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.

“Well, are you ready for a fairy tale?”

“Oh, yes!  Things have been so depressing lately.  Tell me a good one, Uncle Fox!”

“Once upon a time, there was a future President who was born deep in the African savannah, under the acacia trees.  From the time he was a little boy, it was his goal to bring the Islamic faith to the American nation.  As a young man, he made the long, perilous journey from Kenya to America.  His Marxist mentors were already waiting here for him.  They subjected him to the toughest kind of mental training, until he was turned into the perfect instrument of subversion.  When he was ready, his handlers helped him infiltrate the Senate.  Little did the American people know that a fascist dictator would soon be unleashed upon them…”

“But I thought he was a Marxist…”

“Shhhhh!  Don’t ruin the story!  Remember, this is a fairy tale.  Now, do you want me to go on or not?”

“Yes, yes!  I’ll be quiet, I promise!”

“The young politician had strong black magic at his disposal…haha, see what I did there?”

“Hehehe!  You’re so politically incorrect, Uncle Fox!”

“Don’t I know it!  He used his magical spells to create all sorts of things out of thin air–cell phones, food stamps, birth control pills…  He enchanted the voters by showering them with free gifts.  He turned them into sheep and they elected him to the presidency.”

“Oh, no!”

“They were under his spell–they were unable to resist him.  And so, the long dark years of the new President’s reign began.  The people of the nation suffered…”

“Ooh, ooh!  Tell me about all the terrible things that happened.  Did they lose their jobs?”

“Well, actually…the economy improved.  But not as much as it could have!  Also, the President gave more people health insurance…”

“That doesn’t sound so bad…”

“Just wait, it gets worse!  There were weddings all over the land…”

“I love weddings!”

“But these were gay weddings!”

“Eep!”

“See what I mean?”

“Uncle Fox, I know another bad thing that this President did!  Mama told me that he used drone strikes to hit innocent people…”

“Silly bunny…drone strikes are a good thing!  Stop messing up my story!”

“Keep going, Uncle Fox…”

“Misery and evil descended upon the country.  Thankfully, there was a small band of brave Tea Party warriors who were willing to stand up against the dictator…”

“Wow!  What did they do?”

“Let me tell you!  They took out their…”

“Swords!”

“…flag pins!  They put on their patriotic flag pins, and they rallied with American flags and anti-Medicare signs.  They even dressed up as the Founders!”

“Awesome!”

“They were armed and ready!  When the time came, they pulled out their guns and…”

“And??”

“…took selfies with them!  They shared Facebook memes!  These were true freedom fighters.  We don’t have men like that around anymore.”

“Sigh…”

“Finally, the dictator’s eight-year term was about to come to an end, and the patriots were ready to breathe a sigh of relief.  But then the thing they had always feared came to pass.  The population of America was so mesmerized by its smart phones, they didn’t notice getting microchipped in the neck by the government.  Also, the military was easily able to go door to door and confiscate all the guns, since the gun owners were too busy blogging in their underwear about how they were going to assassinate the politicians they didn’t like.  The FEMA camps had waited around for years, but now, they were going to be used…”

“I’ve heard all about the FEMA camps!  What did the patriots do?”

“After the microchipping, they could no longer fight, so it seemed all hope was lost.  But God was on their side!  And so was a giant bald eagle!  The eagle grasped a nuclear bomb in its talons and dropped it on the dictator, annihilating him.  As the smoke of the explosion cleared, Jesus appeared in the clouds and appointed a new President, a godly one who would restore this nation to its biblical foundation of huge mansions and strippers with big hair.  President Cruz would rule the land in peace and liberty…”

“So all those stories about the voting machines malfunctioning in 2016 and President Cruz stealing the election are untrue?”

“Of course they are!  Those are all liberal lies.”

“And the stuff about our wages going lower and our pension funds getting stolen?”

“Don’t you worry your little bunny head about that nonsense!  Now that a real American is President again, we’re going to live happily ever after in the land of the free…”

“Awwwww, Uncle Fox!  You tell such nice stories.”

“Now hop along to the meadow, little one!  We need to fatten you up…I mean, make sure you’re healthy and well!”

“I’m on my way, uncle!  Thank you for everything and have a good night!”

“Sweet dreams, bunny!”

All day long, I’ve been listening to conservatives accusing Obama of looking weak over Syria.  He has been too indecisive, he has changed his mind…  If only he was a stronger leader, then they might be able to respect him.

Yeah, right.  What complete bullshit.  I can only imagine the hysterical outcry that would be happening right now if Obama had been a Bush-style, more decisive leader on this.  For instance, if he had not consulted Congress over Syria and had just gone in.  We would be hearing discussions all day long about Obama being a dictator and about FEMA camps.  How dare he not consult Congress!  He is trampling on the Constitution yet again!  It would be another one of those days when, if you’re a right-wing radio listener, you retreat to your basement to polish your guns.

One of the dilemmas this President has to deal with is that he cannot appear to be too strong.  He’s already considered a dictator for passing the moderate Republican health care plan.  I’m no fan of military involvement in Syria, but I suppose at least I can be grateful that the President hasn’t been too much of a “decider”.  There is only so much right-wing hysteria I can take.