My grandmother was born and raised in Nancy, France. Germany invaded parts of northern and western France in May of 1940. This included my grandmother’s hometown of Nancy. Over the next four years, she would live under a nationalistic and antisemitic puppet government, the Vichy regime, which openly collaborated with the Germans. My great-grandfather, her father, was a member of the French Resistance, the Maquis, and spent a good chunk of time tortured by Gestapo. She remembers the Gestapo coming to her house, and I have used stories of those events to flesh out a lot of the war stories I write, including “The Women of Our Occupation.” I also relate a story here about her and her friends finding a severed foot in a Nazi boot, and note what the consequences could have been for that. My grandparents met during the war. He was an American GI of German descent. He spent a good chunk of his post-war time trucking out bodies from concentration camps.
I grew up knowing all about the very worst that people could do to other people, and also how it came about: in incremental shifts, in normalization of the outrageous, and then suddenly, all at once. I became fascinated by history, especially the history of resistance and revolution. I know too much about tyrants and dictators and the fear that fuels the minority who bolster their ascent to power.
Rebellion is in my blood.
I saw the distinct possibility of this regime change coming, but honestly believed we could preserve the path we’ve been on, the path toward that more hopeful future. Instead, we got close enough to see the glimmer of the light and then watch the darkness fall again. If you ever thought, “What does it look like when fascism comes home to roost?” Like, this is it.
The fascinating part has been watching all of the rationalizations and “Maybe it’s not that bad” and normalization of what is happening now in the wake of a self-identified rapist, racist, and narcissistic demagogue with confirmed ties to a Russian dictator being elected president of a country with more nuclear weapons than any other. I expect it was that way for France, too. “It’s not like we’re REALLY invaded by Germany! I mean, we have a government! It’s not THAT bad. I mean, we just need to give them the Jews and they’ll leave us alone. Ok, and the Roma. And the disabled. And the rebels. And our grandmothers who immigrated here and…. oh shit.”
Oh shit indeed.
We are going to hear a lot of rationalization over the coming days, months, years. The normalization of the things done and said by this regime is going to be fast and furious, because things are going to move so quickly that we won’t be able to keep up with everything. And you are going to hear, as things escalate, a lot of rationalizations. “Yes Muslims need to register but it’s not like they’re going to camps!” and “Yes all immigrants need to go to camps but at least they aren’t being murdered outright!” and “Yes they got rid of ACA but they will totally fix healthcare some other way” and “Yes abortion rights are gone but you can just go to Canada.”
You will hear this a lot.
It’s the same in every country. We rationalize because if we didn’t then we’d have to admit that we need to do something, and that we’ve made a mistake. A lot of voters for this regime, just like those who voted for Brexit, are working furiously to tell us things aren’t that bad and we aren’t giving it a chance when in fact from the very beginning this candidate has told us exactly what he is going to do and exactly what his vision for this country is. There will be no surprises or reversals. This is it. They have stated very clearly what they plan to do, and it will dismantle decades of progressive policy and human rights initiatives. It could also very well lead to the economic breakdown of this country.
I have a chronic illness, and I can tell you right now that as you are all bunkering down preparing for apocalypse, I simply don’t have that “Run away and live in the woods” option anymore. If inflation hits, healthcare regulations are lifted, and trade tariffs destroy access to my meds, I will die. There’s no “Maybe I can wait it out” or “This will be just like Fallout!”
A lot of us are going to die if this goes down the way they have stated they want it to go down.
I am one of them.
So this is very real for me.
Folks have been asking what to do besides despair. I have a solid narrative of rebellion to look back at. It helped me rally and get up Wednesday morning. I imagined my grandmother standing in the streets of France while the tanks rolled in. I imagined my great-grandfather risking torture and death because he knew what was right despite all the people around him saying it was going to be fine, that it would work out and there would totally be checks and balances and hey just give them the Jews or the Muslims or the immigrants…
You get up. You move. You rebel.
So start calling other people out on this. Yes, this means your families, too. Like many, I have demurred during family political squabbles, but we’re no longer talking about tax rates, we’re talking about people’s lives. The repeal of ACA will kill tens of thousands of people a year, and it’s already been stated as high on the list for repeal in January. It’s coming. Conversion therapy for LGBT folks is going to cause suicide rates to skyrocket. And the hate groups have legitimacy now. They will feel emboldened, and they will be attacking and killing people on the streets. This is not alarmist. It’s already happening. When you see members of the KKK out in their full hooded regalia celebrating the election of the new regime, well, you know what? It’s alarming. It’s fucking time to be alarmist. All you need to do to see what they want to do is to go to the regime’s website and look at their stated platform. Watch the recordings of what this guy has said. He told you exactly what he’s going to do. There are no surprises, and this is not hyperbole. This is me stating that they now have the power to act out all the things they intend to do, and as they know, it will be devastating for millions of Americans.
So here’s some stuff you can do:
- First, protect yourself online and off. If you’re targeted by the actual government, this is moot, but my biggest concern on a day to day basis is the regime’s supporters. And all those hate groups and trolls are going to hit and hit hard in the coming months and years. Lock your shit down.
- Second, if you see someone being harassed – especially if you’re white and male – step in and shut it down. Make it clear this is not OK. I have a healthy sense of “fuck you” and have been doing this myself for a decade now, but I know not everyone feels comfortable doing it. But the alternative is your silence, and silence says, “What I see happening is OK with me.” And it will embolden more attacks.
- Third, if he wants to register Muslims? Then let’s ALL register as Muslims. They will have to take all of us.
- Fourth, don’t become despondent. I promise, other countries have gone through things like this and survived. I have been thinking about my grandmother a lot. That said, yes, the danger here is real. Not just from the regime but from all the hate carried by the people who his win have legitimized. This is not a joke, it’s not funny, and it’s very real. Take it seriously. That’s not being alarmist: this shit IS alarming, and it’s going to get worse. So prepare yourself and your loved ones and look out for each other.
- If you are someone who needs help, reach out now and connect with your allies immediately. Have an escape plan and know who to turn to if you are in trouble. If you are someone who can offer a bed to sleep in or a place to go for someone who’s likely to be targeted, raise your hand. We need to take care of each other.
- Finally, if you choose to be loud, accept that bad things may happen to you. I’m well aware that depending on how bad this goes, I am toast. I also know that I can’t sleep at night just running away to Canada or hiding in my house and not speaking up in defense of others and myself. It’s safer to stay head down while other people suffer, and some of you may need to do that, and no one judges you for that. But understand the risks.
There’s going to be lots of people saying everything is fine, including, enragingly, the very Democrats who saw this for what it was too. They keep trying to treat this like a normal election. This is not normal.
Folks. It’s not fine. And you are not crazy for thinking it’s not fine.
Hold onto that, and get ready.