We cannot know what political strategy, if any, can be effective in containing, rather than abetting, the threat that a Trump administration now poses to some of our most fundamental democratic principles. But we can know what is right. What separates Americans in 2016 from Europeans in the 1940s and 1950s is a little bit of historical time but a whole lot of historical knowledge. Armed with that knowledge, or burdened with that legacy, we have a slight chance of making better choices.
Rule #1: Believe the autocrat. He means what he says. Whenever you find yourself thinking, or hear others claiming, that he is exaggerating, that is our innate tendency to reach for a rationalization. This will happen often: humans seem to have evolved to practice denial when confronted publicly with the unacceptable.
Human Rights in Russia: Citizens and the State from Perestroika to Putin
by Mary McAuley
In August the Russian supermodel Natalia Vodianova wrote a bitter post on her Facebook page. The previous day, her twenty-seven-year-old sister Oksana, who has autism and cerebral palsy, was taking a customary walk with her caretaker in Nizhny Novgorod, where she lives. They stopped at a café in a park …
by Sofi Oksanen, translated from the Finnish by Lola Rogers
Viewed from the inside and from below, history is frightfully confusing. The movements of troops and borders that will later be described as orderly, planned, and logical feel simply like waves of violence and fear. They are waves of hope, too, though hope wanes as soon as the confusion subsides …
Limonov: The Outrageous Adventures of the Radical Soviet Poet Who Became a Bum in New York, a Sensation in France, and a Political Antihero in Russia
by Emmanuel Carrère, translated from the French by John Lambert
Eduard Limonov’s first book, published as a “fictional memoir” back in 1983, showed the rarest of talents: the ability to laugh at one’s own insecure, obnoxious, angry, and overbearing self. It’s Me, Eddie begins with a rant describing the main character living in squalor—we first see him eating sour cabbage …
by Sergei Dovlatov, translated from the Russian by Katherine Dovlatov, with an afterword by James Wood
In a less punishing country than Russia, Sergei Dovlatov would have been a popular writer whose revolutionary approach to writing would have been obscured by the lightness of tone, brevity, and apparent simplicity of most of his work. The public would have loved him, but most critics would have been disdainful of the vulgarity of his characters’ language and the apparently autobiographical nature of most of his writing. But Dovlatov lived in the Soviet Union, where his fiction could not be published, so he was denied the popularity he deserved.
More than any previous election in history, this year’s contest has been dominated by charges of lying and mistruths on both sides. Our allegiance to a fact-based reality has been constantly challenged. But conspiracy theories work on a different level than mere lies. They are impossible to disprove: they cannot be fact-checked because their central tenets are conjectures rather than facts. Debates spawned by conspiracy theories become fruitless arguments about beliefs, and merely by having them, we gradually elevate these theories from assertion to assumption.
Trump is not a foreign agent, controlled by Putin. He is a thoroughly American creation that poses an existential threat to American democracy. Now that Trump has become the Republican nominee—and has pulled even or even slightly ahead of Clinton in the most recent polls—it is time to force ourselves to imagine the unimaginable: Trump as elected president of the United States.
The declaration of war that invariably follows every act of terrorism is exactly what the perpetrators seek. The message of the terrorist is, “I matter. My cause matters. My hatred matters. My ability to act matters.” We respond by saying, “Yes, you matter.” We do not glorify other violent criminals this way.
The Italian graphic novelist Igort went to Ukraine in 2008 and stayed for nearly two years. He met people at marketplaces and on country roads, and drew their lives. The living voices and the vivid images in his book are those of the powerless.