Don’t Say a Word

I don’t post political commentary, and that is because I don’t want to deal with the political fall-out that comes from professing one’s allegiances to political parties, or even to positioning oneself along a political spectrum. I often struggle when people are criticized for holding opposing view-points. For example, supporting gun rights, while supporting same sex marriage, or supporting defense funding, while also supporting funds for protecting the environment. I firmly believe that it can be dangerous when we label each other as either Democratic or Republican, and draw lines, when in fact each of us is a mixture of both conservative and liberal view-points.

The current political animosity between the two political parties in the United States of America, my own country has reached new high levels, and much of this is through the growing rancor of name calling and division of countrymen and woman that work and live beside each other.

Much of this has grown to the fever pitch, with the election of Donald Trump, a reality television star, and billion dollar real-estate heir, who rose to frame with his over-the-top villainous personality and pure hatred of the previous President (Barack Obama). What I think, however, that makes Donald Trump so different is that he profoundly disrespects the citizens of the country he oversees. He is misogynistic, leading to the largest protest in American history, the Woman’s March, and hateful of the rule of law through the other branches of government. His enemy is facts and reason, and is a demagogue to the religious minorities of this country, such as Jews, Muslims, Mormons, and Catholics. His America First speech, harkens back to the speeches of Adolf Hitler, and his tighten of border security is nationalistic, much like the nationalistic rise of Hitler and Mussolini in Europe.

In raising my two daughters, I felt conflicted in how to protest the new Trump administration. Most of my friends have lashed out on Social Media, professing their hatred of his policies, while comedians make a mockery of his staff, and poor decisions.

But what about the average person, should we add to the cacophony of protests? and what is the best way to proceed in this rise of nationalistic fascism at the federal level?

In the evenings at bedtime, I read books to my daughters, as much for their enjoyment as mine. And with my hopes that by reading at night I help prepare them for the future. Recently, I’ve selected a book that had a profound effect on me as I was growing up. I read many of the classic holocaust books, such as Ann Frank’s dairy, Uri Orlev’s “The Island on Bird Street.” Watched Steven Spielberg and Steven Zaillian’s movie, “Schindler’s List.”  But none of them had as much of an impact as Barbara Gehrts “Don’t Say a Word,” which is a translation of the German “Nie wieder ein Wort davon?”

What makes the story unique is that it is a true story of the rise of Adolf Hitler and fascism in Europe from the point of view of an average family. The family is troubled by the rise of Hitler, and the growing hatred of Jews in Germany, but is powerless to stop it.  The main character’s mother feels “nauseated” by Hitler’s voice when it comes of the radio, and the family lives in fear, as they try to both be a part of the rise of Nazism, while trying to be decent human beings. I think this is where a lot of us are, we are nice to the people around us, but when it comes to the big world politics of the country, we are quiet. The title “Don’t Say a Word” comes from the secrets the family has to keep in being critical of Adolf Hitler, they are not permitted to speak freely.

In comparing today, with the events of the rise of fascism in the 1930s Europe, there is one big difference, today people are speaking out against the policies of the Trump administration. This is good! I applaud the bravery of my fellow citizens for doing this. Civil protest, and the will of the people keeps the authoritarian rule of the upper class in the chains of people, of democracy. Democracy and the power of the people is what shapes the United States of America, our history is not a glorious progress, but a rough and tumble learning process, and we are still learning.

So if you are shouting at your Facebook feed, crippled by internet trolls, or overwhelmed at the by political posts of your friends that upset you.. speak up. This is how we stop the authoritarian danger of fascism, the alt-right, the neo-nazis, and the white supremacists. Together, with our words, written in the anger of the moment, is not something to be ashamed of, but something that is the right of all. Keep the words flowing, keep the government accountable, protest, and fight for what is right. The free expression of all.

Here are some helpful tips as you wage your protests:

1) Fact check everything: This is actually easy to do, run a couple Google searchers, read into the data, the evidence for the statements. It is really easy and very common today to fake something for ad revenue. The more ads you see on the news story, the more-likely it is not a credible source of information. Note that publications pay money to be placed on the top of a Google search, use Scholar.Google.Com for peer-reviewed papers, that have been vetted by experts. Also don’t share fake news, even if it supports your ideas.

2) Attack policy rather than people: There are people behind the policy, but make sure that it is the ideas that you disagree with, and often someone is going to disagree with you. That is O.K., but it is not O.K. to attack the person, their family, or their sense of safety. Don’t threaten people.

3) Take time out for yourself, and don’t let your anger overcome you. Take a break from Social Media, enjoy a hike, realize that the future will be bright and better. Give yourself hope.

4) Be kind to those around you, and don’t get angry at them when they disagree. Yes, you may be on the right side of history, but hear them out. Find out why they think the way they do. Sympathize with them.

5) Push yourself to learn new things, read about the history of Yemen, or the history of immigration policy in the United States, read the congressional records, and know what bills are being proposed. Read up on American history.

6) Write to your elected officials, meet with groups of like-minded citizens, and have fun!