My Egyptian wife and I left Cairo and moved to America in 2015 to escape political instability and the personal danger that comes with it. And now, a little more than a year after arriving in what was supposed to be a sanctuary, we find ourselves in the same predicament, in a country that seems to be politically unraveling or exploding or just going to the fucking dogs.
This morning I had a long and heated telephone conversation with my mother, a septuagenarian who lives in a beet red part of a mostly backward southern state. (By the way, calling a state both mostly backward and southern seems to be a tad redundant, don’t you think?) The purpose of my call was to see if she’d read an editorial that had been published on DallasNews.com, the online version of the Dallas Morning News, a daily—one of those old-fashioned things composed of real ink that’s been printed on large sheets of paper—which is destined to eventually go the way of dinosaurs. I’d emailed the article to her several days earlier and had introduced it by saying, “It has come to this in the US—that sober experts, people with real credentials, are actually writing and publishing this sort of stuff.”
By the way, I advise everyone to read the piece at the link and then follow the writer on Twitter @TimothyDSnyder. Snyder is a well-known historian at Yale University who offers advice on what Americans can do to prevent totalitarianism from arising in the US. The underlying premise of the piece is that such ugliness is on its way and that we all need to be planning how to resist it (or at least survive it). If you do read the editorial, you might want to spend the next couple of evenings sleeping with all the lights on. Otherwise, slumbering in the dark after such a reading might cause you to have really terrifying dreams.
My mother said, and I quote, the writer of that article, “has gone off the deep end.” My mom is obviously one of those Americans (of a certain generation) who believe “It can’t happen here.” Because Americans have grown up thinking the nation’s shit don’t stink, many of them can’t recognize seedling fascism/despotism/totalitarianism when it sprouts up right in front of their eyes.
American exceptionalism is something I’ve discussed with her before. The idea is deeply ingrained in her that the nation is somehow protected by something resembling a force field. This weird belief that the US is somehow “chosen” and special is a danger unto itself. The more people who think this nation is immune from fascism and the like, the less likely they are going to be able to see danger and realize that the time to take appropriate action was yesterday.
My mom, it seems, is one of those who is trying to rationalize or normalize what’s happening. For more on the dangers of doing so, listen to the podcast found at the link below.
Anyway, getting back to my conversation earlier today with my mother. Toward the end of our exchange, she said, “I trust the American people to not allow anything like tyranny to happen.”
I asked her, “You mean you trust those same people who voted for a man who ridiculed a handicapped person, called Hispanics rapists and murders, talked about grabbing women by their pussies because his fame allows to get away with such, and has blurred the line between ordinary Muslims and terrorists?”
Of course, my query flummoxed her and thus she didn’t have an immediate comeback. I then followed that question up with a declaration: “Clearly, your faith in the American people seems to be a touch misguided.”
I do think there are good Americans out there and that many of them, like Professor Snyder, are bravely writing about what’s happening, making them something akin to heroes. I’ll have more to say about such types of people in a future blog.