These are the times when men’s souls need to try. To try hard. Though a flagrantly, famously corrupt sociopath is no longer our country’s kingpin, he still holds one of the political parties and nearly half our citizens in his grip. When Biden was elected, those who oppose fascism breathed a sigh of relief and “whewed” that this aberration in our democracy was over. Americans rely on the stability of a system that’s loped along for two centuries; we’ve all heard stories of chopped-down cherry trees, Founding Fathers, Abraham Lincoln and how we won World War II. This foolish reliance on consistency is the hobgoblin of minds too little to grasp the enormity of what’s going on.
Recently, almost half of the country’s Senators, well-educated people who knew for certain they’d narrowly escaped a terrorist coup instigated by an unstable megalomaniac, voted to let it slide. For months before that, half the Congress decided it’s okay to throw out the peaceful transition of power, okay to abnegate votes and voters. They embraced a lie, embraced dismantling our democracy because they were afraid if they didn’t get aboard the fascist train they wouldn’t get elected. (Or as it could be termed, anointed.) Instead of protecting the country and the electorate and Constitution they’d sworn to serve, men and women who know better decided to kowtow to those who don’t know better.
When the morally and literally bankrupt Mussolini did his best to steal an election, half of our government helped or remained silent. Some of the silence was a despicable cowardice while waiting for an eventual righting of the ship. But a great deal of the silence was an even more despicable “wait and see”, a readiness to join the new captain if he succeeded in hijacking our democracy. They voted to acquit a dangerous man, ignore dangerous lies, and to once again confront the attack on our country with their own quisling counterattack. Their silence was complicity, and in some cases their complicity was complicity.
They did this because they court the support of people who embrace lies and disparage expertise. They court bigots and encourage those who tolerate bigotry. While White Supremacists get all the press – and are occasionally, tepidly denounced – it’s the tens of millions who shrug when they witness bigotry that are the true menace. The widespread anti-intellectualism, distrust of the press, eagerness to believe and embrace imbecility – this is a real and urgent danger that cannot be ignored. Our democracy is at stake. Lives are at stake. Voting for Trump, and shrugging off those who voted for Trump, cost hundreds of thousands of lives – including Kurds, refugees, all those who died of COVID due to an incompetent, dishonest administration. What the last four years have done to irreparably damage the planet’s survival is inestimable and cannot be undone.
This is not a friendly disagreement. This is not the same ole time-worn battle between two political parties. We cannot afford to avoid uncomfortable conversations or send strongly worded letters. Our country’s democracy is on the brink. Once reliable, taken-for-granted institutions (like free elections, a free press) can easily disappear in 4 years. History repeats itself, over and over again. Not because of the parade of bad actors who always spring up, or even the legions who support the bad actors. Horrible histories repeat themselves because legions of good people do nothing. They avoid the fight, they mutter half-whispered condemnations, they wait for others to right the wrongs. History teaches us, again and again, that evil wins because good people define good as polite, docile, kind and even-tempered. But that is not good. Good and evil exist in the results, not the intentions. Six million Jews, millions and millions more Russians, Japanese and others suffered and died because good people said nothing, did nothing, waited too long. They tolerated their neighbors’ talk, changed the subject at the dinner table, overlooked things as long as the trains ran on time.
Forget this delusional “unity”, “Neville Chamberlain had a point” concept. In times like these, what is good can only be defined as fighting for good. Fighting isn’t easy or comfortable; that’s why it’s called fighting. But at this point in time, the alternative is a much too dangerous cowardice. The amassing forces of fascism and autocracy aren’t creeping into our democracy, they are marching in the open. You think I’m an alarmist? If I said a year ago that half the country would believe an election was stolen, that domestic terrorists would break into Congress at the behest of an American President who would then go unpunished, you’d have called me hysterical. Less than a century ago sophisticated civilizations participated in widespread genocide, or largely turned the other way. Can it happen again? Yes. The initial signs and steps are happening right now, before our eyes. Good must fight evil.
Good doesn’t need to be persuasive, or even combative. But it must, must speak up. All of us. Because right now, if every good person doesn’t speak up, it is certain we will all go down.
History repeats itself, and so I do. And I’ll continue to do so.