“Post-truth is pre-fascism.”
What Timothy Snyder's On Tyranny attempts to do is to look back and say, See, this sort of thing happened before, and look at how horrible that turned out. We like to think of all that is happening in 2017 as “unprecedented.” I know I pick up on the word all the time ever since Trump misspelled it as “unpresidented” (I still think that should be the title of the book about his removal from office). To say that some of the madness we’re living through today is unprecedented in American politics is often true. But we can look beyond our borders, delve into the histories of our international allies, and consider that they’ve seen this sort of crap before. On Tyranny is a 128-page pocket book for the resistance, offering warning signs of trouble ahead while offering wisdom on what worked and what did not in the past.
Snyder suggests that Trump is a tyrant, or at the very least, that he wants to become one. The president is a man who is quick to anger, slow to condemn hate, praises dictators, despises free press, discriminates against people based on where they come from and what they worship… the list goes on. Snyder’s book gives twenty lessons on how you can see the change happening and what you might do to stop it. There are basic lessons like ‘Believe in truth,’ dark chapters like, ‘Be calm when the unthinkable arrives,’ honest and direct lessons like, ‘Beware the one-party state,’ and deeper thoughts like, ‘the politics of inevitability.’ To Snyder’s credit, in addition to telling about history’s missteps with far-right politics, he also makes time to point out how the far-left committed similar evils.
“The president is a nationalist, which is not at all the same thing as a patriot. A nationalist encourages us to be our worst, and then tells us that we are the best… A patriot, by contrast, wants the nation to live up to its ideals, which means asking us to be our best selves… A patriot has universal values, standards by which he judges his nation, always wishing it well—and wishing that it would do better.”
Some of the warning signs that Snyder presents us with have already come true and are now in the rear-view mirror. But there’s still time to make things right. America is a country of laws, not a country of men. We’re a democracy, not a personality cult. We’re a nation made up of better people than the one we regrettably elected to lead us. We’re not going to repeat the worst of history… well, I hope not, anyway.
(This review was originally much longer. More of an angry, politically themed ranty blog post than a book review. I edited it down without censoring myself as well as I could.)
This review was cross-posted to Goodreads. You can buy it on paperback or ebook from Amazon and wherever fine books are sold.
Writer of horror, science fiction, and dark fantasy. Lover of books and film. Lifelong Godzilla fan. Reluctant blogger.
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