By Lottie Gonzalez-Habes
In New York state, and in Monroe county’s towns, suburbs, and cities, we are witnessing events coming from multiple fronts signaling that America’s democracy is being infiltrated. The ultimate goal is to weaken core beliefs we have established as a nation. The country, granted, is an imperfect union, but it remains a world model for free societies. Infiltration has begun with subtle messaging from bad “actors” entertaining audiences in American living rooms. It has spread, unintentionally, with help from small town radio and television outlets, and it has reached high pitch with the popularity of “people friendly,” technology-driven social media platforms. When voices dare to publicly express an opinion about these infiltration efforts aloud, gullible partisans and the opposition brush concerns aside by labeling it “exaggeration,” “hyperbole,” and other dismissive terms.
History and writers teach us that language has been a most effective weapon when enemies of democracy have attempted and succeeded in subverting societies in other parts of the world. Our American principles of freedom of press, transparency, government accountability, participation, and justice for all peoples are undergoing a brutal attack. The attack, however, is delivered with “soft salesman” tactics. The attack on democracy is reaching American audiences using all the traditional propaganda tools: repetition, smiles, big lies, humor, and appearance of strength, as well as appeals that exploit emotions and grievances some may feel. If this sounds familiar to you as a reader, if we think that what we see happening has happened at another time, or if what we hear taking place even vaguely reminds us of high school level history classes, it is because all of it has happened before in other places to people around the world. Why then doubt that similar infiltration efforts are taking root in our own county, cities, and rural and urban places?
History confirms that a new version of the same ideas (which have destroyed freedoms around the world before) are being introduced in the United States. In 1944 Hideki Tojo, Prime Minister of Japan and Minister of War appropriated powers and promised a “new order in Asia” with his aggressive policies. And never forget how Goebbels, Nazi Minister of Propaganda (1933) believed that “people never rule themselves” and that “rank and file are usually more primitive than we imagine . . . Propaganda must therefore always be essentially simple and repetitious”.
Most valued American principles are being undermined in front of our eyes by Trump’s Republican administration now in power: respect for public service, the right to unionize and organize, public schools, the right to vote and be elected in free elections, having a free and independent press, national security and public safety agencies, equal protection under the law, environmental protections – all are being undermined while we watch. Examples of recent attacks and the dismantling of important American principles are documented and published in local and national media but are too often to be dismissed.
Are we choosing to be spectators or are we going to be defenders? All Democrats, whether we lean or consider ourselves left, centrist, or conservative, must stand in indivisible coalition acting locally to defend ourselves, the nation, its citizens, and those democratic principles we strongly hold.
What can we do?
- Read, listen, and confirm how much damage has already been done with the relaxation of environmental protection policies.
- Understand how recent court decisions have diminished the rights of American workers.
- Examine evidence of how freedom of the press, envied around the world in places where the government rules all media, is now being threatened in the United States, as Trump calls the media “an enemy of the people”.
- Be aware of how students and teachers are the targets of coordinated threats to defund our American public schools by the Secretary of Education.
Here in Rochester it’s time to choose a team. I am not talking about voting for a candidate running for office or choosing a campaign in which to volunteer. The decision is larger. We are called to decide whether we will be spectators on Team Watch, viewing a “reality” spectacle courtesy of Trump’s Republican broadcasting cronies, or are we going to work, resist and act locally in meaningful ways to advance democracy and defeat its enemies. It’s on us: Team Defend!