Tuesday, July 28, 2020

"On Tyranny" by Timothy Snyder

Just 126 pages, featuring well-spaced, generously sized type, "On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century"  by Timothy Snyder is a slim little volume, but it packs a powerful punch. It's been in my TBR pile for a while now, and I was reminded to pick it up when I read this recent New York Times column by Michelle Goldberg, about recent events on the streets of Portland, Oregon. It begins:

"The month after Donald Trump’s inauguration, the Yale historian Timothy Snyder published the best-selling book “On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons From the Twentieth Century.” It was part of a small flood of titles meant to help Americans find their bearings as the new president laid siege to liberal democracy.

"One of Snyder’s lessons was, “Be wary of paramilitaries.” He wrote, “When the pro-leader paramilitary and the official police and military intermingle, the end has come.” [emphasis mine] In 2017, the idea of unidentified agents in camouflage snatching leftists off the streets without warrants might have seemed like a febrile Resistance fantasy. Now it’s happening." 

I dug out my copy, and started reading. 

As the subtitle suggests, the book outlines 20 lessons derived from 20th century history of how democracies have given way to the tyranny facism, Nazism and communism, in language that is clear, simple and direct. (Sample lesson/chapter titles: "Do not obey in advance... Defend institutions... Believe in truth... Investigate... Listen for dangerous words... Be calm when the unthinkable arrives... Be as courageous as you can.")   

"History does not repeat, but it does instruct," Snyder writes in the prologue.  

"History can familiarize, and it can warn." 

It is chilling to read this little book, and realize how just how many of the things Snyder warned about in this book have come to pass in the United States, in just three short years. 

Read it. And, if you're American, get out and vote this fall.  

Be as courageous as you can.

Five stars on Goodreads. 

This was Book #24 read to date in 2020 (Book #6 finished in July). I'm currently at 80% of my 2020 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 30 books, and am (for the moment, anyway...!) 7 books ahead of schedule to meet my goal. :) You can find reviews of all my books read to date in 2020 tagged as "2020 books."  

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