All of us will have to resist marching toward tyranny if America’s political culture is ever to return to its democratic norm.
Protests against government actions aren’t new. Vietnam War protestors marched into university buildings and city halls, and large and often loud groups took over public spaces. Then they sat down.
Civil rights supporters marched on bridges and streets, sat down at lunch counters and on buses and resisted the police. Then they sang.
The displays of force by protestors in the state capitals of Michigan, Idaho and California and now in Washington, D.C., were not political protests. Last week’s rioting mob didn’t sing or sit down. The mob broke through doors, smashed windows in the nation’s Capitol and killed a Capitol Police officer.
People intent on “taking back their country” won’t just go away because the president who personified their delusions leaves office. We who believe in democracy must actively resist the madness if we are to save it.
President Donald Trump pressured Republicans all over the country to stop election certifications, overturn results and find fraud where there was none. Dozens of local and state elected officials in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan and Pennsylvania honored their oaths of office and upheld laws instead.
Trump attacked his own supporters like Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey and Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp when they refused to go along. He vilified Vice President Mike Pence for refusing to abandon his constitutional duties. Rioters responded by chanting that Pence should be killed.
The Republicans who chose democracy over party or personal loyalty are examples of lessons laid out in a book everyone should read, “On Tyranny” by Yale history professor Timothy Snyder, who specializes in the history of Central and Eastern Europe and the Holocaust.
Snyder’s advice: “Remember professional ethics.” “Be calm when the unthinkable arises.” “Defend institutions.” “Be as courageous as you can.”
It cannot have been comfortable or easy for Republicans who resisted a president who champions ideas they agree with. Defying someone with millions of followers carries serious political risk. They deserve credit.
Attacks on America’s democracy will not end with the mayhem of Jan. 6, 2021. At some point, we will all be called on to demand that our laws be followed and to agree to hold accountable those who fail to do so.
When those times come, remember Snyder’s other lessons, too: “Be kind to our language.” “Beware of paramilitaries.”
And, most important of all: “Believe in truth.”
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