Obeying in Advance

When Corrupt Trump fired FBI director James Comey presumably to obstruct the investigation into the Russian meddling into the 2016 election and how that might tie to the Trump team, I decided that it was time for me to read Timothy Snyder‘s new book On Tyranny. The week after the election, Snyder’s Facebook post went viral. It summarized his academic work on the transition of democracies into authoritarian regimes into 20 lessons. His book builds on that post.

The first lesson is Do Not Obey in Advance. It confused me. I sensed that somehow it was important and yet I didn’t fully understand it. Snyder gives the example of the Austrian’s lack of reaction to the Nazi’s round-up of Jews shortly after they occupied Austria. Austrians acted as if that was the most normal thing in the world – and the Nazis learned that they could get away with murder, literally in too many cases. I did not see how this applies to our time now.

Over the weekend, I listened to an interview with Snyder. In it he emphasized the importance of Lesson 1. If we obey in advance, none of the other lessons matter. I shared some of that with a friend as we walked. She mentioned her concern over the lack of outrage about ICE raids. It wasn’t until the next morning that I realized the two things are related.

While it is hard to tell whether the raids have already increased because of the new administration (ICE claims otherwise) or our attention to them has, Corrupt Trump’s rhetoric suggests an increased focus on preventing “illegal” immigration (where it is unclear exactly what is deemed illegal, especially since that can have more to do with filling out paperwork incorrectly than with what most would consider crimes). ICE raids are a part of that. There’s also a tipline offered through the newly established Victims of Immigration Crime Engagement (VOICE) office, which is basically a way to engage all of us to go beyond obeying in advance to becoming active collaborators. These newly created office is also putting together a dangerous and possibly illegal database that gives anyone access to personal information of those labeled “alien offenders.”

Clearly, ICE raids are not the Nazi round-ups of Jews. Although the differences might be less than we first think. During the early years of the Nazi regime, Jews were not sent to extermination camps. They were sent East to get them out of the ever-expanding Germany. One of the major differences, though, is that ICE raids have occurred in the past. They didn’t just start with the GOP’s occupation of the White House. “Illegal” immigrants, with a similarly slippery definition of illegality, were targets even under the Obama administration. We have already obeyed in advance – unless we were part of the few white allies who were fighting it.

So what can we do?

First, we can inform ourselves. I didn’t know about the database until I did some research for this post, for example. I didn’t know about what happened during the Obama administration until I immersed myself in information after November 8. I still have a lot to learn!

Second, we can contact our members of Congress and find out how they are fighting this, especially the VOICE office, and what they are doing to ensure ICE is held accountable.

Third, we can get involved with organizations who are actively fighting this, including with the sanctuary city movement. This can range from donating to the ACLU’s rapid response team to getting involved locally (lots of links to resources, including a toolkit, are here). Please share other resources in the comments!






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