A Survivor’s Guide to Tyranny

Yale historian Timothy Snyder has 20 pills he wants us to take, and keep taking, perhaps to save our country. The stark premise that he laid out for us a month ago is that the real project of Donald Trump and Company is “regime change.” When they mock the legal restraints of “so-called judges” and call journalism “the opposition,” we should understand that they’re test-marketing their contempt for the rule of law and the constitutional protection of critical freedom. So Tim Snyder has written out his pocket-size get-real manual, called: On Tyranny, Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century.

These are warnings Europe didn’t hear in the 1930s, that grate on American ears today, but try them out:

  • Take responsibility for the face of the world.
  • Make eye contact and small talk.
  • Hinder the one-party state.
  • Investigate.
  • Be calm when the unthinkable arrives, and more…

The sidelight that fascinates here is on President Trump’s Russia-gate. Snyder is not much worried that Vladimir Putin’s hacking tipped our presidential race. But steeped in the horrible history of 1930s Europe, Snyder is alarmed about every tolerant gesture President Trump makes toward Putin and his Russia. “The way the Russian system has worked,” Snyder says, “since Putin’s elevation to power in 1999, is that… episodes of terrorism have been used at every step to do away with democratic and liberal institutions and to replace them with an ever harsher and more effective authoritarian regime.” When Donald Trump sweet-talks Vladimir Putin, Tim Snyder is telling us, we should be seeing his Russia as “a possible negative future for the United States.”

P.S. – Timothy Snyder’s call-to-action manual is back in the news this week, with On Tyranny’s Amazon page being hacked. As reported in The Guardian, Snyder responded, “The hack basically confirms several of the lessons in On Tyranny, such as [No] 14, on the importance of digital privacy.”

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