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.
AUTOCRACY: RULES FOR SURVIVAL
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:
SOME IDEAS ABOUT WHAT TO DO NOW
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.
EMBRACE POLITICS AND NON-CORPORATE MEDIA
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.”
THE PROPER RESPONSE IS STEELY RESOLVE
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.”
HOPE FOR THE BEST, PREPARE FOR THE WORST
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.