No ageing stuff today. I think we need some time here to talk America's national predicament. The dangers to our liberties, our freedoms, our country and democracy itself grow day by day and if you are not frightened for our future - even near future - you are not, as they say, paying attention. So
”The Founding Fathers tried to protect us from the threat they knew, the tyranny that overcame ancient democracy.
“Today, our political order faces new threats, not unlike the totalitarianism of the twentieth century. We are no wiser than the Europeans who saw democracy yield to fascism, Nazism, or communism.
“Our one advantage is that we might learn from their experience.”
- Timothy Snyder in On Tyranny (2017)
Following the defeat of the frightful healthcare bill last week (of which the president made clear he is as ignorant as he is about, for example, foreign policy, the reasons a government cannot be run like a business or the threats of climate change), Democrats seem to believe Trump has been soundly defeated and it is smooth sailing from now on.
In fact, a couple of days ago this headline appeared in the Washington Post: “Democrats, Once Threatened by Trump, See Little Reason to Worry.”
Oh, for god's sake, the Dems are going to blow it again. Have they not noticed that although the healthcare bill was pulled, much more continues:
• Paul Manafort. Steve Bannon. Steve Miller. Vladimir Putin. Does anything need to be said about their goals?
• Both houses of Congress just voted to repeal internet privacy rules. The president has said he will sign the bill and then broadband providers will begin selling any and all of the personal information they collect about our activities online (which is vast) to whomever they want.
• Don Jr. and Eric Trump announced that they regularly speak with their father, keeping him apprised of the doings of the family business. Does anyone really think this information does not affect the president's governing agenda or that he is not participating in decisions for the family business?
• Ivanka Trump has been given a White House office and security clearance. She is taking no salary but says she is abiding by the conflict of interest requirements of all federal employees. Uh-huh. Just like her father, I suppose. Also, no one understands what her job is or what possible expertise she might have about anything.
• Donald Trump and his bootlicker, Sean Spicer, continue every day to insist that up is down, left is right, day is night, black is white and - let me not pull any punches – lie without shame.
• And now, General Flynn has asked for immunity in exchange for testifying about Trump/Russia connections. This is monumental on the order of Watergate.
Even so, What a puny list I've made compared to the large number of stupid, ignorant, frightening and potentially illegal actions from the president and the Republicans who are in control of the entire Congress. Whether it is dirtier air now for everyone or continued attempts to defund such important institutions as Planned Parenthood or collusion with foreign states, it is impossible to keep up.
The Democrats are not going to protect the country, nor is Congress and the media isn't helping as they chase each day's new shiny object of no value. Many non-governmental organizations are working hard against the onslaught from Washington but they cannot do it without us – you and me.
Last weekend, Yale University Professor of History Timothy Snyder appeared on Bill Maher's HBO program, Real Time to discuss his new book, On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century.
Here is that interview. (I couldn't find a video copy that is not visually distorted so just go with it – listen to the words and ignore the video. Also ignore all of Maher's mishigas during the interview and especially in the last two minutes or so. As he tends to do, he just refuses to let interesting people be interesting but Snyder is more than worth your time.)
Professor Snyder's On Tyranny, published last month, explains how easily tyranny can come creeping in on silent feet and destroy democracy before we notice what has happened. He also shows us what to watch for and what we must do to fight back.
On Tyranny is an inexpensive, small-format book that is available at Amazon and most other online and offline retailers. Each chapter, only four or five pages long, is one of the 20 lessons we need to know.
Somehow in that small space, Snyder has packed in the history he calls on to make the connections between the past and today, and shows how we can use that knowledge to craft our responses.
You can easily read the book in an hour. Please do that. Then re-read it. And then re-read it a third time while you highlight or make notes on what you want to remember.
If enough of us do this and put Professor Snyder's lessons to use, it might save our democracy.