An essential and easy read for the times. Times that portend the end of American democracy and descent into authoritarianism, should Biff (think Back to the Future, the movie), AKA Donald J. Trump, be reelected. Noted historian Snyder has the expertise to describe the historical antecedents from Germany, Russia and more to how tyranny arises. Unfortunately, that happened elsewhere with the acquiescence of the populace. It could happen here.
“The Founding Fathers tried to protect us from the threat they knew, the tyranny that overcame ancient democracy. Today, our political order faces new threats, not unlike the totalitarianism of the twentieth century. We are no wiser than the Europeans who saw democracy yield to fascism, Nazism, or communism. Our one advantage is that we might learn from their experience.”
So says the back cover of Timothy Snyder’s book. Snyder offers twenty lessons from the last century, in short and simple chapters in this powerful book. Which makes the author eerily prescient on what was to come during the next three and one half years of the Trump administration.
But then, Donald J. Trump was not a complete unknown by the 2016 election—he had announced a campaign the year before and had made countless appearances and tweets even before the inaugural. There was the transition and the inaugural as well—which gave many clues on what was in store for America.
Snyder had the goods on Trump before the current president got started on his path to destroying the rule of law, setting America back decades of progress on so many fronts and–through his appointment of uninformed sycophants to key positions, managed to fail overwhelmingly at dealing with the worst health crisis in 100 years.
“Your name will be remembered for centuries. You had already assured your place in American history. Then came COVID-19.”
“Yes, I have done a tremendous job, haven’t I?” Trump beams.
“Oh, you have. You have made it so much worse. So much suffering. So many dying–unnecessarily due to your delay in responding. Ruining America’s economy. Best of all, making such fools out of His evangelicals. Those megachurch millionaires with the plush homes and private jets.”
“Wha . . . Me? It’s WHO. It’s Obama. It’s the governors, the fake media. The Dems! They’re responsible. I’ve been doing great!“
“Right! You put children in cages. You inspired White Nationalists to attack people. You’ve been rolling back environmental protections and promoting climate change.”
“LIES! Climate change is a Chinese hoax–pushed by the Dems and the Fake Media.”
“YES,lies! You lie continually. Although you are the world’s worst liar, your base believes you. You are America’s worst president! No one will ever equal your misdeeds, your incompetence, your malevolence, your greed and depravity. Congratulations—YOU have created a HELL on EARTH!Win another term and you’ll set the US back to the 1860s!“
“Oh, great!Another four years!” Trump is a little confused.
Satan laughs so loudly that Trump trembles. “Uh, no. Not happening. You really screwed the pooch–lots of pooches, actually. You do love dogs don’t you, hahahaha? I’d love to have you in the White House four more years! I’d have the biggest bunch of sinners heading to Hell for decades.
“No! No! Those loyal members of my base–the GOP leaders that will vote for me? I will bring the economy back. The COVID-19 will disappear like a miracle,” Trump waves his hand in the air before himself.
“Seriously! They are such fools. The base that you’ve screwed–left, right and sideways. The base that paid more in taxes, didn’t get the promotions or jobs you promised and now the layoffs.And they still support you!” Satan’s belly laugh shakes the ground.
“But . . . but, I’ve done so much for them! They’re going back to work soon–the economy will be the greatest America has ever seen!”
“Oh, sure. You really do believe your own lies, don’t you!You are such a fool–and such a tool. MY tool–a tool for my demons and minions in Congress, most of them Republicans, of course. And those crazy GOP governors that will soon put people back to work–people that will get COVID-19. They all suck up to you just like they’re supposed to. It’s all part of my plan.”
“No! NO! I alone can fix everything! I WILL make America GREAT AGAIN.”
“Nah, you’re toast–burned toast, as in touched by the flames of Hell!Hahahaha–just a little Devilish humor there.So guess what happens when the next coronavirus SURGE comes? Some in your base will get sick and die. Some of their friends and loved ones, may decide to skip voting–or even vote for Biden! SomeRepublicans (or former ones) are already endorsing Biden.Of course, many in your base are so stupid they’ll continue supporting you even as the ventilator puffs away.”
“Well, at least I’ll have my golf courses, hotels and all the rest. I can retire in luxury–once the economy comes back up. My health is great–my doctors tell me so. I have years to enjoy life!” Trump chuckled, briefly, before looking up expectantly at Satan towering over him.
“Well, about that, Donald.When the investigations and the prosecutions end, you won’t have much left. Nothing for Junior, Eric, Ivanka or Jared either. You should expect Mar-a-Lago, among other properties, to be foreclosed on. You, of course, will be in jail. You may hope that you go to a White Collar prison––where you can die safely. Maybe a heart attack, a stroke or some kind of cancer.”
“But, you said I’m your Chosen One? Don’t I get some kind of reward for that? “ A tear forms in Trump’s left eye, then his right–running down his cheeks, leaving white lines in the orange spray-on tan.
“Why yes–and you have!You became President of the United States. You enriched yourself through massive corruption. You doubled the prices at Mar-a-Lago. Made friends with the world’s autocrats,. Received praise and accolades from sycophants galore. But these rewards don’t last. You became rich through your father’s wealth and support, ignorant and without any business acumen!
“NO . . . no more KFC? No more cheeseburgers? No more Fox & Friends, Hannity and the rest? No gold plumbing?
“OH, you are SO delusional Donald!You still aren’t taking this seriously are you? What of your wife? Your youngest son?
“Ah, I’ve had other wives–other women. Who cares! The kid? Had them before too. He’s too young to take over the business anyway.
“For somebody who doesn’t drink or do drugs, you are really tripping, Donald!Let me spell it out for you. The guy upstairs has no use for you. You’re mine when you die. Then you’ll join me and many of your ‘friends’ downstairs.” Satan laughs, sneering. “HELL! That’s your retirement home.”
“Hell?! I am Donald Trump—the man that made America Great Again!“
“Well, yeah–in your mind. In the real world, you are the best recruiter for Hell I’ve had since the leaders of the Third Reich!”
“NO! NO! Surely Jared’s rabbi, Jerry Falwell, Jr.–somebody with a line to God, can get me out of this Hell thing?”
“Really! You’re going to play the network with God card?You really think He cares about YOU?He’s had you on the down elevator list for the last 20 years—three years in the White House put you in the express car, soon as you die!” Satan shrugs.
“Uhhhhhh,”Trump, turning a sickly green is at a loss for words.
“Here’s a sneak preview of your next few millennia:
Upon your arrival, you’ll be serving Mexicans–the ones who really were rapists, murderers and drug dealers. You know, MS-13 types. Ones who had children and family members you put in cages or sent back across the border.
You’ll be cleaning toilets and otherwise pleasing the African Americans who had nothing to lose–except what you did for them as President. That’s just for your time in the White House.
Then there’s all those renters, contractors, women you molested and . . . well, the list goes on.
You should expect pain, humiliation–like you never experienced yourself but didn’t mind letting others feel it.
I know your reading skills are limited (you did have people who took your exams and wrote your papers in college–so I heard), so I suggest you get the audio version of Dante’s Inferno. You will spend a very long time in the lower levels.”