You may have noticed of late that things in America are becoming less, well, American.
A cruel misogynist with dangerously racist beliefs is running the show. Nazis and bigots of all stripes no long fear giving voice to their hatred in public. The nation's journalists and the free flow of information are under attack. The government is working hard to defund the healthcare apparatus designed to protect the country's most vulnerable citizens. Piece by piece, the country's institutions, its heart and soul are being torn asunder, paving the way for something new. After reading Timothy Snyder's most recent book, On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century, I gotta tell you, if you're scared of the outcome of all of this, chances are you're likely not scared enough.
Snyder is a scholar who specializes in the history of the the 20th century and, more pointedly, the holocaust. His knowledge of how a country's slow slide into fascism at the whim of a tyrant can occur is beyond reproach, given his academic street cred: he's the Richard C. Levin Professor of History at Yale, a Committee on Conscience member at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum. What I'm getting at is that he knows from bad shit, how it starts and historically, how it's gone down. With the current political and popular climate in a number of nations around the world, he's concerned that the ugliest parts of humanity are ready to rear their heads once again.
On Tyranny's only 126 pages long. Over the course of the book's 20 easy-to-read chapters, Snyder explains the signs that can be seen in the lead up to a fascist regime, sites brutal examples of where these signs have pointed to in the past, and what we as individuals can do to stand against the tide of such authoritarianism and hatred. From the book:
"The Founding Fathers tried to protect us from the threat they knew, the tyranny that overcame ancient democracy. Today, our political order faces new threats, not unlike the totalitarianism of the twentieth century. We are no wider than the Europeans who saw democracy yield to fascism, Nazism or Communism. Our one advantage is that we might learn from their experience."
No matter which side of the political fence you walk on, the lessons that the book offers make for essential reading. If you're interested and can't find the book at your local library, getting your hands on a copy of your own won't cost you much. Amazon's got it in paperback for $6.39, as an audiobook for $5.95 and Kindle owners can read it for just $3.99. That's a small price to pay for a tool that'll help you know fascism when you see it and how to stand against it when it comes.
Image via Seamus Bellamy