(Originally published on March 1, 2016 on Medium.com)
We have let this man ride a wave of fear, and whether or not he wins the presidency, his brand of fascism is here to stay for a generation. He may fail, but someone else will be elevated by his followers, and then another, and another.
It’s time to take an honest look at the future. Someday, you may find yourself living in a fascist society.
If you want to figure out how to fight, read someone else’s essay. I’m going to talk about how to cope.
If it happens, don’t waste time pretending it’s not happening. Don’t waste time wishing it didn’t happen. That’s how we got here in the first place.
It’s okay. You can face this without losing sleep or hair. Most people survive even the worst things, and all bad things present opportunities to do good.
Even now, you can think about the possibility of a fascist America, and plan for it, and still tell yourself at the end of the day: in either case, I’m going to be okay.
Organize informal communities, underground communities, and public communities, now, while it’s still a viable option. Fascists tend to come after free speech quickly, and he already likes to say he’ll make it easier to sue the newspapers for libel. It will take a more conscientious effort than usual to keep the culture free and open.
Don’t stop communicating with people who disagree with you, but reserve a portion of your energy for underground discussions with people who do agree. If you continue to have discussions in a pressure free environment, you can continue the exploration of good ideas, planting seeds for the progressive movements of the future.
Organize pragmatically. There’s going to be a lot of premature, stupidly organized protest. There’s going to be a temptation to run out and be a freedom fighter in the first organization you can find. Be patient, and make friends with careful people. Read a lot of history with an eye towards distinguishing useful disobedience and rebellion from useless disobedience and rebellion.
Live with less stuff. Be less of a consumer. This makes you more flexible and less beholden to a system which may hurt you.
Figure out where to hide people.
All that stuff you got rid of leaves you with space to hide people! And yes, it could come to that. He wants to deport Mexicans and Muslims. If you’re not a target, possibly the best thing you can do is provide sanctuary and shelter to people who are.
Think about this: you probably take time to plan for major storms. You have insurance to plan for being sick or injured. You wear safety gear when you do even mildly dangerous things. It’s cheap to plan for hiding people, and the payoff is enormous if you actually have do it.
Take a little time to plan for this possibility.
Actively maintain your ties to other nations.
Do you remember how unpopular America was just a few years ago? Whether he wins or loses, we already look that bad again, and we will look a lot worse if we actually become a fascist nation.
If you have friends in other countries, realize that they may not like America for a while, but they still like you. Keep talking to them, as much as you can. They will need decent Americans to engage with when this wave passes.
Also, it makes us look better.
Humanize the fascists.
Humanize the fascists. Humanize the other. Humanize your family and friends even when they say unspeakable things. Humanize your enemies, humanize the awful people you see on television.
Imagine others complexly. These people are people. They have complex lives, like you. They didn’t sit down and decide to be evil, and they’re not at all evil in their own minds. They have a different perspective and different priorities, and good intentions, and those things still led them down a dark path. Let that be a caution to help you govern your own thoughts, and let it preserve a flame of empathy in you, for everyone.
Fascism is a movement of dehumanization, and you oppose it by doing the opposite, by humanizing.
Believe in something.
Connect to a greater story than your own, preferably one that lasts after your death. It keeps you going. It keeps you happy! It keeps you strong.
Don’t beat them now.
If the worst happens, and we really do find ourselves in a fascist society, do not try to beat the fascists right now. Or next year, or in your youth, or even necessarily in your lifetime.
Historically, fascist movements have tended to run for about a generation each. They rarely end in anything other than violence, whether it be riots or the fall of a horrible regime.
Planning to beat them now is planning to throw yourself away impatiently.
Instead, plan for your children and grandchildren to be the ones who finish this fight. Teach them to be decent people. Train them to fight, if you like, but definitely train them to pick up the pieces and build something better.
Fundamentally, fascism is a hate movement, a cresting wave of hate.
You’ll be tempted to fight it with hate.
It takes a lot longer but the result is better.