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How the U.S. Can Survive Trump

Only once before have I done this and only two weeks ago. On 11 November in a post titled This is Wrong and I am Exhausted, I let loose about the frightening, lawless government President Donald Trump and his henchmen have made for us in the past three years.

It was a popular post with both pro and con advocates. An extraordinary number of readers unsubscribed in anger, a few making their point to me (mostly via email instead of publicly) in impolite terms I could not miss understanding.

But what the hell, here I go again. Because it is that important for everyone, even people who don't agree.

This time it is not what I have to say. Instead, in is an interview with the brilliant and estimable Yale University historian, Timothy Snyder – he of two remarkable books about the times we now live in: On Tyranny about how democracies can succumb to authoritarianism and The Road to Unfreedom about how Vladimir Putin is destabilizing western democracies.

Recently, Chauncy DeVega, a staff political writer at Salon magazine, interviewed Snyder about the state of the United States after three years of Trump in the White house. A couple of not-so-random excerpts.

SNYDER: Mr. Trump must be opposed, because if unopposed his administration is capable of doing damage that future generations won’t be able to repair. That structural and moral damage will get in the way of making America a more just country.

SNYDER: What has to be normal instead is an America which can renew itself, because it’s capable of thinking about the future and drawing conclusions from the past. Donald Trump’s specific terrain is that there is no truth and there is no future. If you cannot keep yourself in a world where there is truth and therefore there’s a future, then Trump is actually winning.

SNYDER: But I think the harder question, and the one that I personally worry about most, is what to do when he loses. We need to think about catching up on all this lost time. These last three years are lost time, in terms of our survival as a species. We needed to have climate policy. Instead we just messed around.

SNYDER: I worry that the Democrats will win and not hit the ground running...If the Democrats do not hit the ground running it will seem as though they are not a real alternative to what came before. We’re going to need political leadership which says, “Yes, really good things have to happen really fast right now.”

Professor Snyder is so clear-headed, so clear-thinking, so informed that he should be required reading. Here is a great starter – DeVega's interview below. It is only 20 minutes long and more wide-ranging than my excerpts. Why not give it a whirl.

Or, there is a transcript of most of their conversation at Salon magazine.



Comments

I have read Snyder's "On Tyranny" twice now and recommend it to everyone. The writing is on the wall. We must do everything we can to get Trump out of office.

I could not agree more.

Not just Trump but all of the incompetent and/or corrupt enablers must go.

I subscribe to both the Washington Post and the NYTimes and can read opionions galore on the misdeeds of our current president every day. What I can't get from these publications is the precious experience you and your readers offer about getting old and coping with getting old. I wish you would stick to your unique niche that sets you apart from other bloggers or opinion-writers. I actually agree with your views, but that is not the point.

Even if Trump is defeated in 2020 (And I'm not so sure he will be), we still have to deal with all of those MAGAheads who have come out of their gopher holes and will continue to gnaw at democracy while they look for another fuhrer to anoint.

I appreciate the fact that someone in Ronni’s position (who brands herself as a “Crabby Old Lady” living with the “c” word) shares this stuff with her readers, and shows us that age shouldn’t be a factor in knowing or caring what’s right for our present—and a future that most likely, won’t include many of us.

I enjoyed “The Truth Report” (um, those 20 minutes go by very quickly) but boy, the truth hurts. I think many of us non-Trumpers simply can’t believe this buffoon could be re-elected and put us thru another 4 years of his tiring, dangerous lunacy. Meanwhile, I can still remember Election Night 2016 like it was a year ago. People like Bernie Sanders & Elizabeth Warren frighten me, they’re visionaries, but can we really swing from one extreme to the other? And now Bloomberg is joining the fracas with a 31 million dollar ad campaign… personally, I’d love to see Pete Buttigieg or Kamala Harris as the Dem nominee. I just think it’s time we begin gathering the troops and standing behind one nominee.

Thank you for this. I'm not being an alarmist when I say that our country's future is at stake. But as much emphasis that is placed on Trump, there is another very dangerous politician that must go if we want to reclaim our democracy. That is Mitch McConnell, to me an even larger threat. He is a truly evil obstructionist.

Am a big Snyder fan so thanks for sharing this. I, too, fear what comes next, but know we’re already in the blender. The thing that scares me most is what he says, w the political chaos we’re not facing or dealing w climate disaster. My fear is that humanity has thrown an entire planet on a trash heap, and is so arrogant we believe we can still survive. Ego run amok!

Our Democracy is in danger! Trump is a mentally ill and dangerous man. Like minded (people with a brain) are frightened! Keep saying it!!

Ronni, I fully support your practice of sharing political beliefs. I'm sorry that some people are so offended by that, but just as there are numbers of sources for political POV's, there are numbers of sources for experiences and POV's on aging. Because you primarily address aging should have no bearing on your right to occasionally discuss other topics on your own blog, and the majority of those commenting here seem to be fine with that.

Frankly, those of us who have lived as long as we have and witnessed and experienced a lot of history and changes (including some of us having served the country and gone to war to protect human rights and freedom) have not only a right, but an obligation to speak up and take action, as we are able and see fit, to oppose some of the behavior going on at the top level of government today. The recent situation with the Navy Secretary Richard Spencer is particularly galling, especially in light of the fact that the complaints about Navy Seal Gallagher were brought by Gallagher's fellow seals who now get to live with the reality that the president condones war crimes and dismisses concerns about behavior that violates human rights.

These are truly troubling times. in which much of the way of life that most of us have enjoyed for several decades appears to be seriously threatened. That many would prefer to turn a blind eye to that is equally, or even more, troubling. Anyone having opposing views to what's printed in a venue like this to which they have access has the right to make their own cogent case in a respectful way, or at least they do as long as that right exists; after 2020, depending on the outcome, all bets may be off.

I try, unsuccessfully, not to dwell on those who not only disregard the character of the man, but the impact on our credibility around the world. I am dismayed by the mindsets of those who now question facts, lack an internal moral compass to guide them in the ability to ascertain those that speak from truth and intelligence, and those that speak from fear and nationalism.

When you don't know what to believe, you have truly lost your way.

I already belong to political blogs. I don't mind your being political now and then and appreciate other's opinions also. I prefer your input etc. on the premise of you blog, aging etc.

As to the naysayers about politics at TGB - I have some things to say...

If you are a senior, then your retirement, your health insurance, your clean water and clean air, and your place in the whole American ideal of Democracy is 100% at risk with the continuance of Trump and his army of dangerous idiots. Why wouldn't you want to be educated and have intelligient conversation regarding this very real threat?

If you don't want to be engaged in your Democracy - then go drink your tea and check out. You get what you get.

Sorry, Ronni, I am pissed and I ain't gonna take it anymore. No More Mr. Nice Guy for me.

As this is YOUR blog, Ronni, I happily accept (and appreciate) that I will find a great many issues put forth; not just ageism, getting older, etc. In fact, I would be disappointed if you ever succumbed to the messages that tell you what you SHOULD do with YOUR blog.

I do not want to live in a world where the only things I am exposed to are "my things", "my ideas", "my views", "my...". I want to be challenged. I do not want beliefs or ideas I had in my 20s, 30s, 40s, etc. to be cast in stone, unchanging, unevolving. Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher, has been quoted as saying “change is the only constant in life." And so, I believe that life becomes easier and more enjoyable if we can adjust to the ebb and flow.

Thank you, Ronni, for challenging us in myriad ways.

My biggest concern is that great numbers will no long recognize lies, falsehoods or whatever you want to call things like that. Even if he loses, Trump will have created a nightmare that may take too long to wake up from.

I’m glad you share all your views, political and personal, and feel lucky to have found your blog.

I’m a bit irritated by your readers who want you to write only about certain aspects of your life and opinions, when what you seem to be doing is showing us the fullness of your life, which is a fine and difficult goal.

We get what you find beautiful and funny and heartwarming and debilitating and sad. Good for you. I often talk about your blog to my friends and family because it’s about one person’s honest journey in the last part of her life. I’m interested in all of it.

I am so sad Ronni! I never dreamed people would unsubscribe because you want to discuss the Ugliness your country is going through. I am losing my faith in the American people - not sure if they are just lazy or totally stupid and blind. I never imagined your readers would be either but not a single one has mentioned doing anything but complaining to each other.
I had hoped I would read a least a few with a practical ideas like "I live in Cowtown, lets all meet at the Cowtown City Hall at 3PM on Sunday - wear your marching boots and your pink pussy hat on your head [or a pink bonnet for that matter] and carry a foghorn if you can get one]. Until them practice shouting "I am sick, tired, and old and I'm not going to take it anymore! Save the USA!"
Nada! not even a suggestion to write to anyone anywhere. F..K!
I think Yang is your best bet but now feel you Americans are too damn lazy, dumb or greedy to see that. Hope I am wrong.

I have been following the daily newsletter from Heather Cox Richardson, an eminent historian and researcher at Boston University that helps me make sense of who said what. Her last advice was watch what they actually DO not what they say.

“Yes, really good things have to happen really fast right now.” So much damage to repair, treaties and alliances to rejoin, environmental protections to be restored, reputation to be rebuilt, etc. If only we hadn't thrown the Kurds to the wolves. There's no undoing that tragedy. All that before we can start moving forward again. And even if we get rid of Trump, we'll likely have the same partisan roadblocks in Congress, not to mention the angry tribalism in our society.

No one is forcing anyone to read anyone’s blog. I can understand that people may not agree with a blog’s author about everything but I can not understand why people think they have the right to tell an author what he/she should or should not write. Stop reading the entry. Unsubscribe if that will make your world a better place. But – don’t hassle the author.

Cowtown Patti said just what I was thinking and aging is as political as anything else, thank you for sharing this link.

My voting record over recent presidential elections: Clinton, Clinton, Bush, Bush (a mistake in retrospect because of the Iraq War), Obama, Obama, Trump. The latter was an anybody but Hilary vote and it worked. I am a registered Republican in name only, more of an Independent based on voting record. The democrats could win me back if only they'd not be so hysterical about Trump as I thought the Republicans were about Obama. But, alas, the now nearly three-year urgency to unseat DJT (the resistance and the tea party are equally bad to me) keeps me far away from the liberal progressive fold. I only skimmed todays post. Nevertheless, very well written and logical--kudos to Dear Ronni. Someday we'll be on the same page again, but not for a while based on, as mentioned, the general Trump-generated hysteria, aka "derangement syndrome". Meantime, I shall chill, and come back another day, a non-political day, and most, thankfully are on this blog.
Your very loyal opposition,
John

This is your blog, a platform for your musings--you can write about whatever you damn well want. (Easy for me to say, maybe, because I wholeheartedly support your position.) Snyder's comments are spot on. But even though I think our nation has been damaged, I also believe we are a resilient bunch. We CAN climb our way out of this muck. It may take a while, which saddens me.

I couldn't agree more!

I find it absolutely amazing that some of your readers are afraid to read words that don't agree with their views. Maybe that is why America is in the shithole it is in? Hell, I listen to Fox News at least once a week. How can people make a decision if they don't hear at least part of both sides of the story.

Thanks Ronni, for sharing this audio of the Truth Report. For me, it clarified some of the foreboding I had after watching each Dem. debate. And when the Ambassador to the EU (Sondland) dropped his *bombshell* I was not encouraged that the current president would be held accountable. That uneasiness that I had in 2016 before election results were in returned. Perhaps it is the beginning of the end for this administration, but not the end of the underlying power-grabbers continuing in his work, just more sublimated ...

When i decide to purchase a car, appliance, just about everything, I seek out pros and cons on the item. I do the same thing when it comes to electing officials representing me at all levels of government. Along with observing the actual actions, words and consequences of those who want to be my leader, I seek reading the views of those who present facts, respect truth, honor civility on the matters affecting my life. I choose to listen to all intelligent points of view from those I’ve come to respect on other matters rather than automatically rejecting them when they discuss politics, religion and other controversial topics.

I’ve always valued the honest well-documented writings supporting your point of view presented here whether or not I agree on all issues you choose to write about, including the state of our nation and politics. If there was ever an issue pertinent to aging in the broad sense it is those making policy at the highest level of our government — affecting our health insurance, all aspects of our lives. I welcome intelligent commentary on those individuals, their actions and points of view to consider as I choose who to support on Election Day.

Do keep writing what’s on your mind. That’s what I’ve always valued on this blog. I independently recognized long ago our democracy was being threatened by the leader of this current administration, even when he was just a candidate, and some of his supporters told us their intentions. I, for one, value our freedoms, realize how easily they can be lost, and see the steps being followed by those who assumed dictatorship in the past and elsewhere now being instituted here. A change of leadership is a definite necessity but is only a beginning, necessitating our continued vigilance to secure our nation’s values and protect our constitutional rights. No person, including a President, is above the law.

Thanks to Ronni, Cowtown Patti, Bruce Cooper,etc...
Our country is going down the drain people ...both young and “old” and everything in between will go down with it ...very scary !!!

Ronni, I subscribe to your blog because I’m 71 years old and find your perspectives on aging and illness to be helpful. I don’t subscribe to your blog because I need to be educated about Donald Trump. I value your blog because it is generally a politics-free space that welcomes everyone—something that is preciously hard to find these days.

To be clear, I didn’t vote for Donald Trump in 2016. But, demonizing Donald Trump will not be enough to win in 2020 just like it wasn’t enough in 2016. If you really are sincere about 2020, write about the shortcomings of the liberal elites in the Democratic party because, if these liberal elites remain as arrogantly disconnected from the concerns of many sincere, patriotic Americans as they were in 2016, Donald Trump will win again. In fact, I’m sure he’s counting on it.

Thanks for standing up for what you believe!!!!

We non-commercial bloggers are all multi-faceted human beings and it bugs me that readers think we should stay in a certain lane and never stray. I, too, have lost readers when I recently touched on political topics. In my opinion nothing could be more important in this time and space than sounding the alarm about the follies of continuing to support or ignore the Trump administration. For me, it seems so phony to pretend there isn't a giant elephant in the room and go on posting the normal fluffy stuff that I usually do or for you to post about aging and all the encompasses when the our country is at a critical juncture!

I can't believe that people have unsubscribed from the blog and attacked you. But, that's their right, I guess. It's just that people seem so self-righteous and angry these days and are more than ready to make it public. I'm really sick of that aspect of our society.

In fact, I'm really sick of a lot of aspects of our society. Trump and his cohorts just embody the negatives, in my opinion. I won't go on - I could write a book - but I am very worried about the government.

But you say what you damned well want to!

Aging IS political. What happens in politics directly affects the quality of aging in the US. Your informed and vital research is a guiding light for those of of us who understand the importance of your work. Thanks, and I love you to bits.

Brava. You are one of the resisters.

You go girl.
I'm just damn grateful we didn't reproduce.

Your blog.

Your rules.

Your content.

Keep on keeping on.

Trump is a natural dictator. Even if the Dems win, there will be a mountain of corrections to make. I hope it is possible, for the sake of our country, and others.

Thank you for posting this. I agree that this is important enough to stray (boldly) from your usual street of aging. Indeed this is perhaps an issue that we who are aging can see as a dark echo of other times. I'm reminded of the 1969 film Z, remember that one? Ebert's review began "There are some things that refuse to be covered over." We are there again. Scarily similar.

Islander...

OMG, I'd forgotten Z - Costa-Gravas directed - such an important film, important warning.

My favorite quote by Timothy Snyder


“The twentieth century shows us that societies can break, democracies can fall, ethics can collapse, and ordinary men can find themselves standing over death pits with guns in their hands. It would serve us well today to understand why.”

Those who support trump and unsubscribed from your blog are supporting a man who is totally immoral in every way. I would not consider it a loss.

Thank you, Ronni, for not ignoring how important this current situation is for those of us who are facing loss of social security benefits, which seems minor compared to the damage he is doing to the environment.

We all have to do what we can if we want a country where law is greater than wealth and lies. We have never completely had such a polity, but generations have struggled and groped in the direction of equity and justice. That’s our history, tho too many seem to have forgotten as they hang on in terror to mythical pasts. Perhaps it is the job of elders in such a moment to say “Come on, we have seen and survived a lifetime of change and our country is better for it. America is plenty great enough to do better than Dismal Donald and his posse of second rate con men. “

Ronni, I enjoyed your post and agree with you totally. The comments were interesting, too. I was surprised by some readers who don’t appreciate political thoughts and writings. If we live in a society, as we do, we have to keep abreast of political thoughts as it affects so much of our life, our well-being and health. Some prefer to place their heads in the sand, or refuse to speak if it does not agree with their thoughts. I was amused by the reader who whined about the “liberal elite.” Many of the liberal thoughts started very early, even in ancient Buddhist tradition – such as religious toleration, equal freedom for all citizens, etc. Some of the most liberal countries have the happiest citizens, the best educated and healthiest– what’s so wrong with that? Also, it is your blog, and you can write whatever you wish.

As for Trump, he is completely corrupt. It is so ironic that the conservative Americans who were patriots against the Soviets for years, were for American integrity, moral values and the rule of law are those now who are in adulation of a pathological liar with an uncontrollable ego, a would be king or dictator. He is not making American great Again, but leading America on the global race to the bottom (with the help of the Russians.) Frankly, I think he is sick, mentally and physically.

It could all end tomorrow....our American democracy. And I used to believe it was self-correcting.

"Her health is closely watched because another Supreme Court vacancy would give President Donald Trump the opportunity to appoint a third justice to the nine-member court and move it further to the right. The court’s 5-4 conservative majority includes two justices named by Trump." Reuters quote

In addition to Trump---The future of the courts should not be forgotten. Remember the leaders who said there would be no judge appointed until after the last election? That got us where we are today as the article above states.

If there is a need for another justice before the 2020 elections, I hope there is rioting in the streets to prevent it---

Thank you for stating your position and for those that can read without condemning. I too worry about the effects of this deeply narcissistic, spoiled eight-year-old bully that walks into the oval office feeling he is chosen by God, a king. Make no mistake, she would never choose someone so small-minded and cruel.

I don't know why anyone should think they have the right to dictate what you write about - this is your blog. If they are so challenged by your distaste for the monster in the White House - a distaste I share - it probably means you are forcing them to face up to the reality of what is going on. Keep at it.

Everything I would say has already been said very well ('m late to the party, as usual). If TGB lost a few subscribers who bow down to the would-be Emperor of Trumpistan, so be it. As others have written it's your blog. Readers can disagree and they can unsubscribe if they are followers of the current carnival barker in the Oval Office. Buh-bye.

I disagree completely with readers who prefer a politics-free TGB. Sure, we all subscribe to various news and opinion outlets, but there is still value in sharing our points of view in this forum. Saying we shouldn’t do so is like saying that old people should tend to their knitting (or fishing or golf or whatever). There is a need to keep shouting the word about the vulgarian in the WH and the damage he is doing to our nation. Even if we aren’t able to put our bodies on the line to participate in street demonstrations, we can keep hammering on that message as long as we have voices to do so.

But the main goal should be to defeat Trump in 2020. All else is a political exercise—like riding a stationery bike. The only primary candidate who was capable of doing that was Joe Biden. Then the media jumped all over him by branding him with the bumbling Uncle Joe epithets and thus sneered him into being a lesser contender. By the time the Ukraine thing surfaced media-wise, he was already limping and that put the nail in the coffin. All that mattered was guilt by association.

The African-American community is the group that has it most right. In explaining to pollsters their reluctance to support candidates like Kamala Harris or Cory Booker and now Deval Patrick, they made clear their opinion that the main goal should be defeating Trump. Biden may not be everybody’s ideal candidate, but if he is the one who can rid us of Trump, he should have our support. We can worry about steering our country back in a normal direction after we have regained control of the helm.

I became an American citizen because I thought this country offered freedom for everyone (apart from a lot of other things). I had previously lived in a Latin American country where the President did more-or-less what he wanted. I am now confronted with the same thing in this country - only worse because of the U.S.'s size and importance. Our stance on climate change is frightening. Every day, it seems, Trump is doing or saying something to further aggravate those not in agreement - as if he does it on purpose - and I'm uncertain where we stand on the world stage. I am glad there are still Americans like you who will write what they believe in despite the backlash. Keep up the good work.

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