Most days in this post election miasma, I have to will myself not to worry like this past Thursday evening, the night of Trump’s first post-election rally, in Cleveland, Ohio.
It was shocking and reminiscent of front-page pictures of Hitler’s 1930’s rallies imbedded in my mind long before I could understand language, the wider world, or my Jewish parent’s worry.
December 3, on Facebook, Timothy Snyder, a contributor to The Dallas News, articulates what I knew in the deep core of my memory. In a commentary titled What You Can Do— Yes You—Can Do to Save America from Tyranny, he writes,
Americans 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. Now is a good time to do so. Here are 20 lessons from across the fearful 20th adapted to the circumstances of today.
There is beauty in Snyder’s words, seeds to be planted that offer possibility, a way to resist and stand up to the rhetoric of intolerance, greed, power and tyranny.
There is beauty in possibility. Some of the lessons he cites I recognize as my own. Several gave me pause and a direction to consider. I list them some of them. For full text, go to http://www.dallasnews.com/opinion/commentary/2016/11/21/learning-history-can-save-america-tyranny
1.Do not obey in advance. Much of the power of authoritarianism is freely given. In times like these, individuals think ahead about what a more repressive government will want, and then start to do it without being asked. You’ve already done this, haven’t you? Stop. Anticipatory obedience teaches authorities what is possible and accelerates unfreedom.
6. Be kind to our language. Avoid pronouncing the phrases everyone else does. Think up your own way of speaking, even if only to convey that thing you think everyone is saying. What to read? Perhaps “The Power of the Powerless” by Václav Havel, 1984 by George Orwell, The Captive Mind by Czeslaw Milosz, The Rebel by Albert Camus, The Origins of Totalitarianism by Hannah Arendt, or Nothing is True and Everything is Possible by Peter Pomerantsev.
7. Stand out. Someone has to. It is easy, in words and deeds, to follow along. It can feel strange to do or say something different. But without that unease, there is no freedom. And the moment you set an example, the spell of the status quo is broken, and others will follow.
9. Investigate. Figure things out for yourself. Spend more time with long articles. Subsidize investigative journalism by subscribing to print media. Realize that some of what is on your screen is there to harm you. Bookmark PropOrNot or other sites that investigate foreign propaganda pushes.
10. Practice corporeal politics. Power wants your body softening in your chair and your emotions dissipating on the screen. Get outside. Put your body in unfamiliar places with unfamiliar people. Make new friends and march with them.
11. Make eye contact and small talk. This is not just polite. It is a way to stay in touch with your surroundings, break down unnecessary social barriers, and come to understand whom you should and should not trust. If we enter a culture of denunciation, you will want to know the psychological landscape of your daily life.
12, Take responsibility for the face of the world. Notice the swastikas and the other signs of hate. Do not look away and do not get used to them. Remove them yourself and set an example for others to do so.
14. Give regularly to good causes, if you can. Pick a charity and set up autopay. Then you will know that you have made a free choice that is supporting civil society helping others doing something good.
20. Be a patriot. The incoming president is not. Set a good example of what America means for the generations to come. They will need it.
I am grateful for this blog, the opportunity to seed and share the beauty of nature, the beauty of shared lessons and stories. I welcome your comments.
I like the gently phrased but firm tenor of this essay about resistance, and the Snider/Snyder ideas for practical actions. I also liked seeing the list of books, some completely new to me, for reading about resistance.
Thank you for this affirming comment, Rosemary. The challenge is great and I am so appreciative of your highlighting the list of books and the potential in reading and learning about this complex issue.
Thank you Faye for sharing your own need to will your self from worrying about Trump’s continual controlling and self-serving leadership. I feel that worrying will not enforce change, and I had been floundering around with what I can do to help. So I am grateful to you for including Timothy Snyder’s article in your present blog. I found it compelling, and I’ve already forwarded it to thirty friends and family members. The 20 action steps that Snyder notes can make a crucial difference in saving the American people from a tyrannical leadership! I’m presently trying to figure out which steps I will take seriously. I’ve decided, at this time at least, that the most crucial ones for me are the ones where I can get out there, be a patriot, take responsibility for the face of the world, give regularly to good causes, investigate, and read more book outside the internet, which Snyder lists, and be kind to our language. If I can do some or most of them, perhaps others can too! This article gives us a decided framework from which to continue to enforce working for our democratic ideals. I would appreciate learning how others who read your blog are trying to make a difference as well!
Bev, I am moved by your response and so appreciative that you have forwarded my post to thirty friends and family members. We need a groundswell of people, like yourself, who are willing to step up and dig into the challenge to resist and counter what you so aptly term as Trump’s self-serving leadership. I plan to copy your comment and, from time to time, to use some of your words as I try to engage others.
You are inspiring by your behavior and important suggestions about what we can do to make an impact on what the best of America stands for. Thank you so much!
Dear Eva, Thank you for joining with me in the challenge to resist.
Thanks so much for this, Faye.
I was very pleased when the idea arrived. You know how that goes! Thanks!!