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.

I’m learning how to use a gun.

I’m not thrilled about this.  I wish this wasn’t the reality I was living in.  But reality is what it is, not what I wish it would be.

Now, I’m about as far away from a fanatical gun nut as you can get.  I was raised in Europe, and there were almost no guns around when I was a kid.  The countries I lived in had very strict gun control laws, and I’m glad they did.  I continue to be a strong supporter of strict gun control laws.

But the American culture I live in is full of guns.  My neighborhood is full of guns–almost all of my neighbors have them.  Even though Portland is very progressive, there’s a strong gun tradition here in Oregon.  It doesn’t seem smart to be the only one without.

And there’s something scary brewing in this country.

Maybe this feeling has come over me because I’ve been watching the BLM protests, and the armed militias which have started showing up–and which seem to be supported by the police.  There is, of course, 17-year-old (!!!) Kyle Rittenhouse who killed two people and injured one person at the Kenosha protests, after having been given water and thanked for being there by the local cops.  In my own neck of the woods, Portland police basically allowed Proud Boys and other right-wing groups to run wild last weekend, to beat people up and point guns at them, including one guy who had a warrant out for his arrest…but was permitted to show up at the protest and then walk away.  Once the right-wingers were gone, the police declared a riot and tear gassed the protesters who remained.

Maybe I’m feeling this way because I’ve made the painful mistake of actually listening to the Republican convention this week.  I’m hoping this grave error doesn’t cost me my marriage, by the way.  Every time my poor husband walked into my office and heard one of the Trump-bots talking, he would clutch his head in horror and flee.  Thank goodness it’s over.  But it didn’t improve my mood to hear the President’s fans making hysterical speeches about how he is the only one who is standing between America and the country’s destruction by the radical left.  That is cult of personality talk, that is dictatorship talk.  It raises the temperature, and it makes me suspect that even if Joe Biden wins, we will have crazies on our hands who will be on a mission to “save America” from the rest of us.

Back in the day, when I was a bit more naive, I was one of those people who would have said “Well, if anything happens, I’ll just call 911, right?”  Unfortunately, everything that has happened recently has made me question how much we can trust our policing system.  Obviously, I realize that since I’m white, I don’t even know the half of it.  And I’m also pretty sure there are individual police officers who are genuinely wonderful people.  But when I see that instances of police brutality against black people just keep coming, and then when I see the police seemingly taking the side of armed vigilantes at protests, that worries me.

And if you visit any Facebook group or other online forum where these militia-type groups gather, you will see them discussing, with great excitement, the possibility of civil war and violent conflict in our near future.  This certainly didn’t start with Trump–I remember these same types threatening secession and armed insurrection all through the Obama years.  And I’m sure there are many big-bellied keyboard warriors involved, who may talk a lot, but would never get off their couch long enough to start a war.  Still, one theme is repeated over and over again in these discussions–it’ll be great when the shit hits the fan, because we’re the ones who have all the guns, and the “libtards” will be sitting ducks.

I used to dismiss that as idle chatter from incels stroking their own egos, but now that fanatical Trump-worship has been added to the mix, my perspective has shifted.  If the fascists ever decide to come for me, I don’t want to be defenseless.  Now, I’m not about to start doing stupid, showy things.  I’m not going to start showing up in public places or at public events wearing large machine guns.  That is just plain dumb and it’s asking for trouble–kind of like that St. Louis couple who decided to come out of their large mansion and wave their weapons at protesters, with their finger on the trigger.  But I will have a chance to defend myself if anyone ever enters my home with ill intentions.

I’m interested to hear opinions from others about this.  More and more, my point of view is shifting to the belief that the left should be armed, so that if the country slides into some ugly form of totalitarianism, we’re not completely helpless.  Or is that something that will just cause more problems and stoke more violence?  Obviously, my preference would be that we just vote Biden into office and the Trumpster phenomenon quietly dies away.  And that is what I will be working for all this upcoming fall.

But at least for now, I’m a reluctant gun owner.

 

 

 

 

I have to admit, I must be one of the, like, five people on this planet who found Clint Eastwood’s schtick yesterday to be kind of amusing.  And that even though I completely disagree with him politically.  Obviously, even the Republicans and the Romney campaign are busy running away from that incident like it was a bad sewage spill, so I’m in a tiny minority on this.

I think the reason why I enjoyed the empty chair conversation is precisely the same reason that everyone else considers it a mistake–the fact that it was off the cuff, unscripted.  The conventions–and politics in general–have become such a tightly controlled, artificial show.  This is probably why the parts of the Republican convention which got a positive reception–Ann Romney’s speech, the Romney promotional video–left me cold.  These were the moments which went exactly according to script.   Wasn’t there a time when conventions included brawls and fisticuffs on the convention floor?  If only we could go back to those days.  It would make for a lot better TV watching, at least.

Granted, debating an imaginary opponent will always make you look silly.  After all, you can put any words in their mouth…which Clint certainly did.  It’s easy to berate an invisible Obama.  As a supporter of the President, I can imagine he would have much more relevant responses if he were there in person.  I still thought the rambling conversation was pretty funny.  As far as the implied swearing, well, I can see why people would find it offensive.  I know the President doesn’t swear in public…but then again, I’m of the opinion that politicians, and the rest of us, would be a lot healthier if we would swear a little more often.

Maybe the problem is that a personality like Clint’s doesn’t fit into a setting like the convention, and maybe the people who invited him to participate should have known this.  The audience seemed to enjoy it, but these are the same people who enjoy being told that Medicare will be privatized, so the fact that I liked the same speech they did might just mean that I’m living in Crazytown too.

Whatever the case, I’m secretly hoping that at next week’s Democratic convention they will have Joy Behar or Oprah giving a stern chiding to an invisible Mitt in an empty chair.  Unfortunately, the Obama campaign is smarter than that.