Fascism is undeniably on the rise throughout the country and in central Pennsylvania. Since the 2016 election, neo-Nazis and white supremacists, emboldened by authoritarian policies from the White House, have emerged from the shadows, terrorizing vulnerable communities across the country.
Locally, white supremacists have spread recruitment propaganda at our alma mater, Elizabethtown College.
Not only does fascism escalate in such explicit ways, but its rise also can be more insidious and systemic. Lessons from 1930s and 1940s Europe warn that fascist regimes seek simultaneously to co-opt and weaponize that which can serve their agenda and extinguish that which cannot. The arts and humanities have served as bastions in anti-fascist efforts, and they are also some of the first to be extinguished when fascism comes to power.
Thus, we are dismayed to learn that the Elizabethtown College leadership decided to eliminate the theater, philosophy, and peace and conflict studies programs. For a college rooted in the pacifist traditions of Anabaptism not to offer even a minor in peace and conflict studies is unconscionable.
To extinguish philosophy and theater is to compromise the college’s defenses against fascist ideologies.
With this telling, shameful decision to silence cornerstones of its arts and humanities programs, especially in this critical moment in history, Elizabethtown gravely risks complicity with the mandates of fascism.
Times like these call for institutions to resist the rise of fascism actively and fervently, not create vacuums in which it can thrive.
SARAH GROVE and EMILY GROVE