest, we may as well admit we’ve always been subject to. And yeah, anyone who thinks that concern is suddenly and magically a thing of the past isn’t aware of history, on the one hand, or of events transpiring in the present on the other, because while millions of people have been breathing an entirely understandable sigh of relief, the GOP (now essentially a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Trump Organization) has been getting busy at the state level making it harder and harder for people who aren’t Republicans to vote, and to give Republican election officials the power to subvert and even overturn the will of the people if they don’t care for the candidates those people chose. Whether a re-emergent Trump himself is the beneficiary of this open election-rigging in four years’ time or some other asshole who might as well be Trump takes up the MAGA mantle, the simple truth is that they’re not going to be anywhere near as incompetent when it comes to seizing absolute power, and they’re going to have the full machinery of any number of state governments on their side. The dark times ain’t over, my friends — not by a long shot.

It’s for this reason (among others) that American Fascism Now, a collaboration between veteran activist artist Sue Coe and respected academic Stephen F. Eisenman that was published late last year by Rotland Press, retains its power despite the fact that Coe’s series of 16 harrowing linocut prints were created between 2017 and 2020. These are nightmare images of a nightmare vision of America that is still a very real possibility. Coe cuts to the heart of the grotesque affront to humanity that is Trump, and more importantly the grotesque affront to society that is Trumpism, with a combination of passionately righteous indignation and meticulously-executed artistic intent, and in so doing lays bare the horror-show of racism, nativism, authoritarianism, anti-intellectualism, petty resentment, and just plain cruelty that animates both the man and the movement he accrued to himself, so expect plenty of visceral visual wallop within this well-crafted little ‘zine, which is cleverly designed to evoke the look and feel of anti-fascist pamphlets of the WWII era. And while we’re on that subject —

Eisenman’s succinct and powerful polemical essays at the beginning and end of this booklet — titled “American Fascism, Then” and (as you’ve not doubt guessed) “American Fascism, Now,” respectively — place vital contextual “brackets” around Coe’s illustrations, briefly tracing a direct path from antecedent home-grown fascist movements to the one plaguing us today and ably making a case that, say, the pro-Nazi “America First” movement of rat-bastard Charles Lindbergh and the “America First” movement of rat-bastard Donald Trump have a hell of a lot more in common than just their name. In fact, they’re essentially the exact same thing, just separated by seven decades. Fascism didn’t go away in the interregnum between then and now, of course — another point Eisenman takes care to make — so again, let’s please not kid ourselves that it withered away into the ether last November, either.

Coe, as well, refuses to take the naive approach of focusing the entirety of her ire on Trump herself — although her depictions of his pathological rapaciousness are certainly as grimly delicious as they are undeniably accurate. Instead, she casts her net as wide as it needs to go, skewering the media moguls, Wall Street tycoons, conspiracy hucksters, religious charlatans, environmental polluters, and war profiteers (to name just a few) who make up the edifice of American fascism. Her pictures are amazing, it almost goes without saying, but she doesn’t — errrmmm — paint a pretty picture?

Nor, frankly, is there one to be painted. We’re in a struggle for personal and planetary survival here, folks, and to pretend otherwise is to give the fascists one big leg up. If you’re looking for a source of inspiration and motivation to get up off your ass and fight like your life depends on it — because it does — you’ll scarcely find a better one than the artistic call to arms Coe and Eisenman have created here.

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American Fascism Now is available for $10.00 from the Rotland Press website at http://rotlandpress.com/store-1

Review wrist check – Traksa “Freediver” mint green dial/black ceramic bezel model (note that this is the no-date iteration), on bracelet.