Saturday, December 23, 2017

Fucked Beyond Imagination: Continuing to Resist Trump's Autocratic Kleptocracy is Our Civic Mission for 2018

"It's important not to let them change your values, your morals, your individuality. Authoritarianism isn't just a matter of external control; it's most insidious aspect is what it does to you inside."

—Sarah Kendzior, PhD

I’ve been reading Dr. Sarah Kendzior’s scholarship on authoritarian states for a couple of years now. It's grim, and, in my opinion, required reading right now. I keep returning, again and again, to this article she wrote in the Dutch outlet The Correspondent just nine days after Trump was elected to the United States Presidency with the undisputed help of a hostile foreign power. 

I recommend that you read the whole thing for yourself, but Trump's weekend Twitter attacks on the F.B.I. brought me back to Dr. Kendizor's article yet again. 

Trump spent the morning setting up his own Justice Department for a takedown. He is rightly feeling and fearing the noose tightening around the neck of his corrupt administration. He is cornered, and he knows it. He isn't above the law, unless and until he upends the law. And like any cornered animal, he is going to lash out and attempt to destroy any threat to his presidency. 

This is F.B.I. alright. Fucked Beyond Imagination. 

Not since Watergate have we seen an executive so hell bent on upending democratic norms in service of his own long-game con and bottomless greed. But this time it's much worse because we have a complicit Congress enabling a bumbling fascist's worst impulses. 

This is Sarah Kendzior's advice, and it sets forth a civic mission for living under metastasizing authoritarianism. Here are her suggestions, and I for one plan to honor every one of them in 2018. 

This is my one and only New Year's resolution: To keep writing the resistance and to keep defending, protecting, and building the vision of a true constitutional democracy that so many of my fellow American citizens have been killed and maimed to defend. 

Here are Dr. Kendzior's words of advice, verbatim, from the above-linked article:

1. Write about who you are, what you have experienced, and what you have endured.

2. Write down what you value; what standards you hold for yourself and for others. Write about your dreams for the future and your hopes for your children.

3. Write about the struggle of your ancestors and how the hardship they overcame shaped the person you are today.

4. Write your biography, write down your memories. Because if you do not do it now, you may forget.

5. Write a list of things you would never do. Because it is possible that in the next year, you will do them.

6. Write a list of things you would never believe. Because it is possible that in the next year, you will either believe them or be forced to say you believe them.

7. Though our speech is often challenged, we can still speak. We can debate each other and come up with ways to improve our country. We can scream at each other and mock each other and tell each other our political choices are terrible. You will miss those days, they may end soon.

8. Authoritarianism is not merely a matter of state control, it is something that eats away at who you are. It makes you afraid, and fear can make you cruel.

9. It compels you to conform and to comply and accept things that you would never accept, to do things you never thought you would do.

10. You do it because everyone else is doing it, because the institutions you trust are doing it and telling you to do it, because you are afraid of what will happen if you do not do it, and because the voice in your head crying out that something is wrong grows fainter and fainter until it dies.

11. That voice is your conscience, your morals, your individuality. No one can take that from you unless you let them. 

12. They can take everything from you in material terms – your house, your job, your ability to speak and move freely. 

13. They cannot take away who you truly are. They can never truly know you, and that is your power.

14. But to protect and wield this power, you need to know yourself – right now, before their methods permeate, before you accept the obscene and unthinkable as normal.

15.  But most of all, never lose sight of who you are and what you value. 

16. If you find yourself doing something that feels questionable or wrong a few months or years from now, find that essay you wrote on who you are and read it. Ask if that version of yourself would have done the same thing.

17. And if the answer is no? Don’t do it.

Following Dr. Kendizor's advice is my New Year's resolution. Consider making it yours as well.


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