(Consider this a visit from the Ghost of Election Day Future ...)
Tears flow freely down the face of an anguished Parisian in the iconic black-and-white photo, as Nazi troops march down the streets to occupy France.
It's a haunting image conveying the utter despair of the French Republic as fascism takes control 80 years ago. And it's enough to shake anyone of complacency about the possibilities for this perilous moment in time, as we consider how close we are to losing our hold on democracy. And yes, the future of the planet.
After reading numerous warnings and observations over recent months and weeks -- the latest being Thomas Edsall's New York Times piece, 'I Fear That We are Witnessing the End of American Democracy' -- as well as observing the recent RNC convention farce, I'm imagining what life will be like under the totalitarian regime that could very possibly replace the democracy that's been in place for nearly 230 years in this country.
Consider China's recent rolling over Hong Kong's precarious autonomy, or Vladimir s Putin's recent extension of his reign, or for that matter Russia's recent poisoning of opposition leader Alexey Navalny, following the Saudi assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi all in the context of Trump's deliberate destruction of virtually every norm of our American democracy.
Trump has already hinted at trying to do away with his own term limit by calling for "12 more years," and he's hinted at ending libel laws and has attacked a free press in this country along with scientific facts, foreign intelligence , the norms of diplomacy and truth itself.
In a scene reminiscent of the Roman Coliseum, the constant tweets play to cheers not only of racists and others in his base, but also to other branches of government that were created to remain independent checks and balances on the executive branch.
We've already seen a crumbling of decency and civility, a decay of tolerance and acceptance, an erosion of empathy and respect, a cynicism toward the fundamental democratic lynchpin of compromise, a failure to try to understand complicated realities and accept responsibility for failures.
The effect of the current pandemic, which was ignored as "a hoax" even as cases have soared in this country, has been to destroy businesses and force workers to be laid off, losing health insurance and in some cases their homes, while shutting down schools and killing over 175,000 Americans so far.
Life has been difficult enough, with an outright war waged on facts by Trump and his supporters, and a daily assault on facts to feed a growing partisan divide.
If that were not bad enough, newspapers -- another pillar of democracy -- are facing another serious blow due to the further shutdown of businesses that had been advertising. And private college and universities, which likewise had been struggling with trying to contain costs, are also fighting for their survival, along with hospitals and government state and local governments.
We haven't yet begun to see the light at the end of this long tunnel we're in, but it's unlikely to be for months, if not years to come. There are so many unknowns we're facing about COVID-19, just as there are seemingly infinite questions about how we repair the state of a democracy that depends heavily on people willing to work together. And that, too, seems like a long way off, especially if the current drumbeat of cynicism, politicization and polarization succeeds at using fear and contempt to win re-election.
If that occurs, and the bleakness prevails -- with a health care system eroding further and authoritarianism gaining strength -- we may look at the climate crisis (which we've barely begun to admit is the REAL existential crisis ahead) in a tragically positive way as we attempt to cope with our future. Because we won't have to endure the torture before Earth becomes literally uninhabitable.
Wait: Is that altogether too morose an ending? Yes.
Instead, we can look ourselves in the mirror now, muster the resolve and laser-focus on what truly matters, and change course.
Truth and human decency need to prevail. Now is truly the time for amazing grace. Vote, and ring alarms, like our lives depend on it.
Posted: to Poor Richie's Almanac on Thu, Aug 27, 2020
Updated: Sun, May 29, 2022