Loyalty.

“Authoritarian states are typically not governments of laws, but governments of leaders, who demand loyalty from their subjects and are hostile to dissent.”

Edward Snowden, “Permanent Record”

I’ve been reading Edward Snowden’s biography, “Permanent Record”. I’m around 6/10ths of the way through the book and I’m finding it a fascinating read. The book is written well, paints the intended picture well, and is not dry in anyway.

The quote above is mentioned in a discussion around online privacy in general, which is something I will be blogging about soon, and I couldn’t help but reflect on the need for this reminder today.

The country side of my family is mostly Republican. The rural roots of the family tree lends itself to this type of thinking, and until the 21st century, I subscribed to much of the thinking of my family: work hard, contribute more than you take from society, and obey the law. Taxes suck. Use your money wisely. I still believe in all these things.

My mom and dad would have a little tension between them on Voting Day, as I know my Dad would pretty much click his way along the “R” in the mechanical voting booth whereas my Mom would take her time and make choices she wouldn’t later discuss all that much. My parents rarely talked politics as it was part of the “big three” what I’ll call ‘hesitant’ discussion points: Politics, Religion, and Homosexuality. My dad didn’t say much and when he did say stuff it rarely had much to do with the “big three”. But I always had this feeling he had an expectation his spouse would follow along with clicking on the “R” and my mother was a more independent thinker, being from the ‘big’ city of Syracuse.

I still believe in working hard, contributing more than you take from society, and obeying the law. Outside of breaking the speed limit, there are very few things I purposely do to break the law. And in my naïveté I’ve always believed this is how the legacy Republican party behaved. I vividly recall a scene on the 1970s sitcom “Maude” where Bea Arthur’s Maude and Conrad Bain’s Arthur are having a discussion about a gay bar. Arthur is trying his hardest to get the gay bar shut down because he doesn’t believe there should be such a thing in the neighborhood. The thing is, when he finds out the gay bar is not breaking any laws he drops the fight.

Because as a Republican he believes in the law, the Constitution, and upholding the law of the Constitution. The dialog of this episode describes my understanding of Republican beliefs beautifully.

So what happened to the Republican party?

The number of people I know that have jumped on the Trump train wreck boggles my mind. Trump breaks the law. Often. Trump has always broken the law and he has done his best over the years to do less than his law-required share of paying taxes, following due process, etc. Trump demands loyalty to him, not to the country.

Read the quote again. Loyalty to a leader is not part of the democratic process. It is the demand of an authoritarian.

Do we really want to continue this trend to an authoritarian state?

I’ve been watching the Democrats’ nomination process for who is going to run in 2020 and there’s a part of me that wonders if the Democratic Party is doing their best to hand the election over to this Authoritarian again. I don’t have answers; I’m basically bitching from the cheap seats, but if I had the answers I would run for office.

Let’s face it, the U.S. government became terrified on 9/11, and they want everyone terrified. The country went crazy the moment the Twin Towers came down and we have never recovered from it. I’m doubtful I’ll ever see a pre-9/11 version of the United States again in my lifetime. We might start to turn things around but it will take decades to get us back where we used to be.

I don’t have the answers, but I know pledging loyalty to a leader, or even blindly to one political party, is not going to take us where we need to go.

We are better than this. We need to start acting that way. More importantly, we need to start expecting better from the people we vote for.

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