I’ve been thinking a lot about what it says on the Washington Post website: “Democracy dies in darkness.” Something about that never felt right. When we look at what is happening in society in the United States and around the world, we can clearly see that democracy dies right in front of us. It dies in broad daylight. And as I’m thinking about democracy and its death, I’m thinking about what’s happening right now in Florida with Ron DeSantis and his followers there. I’m thinking about how they’re trying to pass the “Ultimate Cancel Act” to completely ban the Democratic Party in addition “Don’t say gay” bills, banning African American AP courses, removing books about Black, Brown, and Jewish people from school, and more. The largest attack on democracy in recent years in America is demonstrated by the ending of Roe v. Wade. None of us woke up and watched any of this. It happened right in front of our faces.
When I think more deeply about democracy dying, I’m thinking about the extreme lengths conservatives are engaging in to ensure that people are not able to celebrate their sexuality. I’m thinking about Republicans like DeSantis who say that they are pro-business, but how he’s working to destroy Disney or how he’s created his own electoral police forceand how they went out there and arrested mostly Black people who thought they had the right to vote in order to make an example. This is how democracy dies. And I’m thinking about how many people are going along with it. This is how democracy dies. I think about all the actions that Trump initiated in office because he had no supreme talent other than the culture wars and being able to divide people.
Democracy dies right in front of us, day by day and bit by bit. It dies with the Marjorie Taylor Greene and Matt Gaetz types of the world because they are part of an ongoing insurrection. The insurrection was not just January 6th. The January 6th insurrection was the highest visual manifestation of treachery for us to see, but now the insurrectionists have real power in Congress. People like Greene are calling for civil war or a divorce from the country between the red and blue states. We look at her as a joke and now she could be a vice presidential candidate in 2024. Democracy doesn’t die in darkness. It dies right in front of us.
Some are hesitant to say things like we cannot compare the rise of Trump and the Insurrectionist party to someone like Hitler but if we can’t compare the actions of what Hitler did then we are not learning the lessons of what he did. Sure, Trump and his accomplices are not putting people in concentration camps (yet), but I’m talking about the earlier stages and the incremental steps that Hitler took to become the monster he became. We have to study how Hitler took over the media and how he, like Trump, was not taken seriously and won with only a third of the vote. We must study how, like Hitler, Trump grew to power in large part by convincing his followers to look down on other people. We have to understand these signs because history doesn’t repeat itself, but it rhymes. Afterall, who do we think Trump was talking about when he said he wanted “loyal” generals like the German generals? There are historical parallels we have to understand with DeSantis as well, whose legislators are calling for bloggers to register with his government if they write about him. Is this policy designed to target them for reprisals?
Trump and DeSantis are among the faces of those seeking to destroy democracy but they cannot succeed without the help of local and state politicians like Representative Paul Sherell of Sparta, Tennessee who called for hanging from a tree to be added as a form of capital punishment or the legislators blocking a girl or woman’s right to choose an abortion, even if it occurs from the rape of a child. Democracy is something that if we don’t use it, we lose it. And so all of us who’ve been out there fighting the good fight, we must keep on fighting. For those of us who have been complacent, how many more of our rights do we have to see lost? How many travesties of justice must we experience? How many more rights that you had do you have to see your children and grandchildren lose before you decide to wake up? If you don’t use it, you lose it and we are losing it right now.
We need all hands on deck to demand respect. We need to get out there and fight, because if we don’t, it will be over before we know it. Many of us already don’t recognize this country as it is right now. What will it be like a year from now or two years from now? Without real action, we are not going to be able to recognize it at all. If you want to increase your activism, I will leave you with four steps: L.E.A.D. L.E.A.D. stands for Listen, Educate, Advocate, and Decide. Let’s break it down.
Listen. You need to commit to doing more listening than you do talking. The Roland Martins, Rachel Maddows, Joe Madisons, Joy-Ann Reids and Karen Hunters of the world are speaking truth to the lies, ignorance, and hate. We have two ears and one mouth. We have to use them in proportion. Listen to the people who are real researchers and real journalists.
Educate. You must commit to educating yourself. What’s on your reading list? What’s on your podcast list? What’s on your documentary list? There are so many ways to learn, but some of us are just going to the same sports networks, the same websites, or the same soap opera channels just entertaining ourselves. You must educate yourself so you can be an inform UPstander and not a bystander. You have to commit to learning. This is one of the reasons I wrote the upcoming book Lies About Black People, how to Combat Racist Stereotypes and Why It Matters, which is coming out the summer here of 2023. I wrote that book for those who only scratched the surface about Black Lives Matter and racial stereotypes, for example, but want to do and learn more. Get out there and get books like that, which are designed to help you.
Advocate. You have to commit to get out there and give a damn about something. Use your platform to help people. I don’t care if you have one follower or a 10,000,000 followers online. Everybody has the power to speak up for other people. Use your voice as a positive platform!
Decide. You just have to decide. You have to decide that this is how you’re going to go down in life. Decide that you will be an UPstander and not a bystander. Decide that you are going to get out there and help create a community where we can all be celebrated and not tolerated. If it is meant to be, it is up to you. So Listen, Educate, Advocate, and Decide!
Democracy is dying in the light of day, second by second and minute by minute. One law passes to curtail your rights and then they add to it. The enemies of the democratic experiment are coming for us in every way, shape, and form. They tend to start with Black people because they feel like people can get away with going after Black people, then they come for everybody else. So why wait until they come for you if you don’t happen to be part of the Black community or the Jewish community or the trans community or the fill-in-the-blank community? Get out there and fight today!