We also don’t know – and maybe this is the scariest part – how all this will impact us, personally. I am guessing for most people in the United States, the impact will be small. They are the privileged ones who have the skin-color and economic position to simply ignore what is happening around them. They might get upset if their favorite store closes but are oblivious about people disappearing. If people disappear that is. Those of us who are either outspoken or don’t have the right skin-color, that is, aren’t white, or correct economic position (not wealthy) or in some other way don’t fit what is considered “good American,” face at minimum attacks via the internet. These attacks can range from trolls making online life rather uncomfortable to actual physical attacks, endangering people’s lives. We don’t know how much police and the legal system will cooperate with crack-downs (given how much they already are, it’s likely they will continue). We will not know where it is safe and where it isn’t, which reminds me of a point someone made in a documentary about the Prague uprising: You get used to living with fear.
Maybe at bottom is the question of truth: What is true and what is false? We have already seen the dangerous impact of “fake news,” although, as I’ve pointed out, this is just the tip of the iceberg of a misinformation campaign designed to confuse right from wrong. This is one reason scholars of authoritarianism implore us to write down our values. This is also why it is important to deepen connections to people we know, especially locally. We can help each other to stay true to ourselves.
And then, who knows, maybe we’ll be lucky and things won’t get as bad as many of us fear. Authoritarian regimes are notorious for using slipper slopes, slowly, and often unnoticed, expanding their powers and the crimes they commit. The most important thing for us, then, is to remain vigilant, to observe, to question – despite fear and uncertainty or maybe because of it.