[Note: This item comes from friend Doc Searls. DLH]
We Don’t Know How to Warn You Any Harder. America is Dying.
We Survivors of Authoritarianism Have a Message America Needs to Hear: This is Exactly How it Happens, and It’s Happening Here.
By umair haque
Aug 29 2020
Right about now, something terrible is happening in America. Society is one tiny step away from the final collapse of democracy, at the hands of a true authoritarian, and his fanatics. Meanwhile, America’s silent majority is still slumbering at the depth and gravity of the threat.
I know that strikes many of you as somehow wrong. So let me challenge you for a moment. How much experience do you really have with authoritarianism? Any? If you’re a “real” American, you have precisely none.
Take it from us survivors and scholars of authoritarianism. This is exactly how it happens. The situation could not — could not — be any worse. The odds are now very much against American democracy surviving.
If you don’t believe me, ask a friend. I invite everyone who’s lived under authoritarianism to comment. Those of us how have?
We survivors of authoritarianism have a terrible, terrible foreboding, because we are experiencing something we should never do: deja vu. Our parents fled from collapsing societies to America. And here, now, in a grim and eerie repeat of history, we see the scenes of our childhoods played out all over again. Only now, in the land that we came to. We see the stories our parents recounted to us happening before our eyes, only this time, in the place they brought us to, to escape from all those horrors, abuses, and depredations.
We survivors are experiencing this terrible feeling of deja vu right now as a group, as a class. We talk about it, how eerie and grim this sense of deja vu is. It’s happening all over again! Do you remember this part of your childhood? When the armed men roamed the streets? When the secret police disappeared opponents? When the fascist masses united — and that was enough to destroy democracy for good? We talk about it, believe me — but you don’t hear it because we have no real voice. America’s pundits are named Chris and Jake and Tucker. They are not named Eduardo and Ravi and Xiao and Umair. But Chris and Jake and Tucker can’t help you now. They don’t know what the hell they’re dealing with. They literally have no idea because they have no experience whatsoever.
The only people who do right now in America are us survivors. Let me remind you, by the way, what happens we speak out: we lose whatever credibility and status we have. The moment I began to warn of this, I lost my column in HBR, my cable news appearances, and so forth. Don’t cry for me. Understand me, my friend, know me. If we had a voice, we survivors, we would be warning you as loudly and strongly as we possibly could.
All of us. We would say:
This is not a joke. This is not a drill. When we survivors of authoritarianism experience, as a group, a class, a cohort, something that we never, ever should — the horrific deja vu that the horrors of our childhoods, that our parents knew, are happening, all over again, here, something is much, much more wrong than you know.
Now let me make all the above concrete. I am going to use the example of Kenosha to draw out things that perhaps only we survivors can see — or at least that we see first and easiest. Things that the “real” American is either still playing dumb about, or is still mum about, and both equate to the same thing: silence, which is complicity, in times like these.
When we look at Kenosha, we survivors, and you “real” Americans, do we see the same thing? Do we feel the same gravity, pain, urgency? You will have to tell me. Here is what I see, that I’m 100% sure every survivor sees — but I doubt “real” Americans fully see yet.
What happened there? A young man was radicalized by the movement that fascist President led. The fascist President spoke of hated minorities as animals and vermin. He led his faithful in chants of hate, moments that built the bond of the tribe between them. Soon enough, that President was speaking of peaceful protesters as anarchists and revolutionaries and seditionaries. And the question that the fascist raises was left hanging in the air. “My people, my flock — what do we do with traitors?”
The answer, to a young man like that, is what it was in Nazi Germany, in the Islamic World, in every fascist collapse since time began. We kill them. So off he went with his rifle — and killed innocent people. Perfectly innocent people.
There is a crucial lesson there. America already has an ISIS, a Taliban, an SS waiting to be born. A group of young men willing to do violence at the drop of a hat, because they’ve been brainwashed into hating. The demagogue has blamed hated minorities and advocates of democracy and peace for those young men’s stunted life chances, and they believe him. That’s exactly what an ISIS is, what a Taliban is, what an SS is. The only thing left to do by an authoritarian is to formalize it.
But when radicalized young men are killing people they have been taught to hate by demagogues right in the open, on the streets — a society has reached the beginnings of sectarian violence, the kind familiar in the Islamic world, and is at the end of democracy’s road.
How did the state’s law enforcement respond? In America, they’re simply called “the police.” They let him do it, and then they protected him. The killer was only brought to justice because there was a national outcry after the act was caught on video. If none of that had happened, he probably would never have been. The police were forced to act, in other words.
What do we survivors see in that tiny parable? Crucial institutions have already been captured by the extremist factions who stand against democracy. Do all those cops think of themselves as fascists? Of course they don’t. So what? Mullahs don’t think of themselves as hate preachers, either. What else do you call someone who gives a violent young man with a gun a free pass to kill people, though? Someone who tries to shield him after the murder? A good and decent person?
The police in America might not all think they are fascists. Certainly, not all of them are. But what is certain is that some significant number of them arecaptured. They are sympathetic to the forces which are now attacking democracy. They prioritize those forces over democracy, freedom, peace, justice.
Let me give you an example. My friend Ben is a London copper. He abhors the violence in America. His jaw is dropped by it. He rejects carrying a gun, or even a taser. Do you see how big the gap, the problem is?
If the police force is captured by the extremists — at least many police forces, it seems, then harder questions are raised. What about the armed forces?