This book will scare you to death! It’s essential reading.


A recently published tiny paperback, the 126-page book “On Tyranny, Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century,” is essential reading today.

The author, Timothy Snyder, a distinguished professor at Yale University, has written books on European history. In “On Tyranny,” Snyder shows the parallels between today in the U.S. and what happened in 20th century Europe, resulting in two devastating world wars and millions of deaths.

Then he explains what to do now to stop tyranny from destroying democracy in the U.S.

“European democracies collapsed into right-wing authoritarianism and fascism in the 1920s and ’30s,” he writes. “The European history of the twentieth century shows us that societies can break, democracies can fall, ethics can collapse and ordinary men can find themselves standing over death pits with guns in their hands.”

How did this happen? How can it be stopped?

Some Europeans anticipated what the Nazis wanted and acted accordingly, he writes. He terms it “anticipatory obedience,” and says it gives rulers more power than even they expected. Resist it.

Institutions, such as newspapers, courts, unions and other groups who tend to hold rulers accountable, must be defended from the beginning, he says. It took only a year for Germany to become a one-party state, “in which all major institutions had been humbled.”

Snyder never mentions Trump’s name, but the parallel here is shocking, as Trump attacks the mainstream media constantly, in order to weaken it.

Support a multi-party government, and defend the rules of democratic elections, Snyder writes. Democracies in Europe collapsed when a single party seized power via elections or coup d’etats.

“The Russian oligarchy established after the 1990 elections continues to function, and promotes a foreign policy designed to destroy
democracy elsewhere,” he writes.

The U.S. has checks and balances, he writes, but has “rarely faced a situation like the present: when the less popular of the two parties controls every lever of power at the federal level as well as the majority of statehouses.”

He urges work against gerrymandering and computerized voting. “The elections of 2018, assuming they take place, will be a test of American traditions,” he writes.

He focuses on patriotism, which he defines as “serving your own country.”

“It is not patriotic to avoid paying taxes…. It is not patriotic to admire foreign dictators…. It is not patriotic to read a foreign policy speech written by someone on the payroll of a Russian energy company. It is not patriotic to appoint a national security adviser who has taken money from a Russian propaganda organ,” and so on, he writes.

Then: “The president is a nationalist, which is not at all the same thing as a patriot,” Snyder writes.

He quotes George Orwell. “A nationalist ‘although brooding on power, victory, defeat, revenge,’ tends to be ‘uninterested in what happens in the real world.’”

A patriot wants the nation to “live up to its ideals…. A patriot must be concerned with the real world, which is the only place where his country can be loved and sustained,” Snyder writes.

Stand up against threats to democracy, he writes. “Be as courageous as you can.”

There is much more in this amazing short book — appeals to history and literature, the details of what happened and could happen, to
Europe and to us. It’s essential reading.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *