"History does not repeat, but it does instruct."
Given the devolution of the public discourse over this past year, it's fitting to use Timothy Snyder's "On Tyranny" (2017) as my final post of the year honoring the written word.
Snyder's pamphlet - a birthday gift from my oldest nice, bless her heart - is a worthy successor to Thomas Paine's "Common Sense". Just as Paine's words gave no comfort to the tyrant he addressed, this talented writer's words will provide little balm to the tweeter-in-chief, that is, if he ever stops watching TV long enough to read anything longer than 140 characters. Although it's dispiriting to recognize how little we've learned from the twenty lessons of the 20th century that Snyder so expertly outlines, these lessons - and the exploration of each - are critically important. I hope at least one reader of this post is persuaded to spend an hour or two with this author. If that reader is you, please tell me and others which of Snyder's twenty lessons landed hardest with you.
For me it was lesson #17 - "Listen For Dangerous Words". I won't cheapen Snyder's powerful examination of this lesson by summarizing the two and one half pages the author uses to make his case. But, if like me, you're feeling unmoored by what passes for reasonable give-and-take in this age of alternative facts, pick up this tiny volume and educate yourself. It may not help but it sure can't hurt.