The End Of America -- Naomi Wolf: A Book Review
By saulrelative / May 18, 2009
Sometime in the near future, the United States of America will reach an ideological and political tipping point, a point of no return, where almost everything the Constitution of the United States is a guarantor of -- and the government is a steward over -- will be subverted, eliminated, or altered to provide for the increased centralization of American governance in the executive branch, no longer beholden to the will of the people. The cold, iron hand of authoritarianism already wields the pen striking out various civil liberties guaranteed the people of the United States. Other rights will soon follow.
But these dark things need not come to pass in our democracy. Forewarned is forearmed, as the saying goes, and Naomi Wolf has written "a citizen's call to action" that pierces to the heart of this slide toward a veritable dictatorship. The End Of America: Letter Of Warning To A Young Patriot outlines how easily it has been done in the past, citing examples of Mussolini's rise to power, the advent and usurpation of Germany's democracy by the Third Reich, and Stalin's ruthless consolidation and centralization of power in Russia, Wolf breathes a terrible life into a monster most people in America do not know exists, although many see it and refuse to acknowledge it. Wolf warns that the willful collective denial of what the United States government, especially the executive branch, has been doing in the name of national security and the protection of America's freedoms must end or our democracy as we know it shall end.
Invoking the spirit of the Founding Fathers, Wolf delivers ten key steps that signal the fall into dictatorial authoritarianism. Since September 11, 2001, the United States has seen each and every one of these steps taken. From the use of fear tactics in involving a clear danger to national and individual safety, the government has abridged certain liberties through the Patriot Act. The use of these tactics continued with the unauthorized and unconstitutional surveillance of American citizens by the National Security Agency. The establishment of secret prisons also has often been a sign of what is known as a "fascist shift," which is the term used for the political movement from a self-governing society to a more dictatorial one. The establishing of secret prisons by the U.S. government in far away nations, where supposed enemies of the state have been "renditioned," has been verified by several host governments. Another step is the establishment of private military forces that answer only to the head of state. Blackwater, the private "contractor" firm out of North Carolina, and other mercenary companies today enjoy a status where they are protected by the U.S. government without being subject to military rules of conduct. And then there is the step that should make every American take note: The blatant subversion of Constitutional Law. President George W. Bush, who swore to honor and protect the Constitution of the United States, has done more than any president in history to circumvent, ignore, and repudiate it. His arrogant presidential signings (where he disagrees or refuses to follow a law or an act of Congress) and his authorization of unlawful detentions at secret prisons and at Guantanamo in Cuba are clear indicators that he believes himself above the law.
These are but four of the steps.
Naomi Wolf cautions her readers and the American people to beware of all these steps (and others), that history has shown that when a government falls, including a democratic one, that government tends to fall suddenly. Nations just as democratic as the United States have fallen to dictatorships. And much of it is done with the quiet consent of the people. The complacency of the American people, their seeming need for consumer goods and appetite for inconsequential nonissues, and their ability to be assuaged by whatever the government uses as their rationalization de jure for their actions are also areas that every freedom-loving American must begin to consider in order to halt the slow dissolution of the American constitutional democracy.
Wolf's book, The End Of America, is definitely a call to action, a call for the reassertion of popular sovereignty in the face of increasing fascist encroachment. The author reminds us that the Founding Fathers were highly suspicious of the power of government and had just waged a war with a dominating and oppressive tyrant, which was the reason it took so many years to write and ratify a constitution (from the Declaration of Independence to the signing of the Constitution encompassed 13 years) that many felt would protect the rights of the American people against an overbearing and possibly unjust government. Just that type of government has been settling in for the past seven years.
The End Of America: Letter Of Warning To A Young Patriot should be read by every concerned citizen in America -- and perhaps other nations as well, for the message is universal. Couched in reason and written with clarity, Naomi Wolf invokes the rule of historical repetition in this eye-opening book of the current political stance of the American state and where it could possibly be headed -- if people remain unaware, apathetic and inactive.
Consider yourself forewarned.
by Adam Peck 24 February 2009
If dissent is in fact patriotic, there is no greater patriot than Naomi Wolf.
Her appearance at Stony Brook University’s Staller Center for the Arts was sold out, the documentary shown based on her bestselling book The End of America received a standing ovation, and the book signing that followed had a line stretching out the building.
All of the bravado and the accolades are deserved of course. Her book is an alarm bell, meant to stir a sense of unease in the reader. The historical comparisons that Wolf highlights are drastic yes, but not entirely unjustified.
It reads like a manual for how to deconstruct a democracy, install a dictatorship, and subvert the will—and free will—of the people. The point, of course, is that the United States has taken several steps in that direction over the last few years. Things like establishing secret prisons (Guantanamo), spying on average citizens (FISA), and restricting or intimidating the press (Long Island’s very own Peter King calling the New York Times treasonous) were tactics many thought ended in 1940’s Germany.
And Wolf is not exactly a voice that is easily ignored. She travels the country giving similar presentations to the one she delivered here, speaking at rallies, book clubs, protests, and anywhere else with a stage and microphone. Nor is she a voice that will be lessened under an Obama administration. Yes the Bush presidency was responsible for enacting many of these policies, but the onus is as much on Obama to dismantle them as on his predecessor who introduced them.
If a fantastical novel or absorbing biography is what you’re looking for, best look elsewhere. But The End of America is second to none for books that captivate, inspire and motivate.
This latest offering from best-selling author Wolf (The Beauty Myth) is a harbinger of an age that may finally see the patriarchal realm of political discourse usurped. Here is Wolf's compellingly and cogently argued political argument for civil rights, not women's rights. She contributes this call to action to a canon that from Plato and Aristotle to Hobbes and Locke and forward, with a few exceptions (e.g., Hannah Arendt), has been largely populated by men. Wolf's work is actually closer to the agitated, passionate polemics of Emma Goldman than the ponderous, philosophical musings of Arendt. Readers will appreciate her energy and urgency as she warns we are living through a dangerous "fascist shift"¯ brought about by the Bush administration. Her chapters outline the "Ten Steps to Fascism"¯ citing historical corollaries (as well as the pigs in Orwell's Animal Farm), with headings like "Invoke an External and Internal Threat,"¯ "Establish Secret Prisons," and "Target Key Individuals."¯ In other words, fascism can exist without dictatorship. Her book's publication through a small press in Vermont that is committed to "the politics and practice of sustainable living"¯ rather than through a large trade house is itself a political act. Highly recommended for all collections.
The Midwest Book Review
Despite its subtitle, The End of America: A Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot should be required reading for all American patriots regardless of age. Author Naomi Wolf has extensively researched the rise of 20th century dictatorships in Germany, Russia, China, and Chile, and observed ten parallel steps that governments routinely take to guide the nation to a fascist takeover, and bring an end to any aspects of democracy. What is far more frightening than any horror novel is that the ten steps have been and continue to be applied here, in present-day America. One chilling example is step 2, "Create secret prisons where torture takes place," which is currently underway along with the current administration's assertion of the "right" to name any American citizen an "enemy combatant" and detain them indefinitely without trial. Also horrifying is step 3, "Develop a thug caste or paramilitary force not answerable to citizens," which is gradually being realized through the private service of Blackwater, a military force used by the American government in Iraq, that allegedly is prone to fire upon civilians and legally is not subject to military court-martial or Iraqi law. Wolf warns that daily life can appear to proceed normally as liberties crumble, until the instant that fascism takes power and the rule of law is suspended; to protect American liberty and democracy, citizens must act now- there is not one year, one month, one day to waste. Highly recommended.