On Tyranny: 20 Lessons from the 20th Century by Timothy Snyder
Early in 2017, I sat in an examine room waiting for a dermatologist to examine a suspicious spot on my nose. To pass the inevitable wait time I had brought along the book I was currently reading. When the doctor finally breezed into the room, I was writing a memorable point from the book in my travel journal. He noticed and he asked about the book. Then he recommended one he’d found of utmost importance, On Tyranny: 20 Lessons from the 20th Century by Timothy Snyder.
I was intrigued, as much by the recommendation of a physician to his first-time patient as anything else. On my return home, I looked it up and ordered a copy. Before the week passed, I had devoured Snyder’s treatise. “Americans today are no wiser than the Europeans who saw democracy yield to fascism, Nazism, or communism in the 20th century,” Snyder wrote in the introduction. “Our one advantage is that we might learn from their experience. Now is a good time to do so.”
Using examples from historical incidents within the personal recollection of my elders, Snyder listed steps we should take to stave off a descent into chaos. Among these:
Defend institutions. These include the courts, news outlets, and labor unions. Public schools, libraries and book stores could also make the list.
Beware the one-party state. Become informed. Vote. Run for office yourself.
Be courageous. Stand out. Give courage to others. Set a good example of what America should mean for the sake of coming generations. Hang onto the dream of liberty and justice for all.
On friends: Stay in touch with your neighbors. Make new friends and march with them. Make friends abroad. And keep your passport current.
Defend our language. Refuse to talk like everybody else. Separate yourself from the internet. Read books.
Believe in truth. And search for it. Investigate. Figure things out for yourself. To abandon facts is to abandon freedom.
As the events of 2017 accrued, it became clear that we are being led by a tyrant. I recommend Snyder’s book. Read it while it’s still allowed.
The Will to Change by bell hooks
Friends recommended other books in my 2017 journey that carried an impact. The Will to Change: Men, Masculinity and Love by bell hooks, a black feminist writer, delved deeply into the ills of our society as a paternalistic creation. Traditional roles for women and men thrust upon children at very young ages may have contributed significantly to the simmering rage that fuels white supremism, racism, sexism, and ultimately the climate that leads to mass shootings. Until we can embrace the individual talents of every person, there will be violence in our future. Hooks’ study helped frame much of the tragic headliners of 2017 into a new perspective with increased understanding about how frustrated paternalistic roles have impacted events. We collectively need the will to change our ancient traditions of male dominance into an affirmation of every person’s unique gifts.
Wake-up and Shake-up To be continued. . .