22. He may be coming for you
Fear has gripped the United States before. The September 11 attacks in 2001, for instance, and various Cold War events such as the Cuban Missile Crisis and the launch of Sputnik produced widespread feelings of dread among the American people. Each of those instances originated largely in a single occurrence and involved perception of a very specific threat. Today, the level of fear is of a different character. It is more diffuse in origin and involves a variety of diverse threats. Fear is not easy to quantify, but it seems to be currently at a level unprecedented in the modern era. Though its particulars vary among individuals and groups, it has one common denominator. His initials are DT.
It is important to note that DT is not the only threat to the US or the world at this time. Though his response to the pandemic has been grossly inept and ineffectual, it would still be here without him. So would the climate emergency, racism, murderous police officers, violent militias, and millions of unregistered firearms. It should be noted, however, that DT has exacerbated each of these problems through his actions or inactions. We also are on the brink of a constitutional crisis almost entirely of his own making: the 2020 election. If he is declared the winner, he will no longer have any reason to rein in his baser instincts even a little. Some people are terrified of this, and that’s understandable.
Who’s at risk if DT gets another term? Some of us face more immediate threats than others. Black and Latinx people are among those most at risk, both from government policies and lawless elements in the larger population that DT has encouraged rather than curbed. LGBT people, especially transgender people, are also at the top of the list. Political dissidents including actual nonviolent protesters (i.e., not DT rally attendees) are at great risk. So are journalists, particularly ones who work for mainstream or progressive outlets reporting accurately on DT. Women, especially low-income women needing reproductive healthcare, face major threats. Asian Americans are at risk. Seniors and low-income people on Medicare and Medicaid, respectively, are at risk. Asian Americans and Native Americans are at risk. Muslims are at risk. Democrats, especially those who are prominent or outspoken, are at risk.
These aren’t phantom threats or mild threats to livelihoods; they are serious threats to people’s lives and liberty. DT’s rhetoric has emboldened a number of angry, armed Americans to commit acts of violence, and there is no reason to believe that the rhetoric and the acts it provokes won’t continue if he is reelected. In fact, it seems rather likely they will increase. His policies have resulted in a great deal of unnecessary death and suffering, with next to no accountability. It seems likely that he will double down on those policies, and enact new ones, if given the opportunity. Let us hope that enough voters understand this to ensure that the US doesn’t continue further down the road to fascism by granting DT a second term.
Two wise Martins
People are often so wrapped up in their own concerns that they don’t realize the risk to themselves when someone other than themselves is the initial target of a dangerous demagogue like DT. But when a government is employing fascist tactics, no one is safe.
Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.—Martin Luther King, Jr.
Good people—that is, people with a strong sense of ethics and justice—will object when they see their fellow Americans become the targets of oppression. They, in turn, will become targets because they are known to have objected. But those who don’t object are also at risk. Fascism is like a hungry monster that ends up trying to devour everything in its path. Even DT’s core supporters should understand that he won’t need them anymore if he’s reelected, and once their usefulness is done, they’ll become expendable.
First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a socialist.—Martin Niemöller
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out— because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
If DT stays in office another four years, the foundations of American democracy will continue to crumble, and everyone will be at risk. Vote as if your life depends on it. It may well.