OP-ED: The Worst Kind of Déjà Vu
By Karolina Newcombe, WashCo Dems Communications Committee
In a different world, a long time ago, a little girl and her family were experiencing a country in crisis.
In this country, there were long lines in front of grocery stores, with people waiting for hours, often only to be told that the food in the store had run out. The government issued ration cards for how much food each person could receive, and there was real anxiety about where our next meal was coming from. There were tanks on our streets, and Soviet tanks waiting on our border, just in case they were needed to come in and help crush anti-government resistance.
And there were many, many people out on the streets protesting the government, including members of my family. The protesters were met by the military and the police. They were tear gassed and clubbed. Some of them were shot.
This was life in the Communist Poland of my childhood. But you would never know any of this was happening if you watched official state television.
We had only two channels on our black-and-white TV, but if you turned one of them on, you would see cheerful citizens, who would never even think of complaining. You would see interviews with farmers who were excited to work for the socialist state. Speeches from government officials about our glorious future, during which everyone in the audience clapped enthusiastically, because they knew they had to. And of course, proud military parades, accompanied by much flag-waving.
And the protesters? Their existence was rarely acknowledged, but when it was, they were described in no uncertain terms. They were anarchists. They were violent troublemakers. They were drug addicts and criminals.
I made the mistake last week of watching parts of the Republican convention. What I saw gave me a sinking feeling of the worst kind of déjà vu.
Once again, my family and I are living in a country in crisis. Thousands are dead of a badly mismanaged pandemic. Our economy is on the verge of collapse, with mass job losses and business closures and evictions looming on the horizon, or already here. We see example after example of violent police brutality against Black Americans, and people are out on the streets protesting systemic racism. And armed militias are now showing up at those protests, threatening and, at least in one case, shooting and killing protesters, with seeming support or indifference from the police.
But you would never know any of this was happening if you watched the RNC. Here, the pandemic was mentioned in past tense, and since it’s practically over, the economy is about to bounce back! The convention was full of happy nurses who were not experiencing PPE shortages, and happy people of color who don’t get discriminated against. We got the requisite moving story of the prisoner who had repented and reformed, and the cop who became his lifelong friend. And then there was the parade of shiny-faced Trump family members, telling us about how caring and compassionate this President is, how much he respects women and loves to put them in positions of power. All this accompanied by many uniforms and much flag-waving.
According to the RNC, the biggest danger in our country right now is the “cancel culture” ushered in by liberals, which might cause a few people to unfollow you on Twitter.
To my American friends, please take this as a warning from someone who would know: YES. This is a tipping point. Every time you hear another speech about how Trump is the “only one” who can protect America, you should be very afraid. That is pure dictatorship talk.
If Trump wins re-election, that really could damage what remains of our democratic system beyond repair–or damage it so severely that it will take generations to fix it. There are also fundamental problems with American society that have existed for a long time, like systemic racism and big money in elections, but we will not be able to work on any of them if our country slides into full-on totalitarianism.
My family was able to survive a totalitarian state once, and we don’t want to have to do it again. We need to work to get Trump out of office like we have never worked before. I’m ready to do my part. I don’t want any more of this kind of déjà vu.
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