Monday, April 26, 2010

I saw a fascist!

On Saturday, I saw a fascist.  I was walking to the side of the train station, and he was coming down the same path in the other direction.  You may ask, as others have asked me: "Evan, how did you know you saw a fascist?  Was he a skinhead?  Maybe he just liked that style and aesthetic!  Why do you have to judge everyone based on how they look!  Why can't you just let people be!  You think you're better than everyone else, don't you?!"

Okay, so no one has actually gotten indignant yet, but many have asked me how I knew.  The short answer was that he wasn't exactly hiding it.  He was about my age, wearing a t-shirt with a Franco-era flag on it and waving a huge falangista* flag.  Other than that, he seemed pretty normal.  He looked a little awkward walking alone without any protest around, especially since it was clear the construction workers on the side of the road were talking disparagingly about him.  I was sort of tempted to go up and befriend him.  I wanted to know why he believed what he did and what his friends and family thought of it.  Also, I didn't understand why he was walking alone and I could use some Spanish friends who like to hang out in places other than night clubs.  Later, I found out that there was a falangista rally one train stop away, so it was probably better that I didn't speak to him
The flangista flag - I personally think this thing is just about the scariest flag I've ever seen

The Franco-era flag - the symbols are largely borrowed from Ferdinand and Isabel, who unified Spain

It's interesting, though, that whenever I tell this event to someone in Spain, they're totally unsurprised.  People with radical political beliefs don't keep silent here.  I regularly see posters advertising Marxism, fascism, communism, anti-fascism, or whatever else.  In the U.S., we've had a liberal democracy for so many years that it is intricately tied to our national identity, and an attempt to subvert it would be like an attempt to destroy the country.  All of this is less clear in Spain.  The current political order was very much a compromise, and no one is really happy with it.  It's democratic, but people don't have much say in their representatives.  It's sort of decentralized, but more so in some regions than others.  There's a royal family, but they spend most of their time trying to convince everyone that they're just ordinary people, and not enjoying any sort of power or riches.  Even the very existence of the country is controversial in some regions, so much so that some Cataluñan politicians avoid the word "Spain".

Also, Spain has seen global political history very differently.  The Spanish Civil War was basically the opposite of World War II.  The democratic countries opted not to enter, leaving the Second Republic, the Soviet Union, and a handful of international volunteers to lose against the Spanish, German, and Italian fascists.  Spain also essentially sat out of the first half of the Cold War.  The ideological struggles that led to the victory of liberal democracy over fascism and socialism were heard in Spain only as distant echoes.  They still haven't quite been resolved here.

As a result, there are strong anti-status quo movements: the republicans (some liberals, some socialists), the falangistas, the secessionists, the anarchists, and the communists - each has littered the streets with their own political graffiti (I recently saw a mailbox painted in the republican colors).  Some are even politically powerful.  It's a pretty striking change from American culture and one of the most interesting parts, in my opinion, of the modern Spanish experience.

Further continuing my weekend of Spanish stereotypes, this Sunday a famous toreador was mauled in a bullfight.  He didn't step to the side in time and the bull pierced his side with its horn.  He needed 8 liters of blood.  Even though the majority Spaniards don't approve of bullfighting, the news took this as an opportunity to show all of this toreador's past maulings over and over again.  There were many.  After the first few minutes, Pilar and Álvaro decided this was a good time to end lunch.  Neither of them had the stomach to watch anymore.  This was apparently also true of many of Pilar's former students, who went to bullfights only to leave in the middle disgusted at the amount of blood.  I'm still planning to go next month during the Festival of San Isidro when there are fights everyday.

*Falange (pronounced fah-lan-ḥeh) is the Spanish political movement to which Franco belonged that supports the idiosyncratic brand of fascism known as falangismo.  It's basically just fascism with some national-syndicalism mixed in it and a strong reliance on Catholicism and Spanish nationalist symbols.

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