Dr. Timothy Snyder: Lessons On Fighting Tyranny

I often refer to things Dr. Timothy Snyder says. Snyder is a history professor at Yale University who specializes in the history of fascistic and authoritarian movements around the world. He has been a welcome and important voice at a time when the United States is witnessing attacks on our democracy from the Republican Party, both within and outside of government.

Snyder recently took to X (formerly Twitter) to talk about comments made by Donald Trump during a political rally in Dayton, OH last weekend. In his speech, Trump referred to people imprisoned for their role in the January 6 attack on the Capitol as “political prisoners” and “hostages.” He even stood and saluted while a revamped version of the “National Anthem” played over loudspeakers. The alternative version of the “National Anthem,” re-named “Justice for All,” was sung by the J6 Prison Choir and featured the voice of Trump himself reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.

It’s hard to put into words how sickening and un-American this all is, but Trump wasn’t finished yet. During his address to the gathered crowd, Trump predicted that there would be a “bloodbath” in the country if he does not win the Presidential Election this November. Snyder recognized the scene as something straight out of Nazi Germany. Here’s what he said:

“The thing Trump did in Dayton – celebrating his fascist movement’s dubious “martyrs” – is exactly what Goebbels and Hitler did between the Nazis’ failed coup and their seizure of power. Their song was called the Horst Wessel Song. 

“The Nazis were obsessive about being the victims. Once in power they put up monuments to their “martyrs.” They sang their Horst Wessel Song as they conquered countries and killed millions to say that they, the Nazis, were the real victims and therefore always innocent. 

“Trump’s claim that his people are hostages and political prisoners is meant to justify endless revenge on whomever he wishes as soon as he is in power. That is how this martyrdom thing works. We know it from the history of fascism.

“Trump promised a ‘bloodbath for the country’ if he’s not elected president. Then followed the predictable bout of (self-)deception, claiming Trump’s bloodbath (comment) was out of context…Trump is telling them (and us) that he doesn’t really plan to win the election. As he did in 2016, as he did in 2020, he is telling us that the vote count does not decide the issue for him.”

In his book, On Tyranny, Snyder lays out a 20-point plan to address and defeat the type of anti-democratic efforts being put forth by Trump and his supporters. He begins his book with these words:

“Americans are no wiser that the Europeans who saw democracy yield to fascism, Nazism, or communism. Our one advantage is that we might learn from their experience. Now is a good time to do so.”

In the coming weeks, I will share the 20 lessons Snyder includes in his book. Each lesson will be accompanied by a video Snyder did designed to expand his thoughts and further explain each lesson.

Although I’m incredibly grateful to Snyder for writing the book and creating the video lessons, I’m heartbroken and horrified that we in the United States find ourselves at a place where such a book and video lessons are necessary.

The series on fighting tyranny will begin on Monday, March 25. Each Monday for the next ten weeks, I’ll feature two of Snyder’s 20 lessons. I hope you’ll follow along.


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