Sunday, August 16, 2020

Further Into The Fire


Arthur Brown knows what's up

In January of 2017, on the eve of Trump's inauguration, I wrote about how we were all headed into the fire. I knew some would be burned, and others would be consumed. I also knew that nothing be the same after it was over.

The thought of those who the fire would consume made me cry on the train to work the day after the election. It's what kept me up at night in the following years. It's why I protested at immigrant detention centers and started donating money to political campaigns for the first time. 

This last week I have felt the flames getting higher. The sabotaging of the post office to assist in stealing an election, which the president openly stated, makes me think that the temperature will only be getting hotter in these crucial momths. With so many Republicans falling into line it's obvious that this election will be rigged and the theft will hold unless there is mass action in the streets that could possibly lead to bloodshed. 

Amidst all of this, day after day, over a thousand people die of covid in America when other wealthy nations have death totals barely in double digits. This fundamental fact of life and death has become so normalized that we don't even really bother to comprehend its horror. The past three and a half years of being in the fire have burned away our sensitivities.

Authoritarian regimes rely on a sense of inevitability. Vaclav Havel's brilliant essay "The Power of the Powerless" recognized this. He described Czechoslovakia under Communist rule as a place where people did not believe in the slogans they mouthed, but followed them nevertheless. What else was there to do? The most powerful thing that could be done in these circumstances, as Havel noted, was for people to "live in the truth." 

If enough people refuse to cooperate with a regime, that regime either falls or sustains itself with mass bloodshed (which can of course lead to armed revolt, too). Fortunately, the Eastern bloc governments mostly opted for the former. I actually don't know what would happen in this country under those circumstances. Certainly Prague in 1968 turned out a lot worse than it did in 1989.

The question that each and every person who cares about the survival of American democracy needs to ask themselves is whether they are willing to put their lives on the line in November. If not, the fire will keep burning until there's nothing left.

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