ABOUT THE BOOK:
On November 9th, millions of Americans woke up to the impossible: the election of Donald Trump as president. Against all predictions, one of the most-disliked presidential candidates in history had swept the electoral college, elevating a man with open contempt for democratic norms and institutions to the height of power.
Timothy Snyder is one of the most celebrated historians of the Holocaust. In his books
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On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century by Timothy Snyder
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the twentieth Century by Timothy Snyder is a 2017 Tim Duggan Books publication.
As a Professor of History at Yale University, Professor Snyder uses his expertise to lay out the importance of learning from the mistakes made throughout history, and to warn against a cavalier attitude towards the strength of our own democracy.
The author lists habits we need to develop, and continually practice, in order to protect ourselves and our country, from falling prey to tyrannical regimes. He teaches us how to pick up on subtle changes, and how to recognize the signs and symptoms of tyranny and authoritarianism. He also advises us on what to do or not to do if the worst does happen.
Naturally, the release of this book begs many people in the United States to make comparisons to our current political climate. But, the trouble isn’t simply one for America. The current trend towards nationalism will remind many of another time when “America First” was a slogan and how the isolationism the world was gripped in was the perfect set up for powerful dictators and of course, we all know how that turned out. Still, we have often believed those days are long over with, and our democracy would never again regress or weaken.
Many have used this book to make comparisons between Trump and Hitler, which the author doesn’t discourage out of hand, but, the book was not written solely for that purpose. The book teaches that democracies can fail, and how they fail, and the lessons we should learn from history and those failures.
The lessons outlined here include many habits we should form and stick to, no matter how progressive or peaceful things are in our country or with our relationships with other countries.
I personally believe our complacency in taking for granted our democracy is safe, is a dangerous attitude to adopt, under any circumstances.
I didn’t always agree with everything the author suggested. I’m an extreme introvert, so I doubt I will ever force myself to 'get out there' and 'engage in small talk'. I also enjoy social media, like Goodreads, for example, and I love technologies and the internet, so again, I doubt I will ever deliberately dial back my time spent online.
However, many of the other suggestions the author urges the reader to try, are things I already do. I don’t have cable, so mainstream media talking heads aren’t constantly infiltrating my head, which keeps those trendy catchphrases out of my vocabulary as well. I read print papers, and read lots and lots of books, which is advice I can get behind.
The author does offer up a few suggested fiction and nonfiction titles that tie into his philosophies, and I do intend to read a few of them.
I believe the author offers sound advice. If you learn the mistakes made by failed democracies, learn your history, make yourself aware, learn to think for yourself, I believe you will have equipped yourself with enough intellect and armor to make informed choices and be prepared for the worst case scenario.
“If none of us is prepared to die for freedom, then all of us will die under tyranny”
I hope people will not view this book simply as a comparison between Trump and Hitler, because while it may be difficult not to make those parallels right now, this book is one that reminds us that ‘History doesn’t repeat, but it does instruct’. It is a book that will be important, and relevant, not just for the here and now, but for all future eras of time, as well.
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