Civility and surviving authoritarianism

By Reade Brower | Jan 09, 2020

Best to break this 2020 resolution early (not to write about politics) even though it’s a losing proposition. This quote inspires; speaking up is the best protection for democracy. Civility is what needs preaching, not the message.

“Never let your sense of morals get in the way of doing what’s right.” — Isaac Asimov, scientist, writer (1920-1992)

***

President Trump’s constant claim is he’s the most transparent president ever. Through the process of impeachment, one could argue Trump’s administration hasn’t cooperated in regard to witnesses or material information. Even with subpoenas, Trump’s litigious nature allows him to ignore and tie things up in court. This strategy is hardly one of an innocent.

The latest example was reported recently in The New York Times, “in response to a court order that it swiftly process those pages in response to the Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA, lawsuit filed by The Times, the Office of Management and Budget delivered a terse letter saying it would not turn over any of the 40 pages of emails — not even with redactions.”

At the root are 20 emails between a top aide and colleague at the White House’s Office of Management and Budget about the freeze of military aid approved by Congress for Ukraine.

Trump’s claim of transparency is disturbing; it rises above rhetoric and is dangerous because supporters accept it because he tells them he’s the most maligned president ever. Most politicians are maligned; that is part of the job description.

The Senate impeachment trial format is under consideration and negotiation; Lindsey Graham says publicly he will take his lead from the president. At least he’s not blowing smoke up our behinds; this truth is upsetting and insults the judicial process. Who could imagine a trial where the prosecuting attorney could not call witnesses? That defies the pillars our country is built on, traveling the extra step from “innocent until proven guilty” to “sham trial.”

***

President Trump, and his tweet-happy self, publicly named the alleged “whistleblower" before taking it down (maybe there are some in his administration with common sense and decency giving sound counsel).

Protecting whistleblowers is necessary (where would we be without “Deep Throat”) if we want to protect democracy and fight corruption. Plus, it puts the person at risk; going public changes lives (ask Monica Lewinski). All our politicians and mainstream media know that, yet the political discourse Trump encourages is more partisan than ever. Shame on anyone, on either side, that votes one way when it’s a Democrat, another when it’s a Republican.

Disclosing the whistleblower publicly is a distraction from the issues, like arguing about process rather than the accusations. A whistleblower should be vetted by a trusted panel representing both sides; that is assumed when charges are found credible enough to be brought forward.

***

After Trump’s election in 2016, Polish activist Martin Mycielski wrote about what Americans could expect in Trump’s first year, moving us to an authoritative government. Martin hoped his “American friends” would be “spared the shock, the awe, the disbelief of this happening.”

“Let’s hope history proves us wrong and the U.S. wakes up in time … hope for the best, prepare for the worst,” he wrote.

His 15-point “survival guide” rings eerily true and mirrors Trump’s presidency to date. When you look at how others, including the number one fascist of my generation, Hitler, followed this playbook, one understands why many worry. It may be an overstatement to compare Trump with Hitler, but his embracing of Putin and other totality leaders is noteworthy.

Below are the 15 “points”; here’s the link to the article referred to which goes into depth on each point: https://billmoyers.com/story/increasingly-necessity-15-point-guide-surviving-authoritarianism/

1)      They will come to power with a campaign based on fear, scaremongering and distorting the truth.

2)      They will divide and rule.

3)      Through convoluted laws and threats they will try and control media and limit press freedom.

4)      They will create chaos maintaining a constant sense of conflict and danger.

5)      They will distort truth, deny facts and blatantly lie.

6)      They will incite, and then leak fake, superficial “scandals.”

7)      They will propose shocking laws to provoke your outrage.

8)      When invading your liberal sensibilities they will focus on what hurts most — women and minorities.

9)      They will try to take control of the judiciary.

10)  They will try and limit freedom of assembly, calling it a necessity for your security.

11)  They will distort language, coin new terms and labels, repeat shocking phrases until you accept them as normal and subconsciously associate them with whom they like.

12)  They will take over national symbols, associate them with their regime, remake them into attributes of their power.

13)  They will try to rewrite history to suit them and use the education system to support their agenda.

14)  They will alienate foreign allies and partners, convincing you that you don’t need them.

15)  They will eventually manipulate the electoral system.

This was written before Trump came into office; it was foresight, not hindsight.

***

:LIP: Let us have 20/20 vision in the New Year.

 

Comments (13)
Posted by: Valli Genevieve Geiger | Jan 12, 2020 14:06

Dear Mr. Mukusic, as always your voice sings of compassion, clarity and moral goodness. I am with you and Mr. Pavlovitz, if believing in loving your neighbor as yourself, caring about your community, its children, the planet is radical, then guilty as charged. When they started separating children from their parents and putting them in cages, and continue to do so, I felt like I had woken up in strange new world, full of cruel people I had never seen before. I continue to believe that most people are good, that this dark time will pass and we will join together to create that better world before it is too late.



Posted by: Ronald Horvath | Jan 11, 2020 11:44

And in that same spirit, Richard:

 

"I want to be the party of the New Deal again, the party of the Civil Rights Act, the one that electrified this nation and fights for all people. For that, many would call us radical... We aren't 'pushing the party left, we are bringing the party home." -Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez



Posted by: Richard McKusic, Sr. | Jan 11, 2020 10:51

I’m Not The Radical Left, I’m The Humane Middle by John Pavlovitz

Apparently, I’ve been radicalized and I wasn’t aware.

Certain people call me the “radical Left” all the time.

I never considered myself radical before.
I just thought I was normal, ordinary, usual.
I thought equity was important to everyone.
I imagined America was filled with people who took that Life, Liberty, and Pursuit of Happiness stuff seriously—for all people.
I thought the Golden Rule was actually mainstream.

Recently I took an inventory of my positions, screening for the extremism:
I believe in full LGBTQ rights.
I believe we should protect the planet.
I believe everyone deserves healthcare.
I believe all religions are equally valid.
I believe the world is bigger than America.
I believe to be “pro-life,” means to treasure all of it.
I believe whiteness isn’t superior and it is not the baseline of humanity.
I believe we are all one interdependent community.
I believe people and places are made better by diversity.
I believe people shouldn’t be forced to abide by anyone else’s religion.
I believe non-American human beings have as much value as American ones.
I believe generosity is greater than greed, compassion better than contempt, and kindness superior to derision.
I believe there is enough in this world for everyone: enough food, enough money, enough room, enough care—if we unleash our creativity and unclench our fists.

I’m not sure how these ideas became radical, though it seems to have happened in the last few years.
I grew up being taught they were just part of being a decent human being.
I grew up believing that loving my neighbor as myself, meant that I actually worked for their welfare as much as my own.
I was taught that caring for the least in the world, was the measure of my devotion to God.
I thought that inalienable rights of other people were supposed to be a priority as a decent participant in the world.

I don’t think I’m alone.

In fact, I’m pretty sure that most people reside here in this place alongside me: the desire for compassion and diversity and equality and justice; that these things aren’t fringe ideologies or extremist positions—but simply the best way to be human.

I think most people want more humanity, not less.

I think the vast middle is exhausted by the cruelty of these days.

That these aspirations seem radical to some people, is probably an alarm that they’ve moved so far into the extremes of their fortified ideological bunkers and been so poisoned by the propaganda, that normal now seems excessive, that equality now seems oppressive, that goodness feels reckless.

Maybe the problem is, these people are so filled with fear for those who are different, so conditioned to be at war with the world, so indoctrinated into a white nationalistic religion of malice—that they’ve lost sight of what being a human being looks like anymore.

I am pretty sure that I don’t represent the “radical Left,” but the vast, disparate, compassionate, humane Middle; people who are not threatened by someone else’s presence, who do not see another person’s gain as their loss, who don’t worship a Caucasian, American god.

I suppose humanity feels radical to inhumane people.

In that case, I’ll gladly be here in my extremism.



Posted by: Ronald Horvath | Jan 11, 2020 06:28

Why, Ralph, we actually agree on some things.  I do believe, however, that trump is far from the least of our problems but rather the the tip of the iceberg.  To kill a snake you cut off the head, even when the head is brain dead. That pyramid of malfeasance you describe so well is held in place by an American president with the intelligence of packing foam.  The only question is how much damage can he do until he's sent "packing" (to a padded cell, hopefully) and how long will it take us, and the rest of the world, to recover.  While the exploiters, polluters, and hoarders at the top of the economic food chain hide behind trump the world burns and I truly believe that Australia and the Amazon are only signs of what is to come.  Having just got back from Southern California where all the sins of our materialistic and wasteful society are on blatant display I have to say it's a good time to be a "Bernie" supporter, and a good time to live in Maine.



Posted by: Ralph Stanley | Jan 10, 2020 19:57

Come up for some air Mr. Horvath. You take all the oxygen out of the room. I could give a rats behind for any of the stuff you feel the need to respond. They can have what they want to indulge in. Your view needs to take it up a notch. Their view as well. There is no ideology with oligarchs whether it be Trump. Putin, Apple or any of them. Power only. Democrats, Republicans only names. All neocons. All work for the military. All work for oil. The Zionists, the Wahhabis and the Christian fascists are now running the show. Our military will be funded by the Saudis. Saudi oil and petrodollars will pay for their war with Iran. Adelman and his minions have pushed this agenda long before Trump. Go back a 100 years and have a look. Thank the Brits for their malfeasance. Trump is the least of our problems. If you were one to vote for Trump, you voted out of desperation. Clinton? The democrats sold us out long before Trump and his dog and pony show appeared on the scene. Be reasonable.



Posted by: Ronald Horvath | Jan 10, 2020 06:47

All viewpoints are "opinions," Bill, but when you've been called a "troll" for having an opinion that differs from the conservatively accepted line of belief poured out on a regular basis by these "concerned" citizens -and, yes, we know who they are- you'll appreciate mine all the more.



Posted by: Richard McKusic, Sr. | Jan 10, 2020 04:16

"Forewarned is forearmed', and then we can make our own decision.  Do we like the way our country is headed? Reelect him.  Either way YOUR vote is important.



Posted by: Bill Packard | Jan 09, 2020 19:54

Apparently Ron can have opinions, but Ralph can not.  I don't see where Ralph was dictating anything.  He simply stated his viewpoint.  Ron labels him a Conservative when Ralph didn't take any side.



Posted by: Ronald Horvath | Jan 09, 2020 17:19

What, Ralph?  Are you trying to dictate the conversation?  Are the cut and pastes too informative for someone with unrealistic beliefs? How typical of conservatives that they try to deny the right to expression in service of a megalomaniac who explodes over criticism like a petulant five year old and then spews garbage and lies in return.  Where's the outrage about his insults of everyone from proven heroes in uniform, trusted allies, life long public servants, and distinguished legislators simply doing their jobs?  And as for "local issues" maybe you simply aren't informed enough to realize what damage this criminal administration is doing to a system that reaches far and wide and down to the bricks on Main Street.  The latest abomination of trump is trying to take credit for advances in cancer research while ignoring the fact that he has actually cut funds for that research -and all other "public" services- in order to pay for those tax breaks for the ultra-rich.  Remember that next time someone you know or close to you comes home with that dreaded diagnosis.   And remember this old saying as well:

 

"The punishment which the wise suffer who refuse to take part in the government, is to live under the government of worse men." ~ Plato



Posted by: Ralph Stanley | Jan 09, 2020 16:48

I do not think that this rant between individuals whose differences without much of a distinction need to dominate these comment pages, Over and over with cut and paste is annoying and does not server the local community. Be local. There are distinct local issues that deserve more scrutiny, What affects us here and now. Give it a break.



Posted by: Francis Mazzeo, Jr. | Jan 09, 2020 16:22

I don't understand how supporters of Trump can be so blind to the facts. It's hard to believe that the Republican party can condone the actions of Trump. Now, in my opinion, Trump has made the United States responsible for the shooting down of the Ukrainian airliner. Good going to the spineless supporters of this menacing the white house.



Posted by: Ronald Horvath | Jan 09, 2020 10:18

"Even as witness after witness systematically debunked every Republican defense of Trump’s crimes, the most chilling words came from the White House’s former top Russia and Ukraine expert Fiona Hill, who told the House Intelligence Committee that Republicans perpetuating Ukraine conspiracy theories to defend Trump were, wittingly or not, doing the bidding of Russian dictator Vladimir Putin. But we don’t have to take Hill’s word for it. Putin couldn’t contain his glee later in the week when he thanked God for their efforts."
https://odaction.com/democratica0114/?fbclid=IwAR1twxfRjmGrEO0wpTyWVAg1wDeoQeQJ3es9BYGSNk6lXddObo6Fg8v-EL4



Posted by: Richard McKusic, Sr. | Jan 09, 2020 08:52

PHEW! We can only hope that the tide is beginning to turn and more; including clergy and past Presidents; will speak up NOW.   Not in a finger pointing way, but  coming alongside in a way of encouraging that we can get through this together.  It is that kind of God given love and encouragement that turned my life around before it was too late.  Many of you have experienced that and know it works. :)



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