Yes, good things come in small packages. And in this case, only cost $5.26 (from Amazon).
Snyder never mentions Donald Trump by name. But his frequent references to "the president" make it clear about the tyrant he's warning us about.
This is the most astounding thing about Snyder's book: that he wrote it.
Now. After Trump's election. To alert Americans to the danger of tyranny arising in our liberal democracy that, until recently, was generally felt to be immune to what befell Germany in the 1930's.
Being 68, I have memories of many U.S. presidents. John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan. George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Barack Obama. And now, Donald Trump.
Before these Trumpian times I never worried seriously that our democracy was in danger.
I opposed much of what Republican presidents like Reagan and Bush (the W. variety) sought to inflict on our country. But this all seemed within the bounds of normal political goings-on. Conservative presidents try to achieve right-wing ends. Liberal presidents try to achieve left-wing ends.
Back and forth we go between right and left while the all-important institutions that guarantee our constitutional democracy carry on regardless of who is in power.
Well, Snyder shocked me out of that complacency -- even though I already knew that Trump was a whole different sort of president. Here's an excerpt from his final chapter:
Until recently we Americans had convinced ourselves that there was nothing in the future but more of the same. The seemingly distant traumas of fascism, Nazism, and communism seemed to be receding into irrelevance. We allowed ourselves to accept the politics of inevitability, the sense that history could move in only one direction: toward liberal democracy.
After communism in eastern Europe came to an end in 1989-91, we imbibed the myth of an "end of history." In doing so, we lowered our defenses, constrained our imagination, and opened the way for precisely the kinds of regimes we told ourselves could never return.
Unfortunately, they're back. And not in some third-world country led by an autocratic ruler. Snyder uses historical examples in his 20 short chapters to show that right here in the United States we face authoritarian dangers in this Age of Trump.
I encourage you to read "On Tyranny."
Even if you think you're aware of the threat Trump poses to our liberal democracy, believe me, Timothy Snyder will wake you up even more, big time. Here's some additional excerpts from the book that I especially liked.
Stand out. Someone has to. It is easy to follow along. It can feel strange to do or say something different. But without that unease, there is no freedom. Remember Rosa Parks. The moment you set an example, the spell of the status quo is broken, and others will follow.
Believe in truth. To abandon facts is to abandon freedom. If nothing is true, then no one can criticize power, because there is no basis upon which to do so. If nothing is true, then all is spectacle. The biggest wallet pays for the most blinding lights.
Do not obey in advance. Most of the power of authoritarianism is freely given. In times like these, individuals think ahead about what a more repressive government will want, and then offer themselves without being asked. A citizen who adapts in this way is teaching power what it can do.