The horrific events in New Zealand — and their echoes on the Internet — recall observations by former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright in her recent book Fascism: A Warning. Secretary Albright sees tell-tale signs of fascism emerging worldwide: sympathy for authoritarianism; assertions of racial superiority; scapegoating of minorities; attacks on democratic institutions and norms; radical nationalism; and the celebration of violence to resolve social conflicts.
The United States is not immune. The apparent perpetrator of the recent attack that killed 50 people in a New Zealand mosque last week cited American politicians, along with neo-Nazi websites, as his inspiration. U.S. leaders too often fail to call out and condemn overt and covert racism and appeals to violence by our own elected officials.
The mission of the Commonwealth Fund is to promote a high-performing health system in the United States. But we also participate in American civil society, which comprises philanthropies, houses of worship, centers of higher learning, think tanks, and professional associations. Civil society constitutes a vital guardian of the core values of a civilized, free nation.
We therefore feel called upon not only to condemn acts of violence and inhumanity such as those we have recently witnessed in New Zealand and here in the United States, but also to urge our national leadership — political, corporate, religious, philanthropic, educational — to condemn appeals to violence and bigotry, in all their forms, wherever they appear. It is time to be crystal clear on the values that America stands for.