John Oliver on the 2016 Presidential Election
Medicare in Peril

Advice for Living in an Autocracy

Jan Adams, who keeps her own blog – never more appropriately titled than now, Can It Happen Here? - left this message on Monday's post:

”So glad that TGB will be here, NOT normalizing this catastrophe. Many of us may not live to see a turnabout from this white-lash (Van Jones' appropriate phrasing.) But we sure need to do everything we can in our own age group to help people understand that another way is possible.

“There will be avenues, campaigns, resistance to mistreatment and injustice in which we can participate. We may sometimes feel we have less to lose than younger folks and under conditions of autocracy, that can be freeing.”

Jan has been organizing political campaigns, protests and resistance for liberal and progressive causes all her life and she knows well whereof she speaks.

Soon enough I will alert you to some of the first acts of the * administration that affect elders. But before that, we need to go to school.

As Jan suggests in her comment, we are now engaged in a sustained struggle and we need to ground ourselves in exactly what it is we are opposing and how, generally, to go about it.

That's what today's post is for. It is much longer than even my wordier ones in the past but the information (not my own) is deeply useful and important for us to know. So I hope you will sit back and read it all or take a little at a time here and there throughout the day.

We now live in an autocracy. Some people have been tossing around the word fascism but history makes that a more loaded term than I am willing to embrace. Yet.

That section headline just above, as it happens, is the title of an article published last week in The New York Review of Books. It is a survival manual for living in such a country as it names, written by Masha Gessen.

Gessen is a Russian/American journalist and activist who is the author of several books about Russia, including one on the Russian feminist punk rock protest group Pussy Riot, and The Man Without a Face: The Unlikely Rise of Vladimir Putin.

Autocracy is something Ms. Gessen knows about from first-hand experience and which you and I know little.

As I read it the first time (and in each subsequent reading, it rang true in every way making me want to say to you, “take heed, take heed.” Here are some excerpts from the main points:

”[*] is also probably the first candidate in history to win the presidency despite having been shown repeatedly by the national media to be a chronic liar, sexual predator, serial tax-avoider, and race-baiter who has attracted the likes of the Ku Klux Klan.

“Most important, Trump is the first candidate in memory who ran not for president but for autocrat—and won.

“I have lived in autocracies most of my life, and have spent much of my career writing about Vladimir Putin’s Russia. I have learned a few rules for surviving in an autocracy and salvaging your sanity and self-respect. It might be worth considering them now:

Rule #1: Believe the autocrat. “He means what he says. Whenever you find yourself thinking, or hear others claiming, that he is exaggerating, that is our innate tendency to reach for a rationalization...

“Back in the 1930s, The New York Times assured its readers that Hitler’s anti-Semitism was all posture.

“More recently, the same newspaper made a telling choice between two statements made by Putin’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov following a police crackdown on protesters in Moscow: 'The police acted mildly—I would have liked them to act more harshly' rather than those protesters’ 'liver should have been spread all over the pavement.' “Perhaps the journalists could not believe their ears. But they should—both in the Russian case, and in the American one.

“For all the admiration Trump has expressed for Putin, the two men are very different; if anything, there is even more reason to listen to everything Trump has said. He has no political establishment into which to fold himself following the campaign, and therefore no reason to shed his campaign rhetoric.

Rule #2: Do not be taken in by small signs of normality. “Consider the financial markets this week, which, having tanked overnight, rebounded following the Clinton and Obama speeches. Confronted with political volatility, the markets become suckers for calming rhetoric from authority figures. So do people.

“Panic can be neutralized by falsely reassuring words about how the world as we know it has not ended. It is a fact that the world did not end on November 8 nor at any previous time in history. Yet history has seen many catastrophes, and most of them unfolded over time. That time included periods of relative calm.

Rule #3: Institutions will not save you. “It took Putin a year to take over the Russian media and four years to dismantle its electoral system; the judiciary collapsed unnoticed...

"The national press is likely to be among the first institutional victims of Trumpism. There is no law that requires the presidential administration to hold daily briefings, none that guarantees media access to the White House.

“Many journalists may soon face a dilemma long familiar to those of us who have worked under autocracies: fall in line or forfeit access. There is no good solution (even if there is a right answer), for journalism is difficult and sometimes impossible without access to information.

Rule #4: Be outraged. “If you follow Rule #1 and believe what the autocrat-elect is saying, you will not be surprised. But in the face of the impulse to normalize, it is essential to maintain one’s capacity for shock.

“This will lead people to call you unreasonable and hysterical, and to accuse you of overreacting. It is no fun to be the only hysterical person in the room. Prepare yourself.

Rule #5: "Don’t make compromises. Like Ted Cruz [did]..."

Rule #6: "Remember the future. "Nothing lasts forever. Donald Trump certainly will not, and Trumpism, to the extent that it is centered on Trump’s persona, will not either.

“Failure to imagine the future may have lost the Democrats this election. They offered no vision of the future to counterbalance Trump’s all-too-familiar white-populist vision of an imaginary past.

“They had also long ignored the strange and outdated institutions of American democracy that call out for reform—like the electoral college, which has now cost the Democratic Party two elections in which Republicans won with the minority of the popular vote.

“That should not be normal. But resistance—stubborn, uncompromising, outraged—should be.”

Read – in fact, study - Masha Gessen's entire article at The New York Review of Books website. You won't be sorry and you will learn a lot.

Here, then, are half a dozen other good articles I found about how to resist in this frightening new world we find ourselves in:

Michael Moore is an experienced protestor and he is highly visible which helps get people to pay attention.

“This is his anti-* to-do list. Among the items: commit to a vigorous fight and push for an amendment to eliminate the Electoral College.

John Schwartz at The Intercept has some ideas, too, about what to do next: Make politics one of the centers of your life; * succeeded by telling a story – now we need a story; support non-corporate media; and more.

At the Washington Post, the esteemed Leon Wieseltier – writer, philosopher and son of Holocaust survivors - ends his essay titled “Stay angry. That’s the only way to uphold principles in Trump’s America,” thusly:

”The prettification of Donald Trump has begun. When a crushed Hillary Clinton graciously asked that Trump be given 'a chance to succeed,' I confess that I felt no such graciousness. This made me as small as Mitch McConnell, I know.

“But if Trump succeeds, America may fail; and it is America, its values and its interests, whose success matters most desperately to me. No cooling off, then. We must stay hot for America.

“The political liberty that we cherish in this precious republic is most purely and exhilaratingly experienced as the liberty to oppose.”

Jonathan Chait writing in New York magazine about what we should do now:

“Trump’s allies in Congress are prepared to collect on their devil’s bargain. House Speaker Paul Ryan described the election as a 'mandate' — a curious term for an election in which his party will finish second in the national vote — and Republicans will move with maximal haste on plans to cut taxes for the rich, deregulate the financial industry, and cut social spending for the poor.

“There is no other conceivable course of action: The Republican Party in Washington has been organized over the last three decades as a machine to redistribute resources upward....

“Despair is a counterproductive response. So is denial — an easy temptation in the wake of the inevitable postelection pleasantries and displays of respect needed to maintain the peaceful transfer of power.

“The proper response is steely resolve to wage the fight of our lives.”

A couple of days ago, Van Jones, co-founder of Color for Change and president of the social justice incubator Dream Corps, gave an interview to Mother Jones about our new predicament:

”...we need to put pressure on Trump, to speak out very forcefully that he's the president of all Americans including Muslims, and that his administration, including his law enforcement, is going to take very, very seriously any crimes against any Americas based on their race or their faith, including Muslims.

“He needs to send that signal very, very soon and very, very clearly. Otherwise, he's going to be seen as culpable. And his silence may be interpreted as encouragement, rightly or wrongly.

“I think we have every reason to hope for the best but expect and prepare for the worst. It is conceivable that maybe he won't feel the need to throw so much raw meat at his base and might govern reasonably, but it seems more likely that he'll follow the usual pattern of demagogues.”

I encourage you to read all of these in their entirety. But if you have time only for one, please make it Masha Gessen's rules for survival in an autocracy – because that's where we live now and we need to know more about how to do that.


Thank you for these resources, Ronni. Keep 'em coming!

Even though they're not primarily about ageism, they provide information needed to combat ageism by * and this new regime. And ageism will be an issue at some point.

We all best take parts of our waking time, to prepare ourselves to "set" so we're ready at the starting gate for "GO!"

Actually, I'm thinking of donating to the ACLU! I read this morning that a trump advisor is working on a project to register and fingerprint all Muslims in the US.

This s is scary.

With a more conservative Supreme Court, I am not sure we gave a bulwark against this kind of stuff.

I did an Internet search and found that the above comment concerning fingerprinting would be directed toward Muslims entering the US from "high risk" countries where extremist groups are active.

Thanks for this collection of articles. I'd found and read most of these but hadn't put them in a single list - will share this with everyone I know...

It's very important, now, to find our "communities of resistance", for many it won't be friends or family. Most of mine, being exhausted from a two year election cycle and demoralized from the outcome, just want to get back to "normal life". I understand, but, in no way do I want this disaster to define normal.

First of all: I feel your pain.
But, in Germany we do have an autocracy (since 15/9) under female chancellor for maybe the fourth period of office in the upcoming year.
America, you be better of with the maximum of two periods! Why not give DT a chance for a year? And if neccessary, you've got the possibility of an impeachment.
We do have a similar process, called "Vertrauensfrage", but no politicians with guts.

My emotions are like all your readers have, I don't recognize my country any more.

What a helpful list of resources. My husband and I were up in Madison, WI, all day yesterday at the VA clinic. During the long hours in the waiting room there (which yesterday was disturbing just listening to some of the very loud discussion of others in the room regarding the election), I always take the opportunity to read the in-print version of their local free weekly, The Isthmus. One of the articles was about Pussy Riot who will be in Madison tomorrow for a Q & A...

In this Isthmus article is a link to two videos produced by one of the members, Nadya Tolokonnikova, who is not traveling around with the others right now. I will issue a caveat that It is disturbing, but very well done, and a powerful piece of art. If you pull up the article, there is a link to the video,via YouTube, titled. "Make America Great Again," or it can be accessed it directly through YouTube.

Walter Skupien...
Since at least 2002, the U.S. Department of State visa offices in other countries and U.S. border protection at points of entry have collected a digital photo and fingerprints from all non-U.S. citizens applying for visas or entering the U.S. from any other country regardless of religion.

Goodness sake. All this premature angst. What we need now are cooler heads. No one knows what Trump will do. Every sentence he utters is soon Trump. We know he's ill-informed, he's shown us that.

He's not as intelligent as Hitler,more like a tinpot dictator. The Congress is filled with ego maniacs who won't share any power that doesn't benefit them personally. What we have is an commercial oligarchy, not a dictatorship. I heard today the Edelmans are on the Inauguration Committee.

Scare tactic rhetoric like that of Van Jones inflamed the right when Obama was elected. Throwing gasoline on the fire at this point is insane.

As an elder if you are unable to become both frightened and angry when Paul Ryan wants to eventually do away with Medicare (a long time goal of the Republicans) and is planning on making that the first order of business I have no hope for you.

I am angry and will stay that way. Complacency on the part of liberals helped Trump win and complacency will help him govern. AS for me I'm fighting mad.

I am angry, scared and 89. How do I fight against what the * administration proposes to impose on my life? I am too old to march, writing letters does no good in this repub area and a safety pin seems so inept.

Just read the five points every day.

Maryellen, I'm almost 80 and I'm with you in that I'm not confident that anything I do or say will matter. I'm angry and scared, too, especially of the "alt-right" influence under Bannon. This is a VERY alarming development to my African-American spouse and me!
David Duke(!) didn't hesitate to voice his approval of this election, and that should terrify everyone who isn't a white Christian, preferably male. I wonder if he's purchased a new set of white sheets recently. . .

Unfortunately, my body is no longer up for marching. I'm not sure that emails, Facebook posts or tweets (writing letters) to a Republican-dominated regime operating under a narcissist, racist, sexist autocrat will do any good whatsoever. I want to find a voice, and I will read Ms. Gessen's article. Still, I think I will still be unsure. How, exactly, do those of us 80+ oppose this horrific turn of events on a personal level without spending our last years of life in complete turmoil?

I'm a lifelong Democrat but my party is in complete disarray. Where from here? I'm not sure anyone knows and that's unsettling as well.

Two effective ways to oppose Trumpism by those of us who doubt letters, petitions, and demonstrations in the streets accomplish anything worthwhile are to boycott Trump products and donate to major organizations (ACLU, Planned Parenthood, Sierra Club, for example) that already are planning forceful resistance to many alt-right proposals.

A heartening development this morning was the announcement that three NBA basketball teams no longer will stay in Trump hotels. That, I'm sure will lead the way for many others. Trump has lots of businesses, so we little guys can do some web research and find things we many be inadvertently buying that help him.

Greed is high on the list of many disgusting Trump traits. Hitting him in the pocketbook has slight chance of changing his nature, but it could possible entice him into resigning once he gets into office.

How can this be an autocracy? Congress, many of which didn't support his candidacy, will not give all of this a free ride. Remember checks & balances are built into the system. Overreacting a little, people? Don't borrow trouble.

A lot of people are backing off, hoping they can maintain their inner equilibrium.. This is what was called inner migration or inner emigration during the Nazi years in Germany. Trump's direct targets don't have this recourse.
Elders can't be complacent, , because Medicare and Social Security are going to go on the chopping block. So if you can't think beyond your self interest, at least keep that one in mind!

I think Barbara at 8.26am above is a troll. Her statements are false.
Facts: Angela Merkel, Germany, in her congratulations to Donny noted it was conditional on Donny supporting principles of justice and equality for all. Another, Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland also gave a similar message. Both are women. Bravo! Note: all the other world leaders have fawned over Donny. Please google renowned newspapers to confirm these facts.

I think its a sad day when Germany has to remind America of basic human rights.

Don't worry about trying to win over died-in-the-wool Republicans. We need to expose Trump for the scoundrel he is at every opportunity and letters to the editor are good way to do this. It was the independent vote and cross-over Democrats that handed Trump his win. They need to be shown daily the bad choice they made so come 2020 he can be voted out, if there is a democratic electorate left to do so.

It feels as though we are in a war zone. History teachers are often asked about Hitler's rise to power, "How could that have happened?" Well, when we don't learn from history...

With you every inch of the way on TGB.

Comments last few days are exceptional.

Can't stop thinking about this election and what it will mean for the world.

Wearing a safety pin in Canada.

Keep the light shining through the crack.

Make the crack wider.

No finish line.

Thank you for a very informative article and I will most certainly read all references. There is one thing that disturbs me and I wonder if anyone else considers the possibility of retaliation against those of us who actively speak out, oppose, demonstrate, make phone calls, sign petitions. I am not so sure that Freedom is going to save us from actions of corrupt police, government operatives, KKK, white supremacists. Guilty persons are not always known or their actions can be ignored. Several years ago this occurred in an attack of an Iranian who has lived in America for 36 years and is an American citizen. I sincerely feel frightened. Any thoughts?

Since we will inevitably be sharing information and political outlook about he who should no longer be named, may I suggest a change in nomenclature. Having respected the * rule in several posts, I have to say that it is very awkward to type, especially on an iPad, and is also sometimes awkward to read in the context of a comment. May I respectfully suggest using a four letter word that we here on TGB can declare to be henceforth the dirtiest word in the English language. I suggest referring to him as "rump" with a small r to indicate his lack of importance. The word goes along with the asshole symbol (*) and is clearly a reference to a very large portion of the anatomy of this small-fingered man.

Ronni: Concerning the comment from one of your reader’s about fingerprinting all Muslims in the US, thanks for enlightening everyone. There is so much misinformation going around today that goes unchallenged. People pass on things that they heard or think they read. Again, thanks.

Regarding the electoral college: I want to tell everyone about an effort underway that is an end-run around the college and would allow us to circumvent the difficult process of amending the constitution. It's called the National Popular Vote bill.

The bill is passed by state legislatures and pledges that that state will give all its electoral votes to the person who wins the popular vote nationally. Ten states and the District of Columbia have already passed the bill, which doesn't go into effect until there are enough participating to add up to 270 electoral votes. We are about 100 votes short right now.

I live in Washington, which has already passed this bill, so I wrote to people I know in states where it has not passed and asked them to write their legislators in support of it. The good thing is that this bill is somewhat bipartisan; it has been passed in some Republican-leaning areas.

You can get an overview of this effort on Wikipedia, which has a map to quickly tell you whether your state has passed the bill or not.

Nancy - good to know and will act on this right away.

Walter - my all-time favorite quote by another Walter (Lippman) - which I previously posted here:

"We are all prisoners of our own mind. What we think(see, believe?), we take as truth."

EmmaJay - Yes, rump is easy, and ohhh, so fitting. Tho I have good memories of the rumpus room we had for playing when I was young.

i won't have any problem with the 'stay angry' suggestion.

I completely agree with Peter that "Barbara" is likely a troll. In any case, she's dead wrong. Barack Obama has said that Angela Merkel is his closest friend in the EU and Merkel has been generous and supportive about allowing refugees into Germany. We will have to be alert to propagandists from the right just as we are alert to the kind of invalid "news" Google and Facebook might post. I have never understood how people cn get their news from such sources, which lways seemed to me like click bait sites for such enlightening information as "50 fat fotos of TV stars" or "35 things your doctor won't dare tell you." Let's keep it real.

My state of California has also enacted the National Popular Vote bill into law, Nancy. This could be a way to overcome the unfair Electoral College. The Sanctuary City laws are another way to thwart the efforts of rump to turn the U.S. into an autocracy. The Sanctuary law tells undocumented workers that they will not be outed by their city and that they will not be asked for their "papers please." California has more such cities than any other state, including Sacramento where I live. This one can be enacted by city councils, so it could be a good cause for some of us. The downside is that rump has threatened to withhold Federal funds from such cities, which may be a problem but which also shows that he is bothered by it.

can you add more detail please I'm trying to learn about what its like to live under one I have a college project on it. thank you - emoji

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