How to Fight Fascism in America

If you are looking for an action plan to fight the rising tide of fascism in America, here is an insightful 20-point list from Yale historian and Holocaust expert Timothy Snyder. I’ve copied his Facebook post below, and interspersed my own remarks and responses in brackets and italics.

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 twenty lessons from the twentieth century, adapted to the circumstances of today.

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.”

[This is why we must NOT “give Trump a chance.”]

“2. Defend an institution. Follow the courts or the media, or a court or a newspaper. Do not speak of ‘our institutions’ unless you are making them yours by acting on their behalf. Institutions don’t protect themselves. They go down like dominoes unless each is defended from the beginning.”

[Join me in subscribing to THE WEEK magazine. Its wide focus encompasses current events, health, media, science, arts, and travel. From it, you’ll get the news the broadcast media ignore. I also recommend THE HIGHTOWER LOWDOWN, from fellow Texan Jim Hightower, who has long chronicled the ongoing democratic struggles by America’s ordinary people against rule by its plutocratic elites. ]

3. Recall professional ethics. When the leaders of state set a negative example, professional commitments to just practice become much more important. It is hard to break a rule-of-law state without lawyers, and it is hard to have show trials without judges.”

[It’s also hard for fascists and tyrants to lie with impunity if investigative journalists uncover the truth and make the facts known.]

4. When listening to politicians, distinguish certain words. Look out for the expansive use of ‘terrorism’ and ‘extremism.’ Be alive to the fatal notions of ‘exception’ and ’emergency.’ Be angry about the treacherous use of patriotic vocabulary.”

[“Republican Senator Doug Ericksen said in a news release in November 2016 that he planned on proposing a bill that would classify some forms of protesting as ‘economic terrorism.’ Ericksen said that the bill would target protests that disrupt businesses or shut down streets.” No, Senator, protesting is not “terrorism.” It is constitutionally protected free speech.]

5. Be calm when the unthinkable arrives. When the terrorist attack comes, remember that all authoritarians at all times either await or plan such events in order to consolidate power. Think of the Reichstag fire. The sudden disaster that requires the end of the balance of power, the end of opposition parties, and so on, is the oldest trick in the Hitlerian book. Don’t fall for it.”

[Think of the so-called “Patriot” Act, established opportunistically in response to the September 11, 2001, attacks, and widely acknowledged as unconstitutional.]

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. (Don’t use the internet before bed. Charge your gadgets away from your bedroom, and read.) What to read? Perhaps “The Power of the Powerless” by Václav Havel, 1984 by George Orwell, The Captive Mind by Czesław Milosz, The Rebel by Albert Camus, The Origins of Totalitarianism by Hannah Arendt, or Nothing is True and Everything is Possible by Peter Pomerantsev.”

[Also read William Rivers Pitt, a New York Times and internationally bestselling author, and a senior editor and lead columnist at Truthout.]

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.”

[There is nothing normal about a Trump presidency, and I will not go along to get along.]

8. Believe in truth. To abandon facts is to abandon freedom. If nothing is true, then no one can criticize power, because there is no basis upon which to do so. If nothing is true, then all is spectacle. The biggest wallet pays for the most blinding lights.”

[The proliferation of fake news threatens our democracy. Don’t believe everything you read!]

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.”

[See items 2 and 6, above.]

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.”

[Join me and my new friends as we March on Washington, January 21.]

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.”

[A chilling thought, that our future safety may depend on knowing whom to trust. Welcome to Trump’s AmeriKKKa.]

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.”

[Here’s an easy way to transform a swastika into a message of LOVE:]

13. Hinder the one-party state. The parties that took over states were once something else. They exploited a historical moment to make political life impossible for their rivals. Vote in local and state elections while you can.”

[Even in deep-red Texas, there is hope. Hillary Clinton won 3,868,291 votes in Texas, only about 815,000 fewer than Trump. As the state’s demographics change, Republicans and Tea Party extremists can be forced from their stranglehold here.]

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.”

[American Civil Liberties Union. Set up a monthly donation.]

15. Establish a private life. Nastier rulers will use what they know about you to push you around. Scrub your computer of malware. Remember that email is skywriting. Consider using alternative forms of the internet, or simply using it less. Have personal exchanges in person. For the same reason, resolve any legal trouble. Authoritarianism works as a blackmail state, looking for the hook on which to hang you. Try not to have too many hooks.”

[As a responsible, involved, and law-abiding citizen, I have nothing to hide.]

16. Learn from others in other countries. Keep up your friendships abroad, or make new friends abroad. The present difficulties here are an element of a general trend. And no country is going to find a solution by itself. Make sure you and your family have passports.”

[I cherish my friends in other countries. They may become my lifeline.]

17. Watch out for the paramilitaries. When the men with guns who have always claimed to be against the system start wearing uniforms and marching around with torches and pictures of a Leader, the end is nigh. When the pro-Leader paramilitary and the official police and military intermingle, the game is over.”

[The “constitutional carry” movement in Texas is absolutely terrifying. Some of our nuttier gun nuts actually believe they should be allowed to carry a gun, both openly and concealed, without a permit. Would those same people believe it’s OK to drive a big rig without a license, or practice medicine without a license? Senseless and dangerous. Please support Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. Also, Stand With Standing Rock.]

18. Be reflective if you must be armed. If you carry a weapon in public service, God bless you and keep you. But know that evils of the past involved policemen and soldiers finding themselves, one day, doing irregular things. Be ready to say no. (If you do not know what this means, contact the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and ask about training in professional ethics.)”

[United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Resources for Professionals in Law Enforcement]

19. Be as courageous as you can. If none of us is prepared to die for freedom, then all of us will die in unfreedom.”

[Check out Common Cause for concrete ways to take action.]

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 will say it again: Donald Trump is not a patriot. He is a clear and present danger to America and to the world. All who love freedom must stand up, speak out, and take to the streets. See you in Washington, January 21.]


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