Letter to the editor: Fear and loathing won

I write this on Dec. 7, 75 years after the Japanese sneak attack against Pearl Harbor in 1941, which catapulted the United States into World War II.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt described it as “a day which will live in infamy.”

And it is almost one month after Nov. 8, 2016, a day that will eclipse in infamy Pearl Harbor Day—and every other date in American history.

On Nov. 8, the American belief in government “of the people, by the people, and for the people” was dealt a potentially lethal blow.

Eighty years after novelist Sinclair Lewis wrote his fictional account of a fascist takeover of the U.S.A., under the title of It Can’t Happen Here, it did happen.

Despite the fact that Hillary Clinton won 2.5 million more votes than the con man running against her on the modern Know Nothing ticket, it will be the sociopath Trump rather than the people’s choice, Mrs. Clinton, who will occupy the White House in January.

There is no other election in any part of what we conceitedly call “the Free World” where the person who receives the most votes loses. But the will of the people has been subverted, just as in the 2000 election, by the archaic encumbrance of the Electoral College, which violates the most fundamental element of democracy, the principle of “one person, one vote.”

So, seven decades after the “Greatest Generation” fought and won a world war against the fascist Axis nations, fascism has sneaked into power in Washington, by the side door. Not the people’s choice, and that’s a terribly important fact— the American people did reject Trump—who he is and what he stands for and what he intends to inflict on us.

We’re looking at it. One-party rule with no restraint, headed up by a thin-skinned narcissist who’s never read the Constitution and who’s incapable of reflective thought or of self-criticism.

Relentless derogation of Mexicans and Muslims as scapegoats for people’s fears and targets for inciting bigotry; Hitler-like mass rallies whipped up to lynch mob frenzy; dispatching opponents with name-calling and vicious taunts instead of debate; never admitting error and never apologizing, no matter how transparent his lies or repulsive his manners. These are all textbook fascist techniques to foster what former Republican candidate Mitt Romney called “anger that has led other nations into the abyss.”

No stretch of imagination brands Mr. Romney as an extremist or even a liberal.

The clearest proof that we’ve gone over a political precipice is found in the zombie-like loyalty of Trump’s followers. Trump lies incessantly and habitually, but his supporters refuse to listen to any correction, refutation or evidence that contradicts their leader. There can’t be a dialogue; there can’t be any constructive civic engagement, with minds that are willfully closed.

What if Hillary Clinton had won the Electoral College and lost the popular vote? Do you think for a moment that Trump would have acquiesced? He said he’d only promised to accept the result “if he won.”

In this election, fear and loathing won, and the people lost. Lost completely, for unlike past eruptions of the politics of unreason, of corruption and treason, this time no checks or balances remain. The Trump gang holds everything: the federal courts, both houses of Congress and the executive branch.

We have reached a nadir that Abraham Lincoln warned of in 1858: “Familiarize yourselves with the chains of bondage and you prepare your own limbs to wear them. Accustomed to trample on the rights of others, you have lost the genius of your own independence and become the fit subjects of the first cunning tyrant who rises among you.”

So what should we do about it?

At one level, just be obstinate. Resistance starts with individual decisions to refuse to conform or to accept the morally unacceptable. I just won’t call Trump the “president.” He doesn’t deserve the dignity of that title, and furthermore he’s not the people’s choice.

Once Trump’s imposture is under way, call him the dictator, the thug, the gangster-in-chief or the “predator.”

The impending tyranny will look more like Putin’s mafia-style autocracy in Russia than like the stereotypical police state. We can’t fight back with violent means. But as we figure out what kind of resistance tactics could possibly work in the teeth of a high-tech, total-surveillance national security state intent on stifling dissent and intimidating opposition, let us also recall these other words from Lincoln’s Edwardsville speech:

“What constitutes the bulwark of our own liberty and independence? It is not our frowning battlements, our bristling seacoasts, our army and our navy. All of those may be turned against us without making us the weaker for the struggle. Our reliance is in the love of liberty which God has planted in us. Our defense is in the spirit which prized liberty as the heritage of all men, in all lands everywhere.”

Remember Pearl Harbor. And realize that we owe a profound debt to so many men and women who have lived and worked and died for our national ideals of liberty and justice for all. Let’s find the courage to keep the dream alive—as we somehow try to cope with this nightmare from which we cannot awake—because it is all too real.

Oliver Steinberg, St. Anthony Park

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