How to Fight Fascism in America

If you are looking for an action plan to fight the rising tide of fascism in America, here is an insightful 20-point list from Yale historian and Holocaust expert Timothy Snyder. I’ve copied his Facebook post below, and interspersed my own remarks and responses in brackets and italics.

Americans are no wiser than the Europeans who saw democracy yield to fascism, Nazism, or communism. Our one advantage is that we might learn from their experience. Now is a good time to do so. Here are twenty lessons from the twentieth century, adapted to the circumstances of today.

1. Do not obey in advance. Much of the power of authoritarianism is freely given. In times like these, individuals think ahead about what a more repressive government will want, and then start to do it without being asked. You’ve already done this, haven’t you? Stop. Anticipatory obedience teaches authorities what is possible and accelerates unfreedom.”

[This is why we must NOT “give Trump a chance.”]

“2. Defend an institution. Follow the courts or the media, or a court or a newspaper. Do not speak of ‘our institutions’ unless you are making them yours by acting on their behalf. Institutions don’t protect themselves. They go down like dominoes unless each is defended from the beginning.”

[Join me in subscribing to THE WEEK magazine. Its wide focus encompasses current events, health, media, science, arts, and travel. From it, you’ll get the news the broadcast media ignore. I also recommend THE HIGHTOWER LOWDOWN, from fellow Texan Jim Hightower, who has long chronicled the ongoing democratic struggles by America’s ordinary people against rule by its plutocratic elites. ]

3. Recall professional ethics. When the leaders of state set a negative example, professional commitments to just practice become much more important. It is hard to break a rule-of-law state without lawyers, and it is hard to have show trials without judges.”

[It’s also hard for fascists and tyrants to lie with impunity if investigative journalists uncover the truth and make the facts known.]

4. When listening to politicians, distinguish certain words. Look out for the expansive use of ‘terrorism’ and ‘extremism.’ Be alive to the fatal notions of ‘exception’ and ’emergency.’ Be angry about the treacherous use of patriotic vocabulary.”

[“Republican Senator Doug Ericksen said in a news release in November 2016 that he planned on proposing a bill that would classify some forms of protesting as ‘economic terrorism.’ Ericksen said that the bill would target protests that disrupt businesses or shut down streets.” No, Senator, protesting is not “terrorism.” It is constitutionally protected free speech.]

5. Be calm when the unthinkable arrives. When the terrorist attack comes, remember that all authoritarians at all times either await or plan such events in order to consolidate power. Think of the Reichstag fire. The sudden disaster that requires the end of the balance of power, the end of opposition parties, and so on, is the oldest trick in the Hitlerian book. Don’t fall for it.”

[Think of the so-called “Patriot” Act, established opportunistically in response to the September 11, 2001, attacks, and widely acknowledged as unconstitutional.]

6. Be kind to our language. Avoid pronouncing the phrases everyone else does. Think up your own way of speaking, even if only to convey that thing you think everyone is saying. (Don’t use the internet before bed. Charge your gadgets away from your bedroom, and read.) What to read? Perhaps “The Power of the Powerless” by Václav Havel, 1984 by George Orwell, The Captive Mind by Czesław Milosz, The Rebel by Albert Camus, The Origins of Totalitarianism by Hannah Arendt, or Nothing is True and Everything is Possible by Peter Pomerantsev.”

[Also read William Rivers Pitt, a New York Times and internationally bestselling author, and a senior editor and lead columnist at Truthout.]

7. Stand out. Someone has to. It is easy, in words and deeds, to follow along. It can feel strange to do or say something different. But without that unease, there is no freedom. And the moment you set an example, the spell of the status quo is broken, and others will follow.”

[There is nothing normal about a Trump presidency, and I will not go along to get along.]

8. Believe in truth. To abandon facts is to abandon freedom. If nothing is true, then no one can criticize power, because there is no basis upon which to do so. If nothing is true, then all is spectacle. The biggest wallet pays for the most blinding lights.”

[The proliferation of fake news threatens our democracy. Don’t believe everything you read!]

9. Investigate. Figure things out for yourself. Spend more time with long articles. Subsidize investigative journalism by subscribing to print media. Realize that some of what is on your screen is there to harm you. Bookmark PropOrNot or other sites that investigate foreign propaganda pushes.”

[See items 2 and 6, above.]

10. Practice corporeal politics. Power wants your body softening in your chair and your emotions dissipating on the screen. Get outside. Put your body in unfamiliar places with unfamiliar people. Make new friends and march with them.”

[Join me and my new friends as we March on Washington, January 21.]

11. Make eye contact and small talk. This is not just polite. It is a way to stay in touch with your surroundings, break down unnecessary social barriers, and come to understand whom you should and should not trust. If we enter a culture of denunciation, you will want to know the psychological landscape of your daily life.”

[A chilling thought, that our future safety may depend on knowing whom to trust. Welcome to Trump’s AmeriKKKa.]

12. Take responsibility for the face of the world. Notice the swastikas and the other signs of hate. Do not look away and do not get used to them. Remove them yourself and set an example for others to do so.”

[Here’s an easy way to transform a swastika into a message of LOVE: http://wnyt.com/news/swastika-becomes-love-message-granger-caroline-streets-saratoga-springs/4317596/]

13. Hinder the one-party state. The parties that took over states were once something else. They exploited a historical moment to make political life impossible for their rivals. Vote in local and state elections while you can.”

[Even in deep-red Texas, there is hope. Hillary Clinton won 3,868,291 votes in Texas, only about 815,000 fewer than Trump. As the state’s demographics change, Republicans and Tea Party extremists can be forced from their stranglehold here.]

14. Give regularly to good causes, if you can. Pick a charity and set up autopay. Then you will know that you have made a free choice that is supporting civil society helping others doing something good.”

[American Civil Liberties Union. Set up a monthly donation.]

15. Establish a private life. Nastier rulers will use what they know about you to push you around. Scrub your computer of malware. Remember that email is skywriting. Consider using alternative forms of the internet, or simply using it less. Have personal exchanges in person. For the same reason, resolve any legal trouble. Authoritarianism works as a blackmail state, looking for the hook on which to hang you. Try not to have too many hooks.”

[As a responsible, involved, and law-abiding citizen, I have nothing to hide.]

16. Learn from others in other countries. Keep up your friendships abroad, or make new friends abroad. The present difficulties here are an element of a general trend. And no country is going to find a solution by itself. Make sure you and your family have passports.”

[I cherish my friends in other countries. They may become my lifeline.]

17. Watch out for the paramilitaries. When the men with guns who have always claimed to be against the system start wearing uniforms and marching around with torches and pictures of a Leader, the end is nigh. When the pro-Leader paramilitary and the official police and military intermingle, the game is over.”

[The “constitutional carry” movement in Texas is absolutely terrifying. Some of our nuttier gun nuts actually believe they should be allowed to carry a gun, both openly and concealed, without a permit. Would those same people believe it’s OK to drive a big rig without a license, or practice medicine without a license? Senseless and dangerous. Please support Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. Also, Stand With Standing Rock.]

18. Be reflective if you must be armed. If you carry a weapon in public service, God bless you and keep you. But know that evils of the past involved policemen and soldiers finding themselves, one day, doing irregular things. Be ready to say no. (If you do not know what this means, contact the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and ask about training in professional ethics.)”

[United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Resources for Professionals in Law Enforcement]

19. Be as courageous as you can. If none of us is prepared to die for freedom, then all of us will die in unfreedom.”

[Check out Common Cause for concrete ways to take action.]

20. Be a patriot. The incoming president is not. Set a good example of what America means for the generations to come. They will need it.”

[I will say it again: Donald Trump is not a patriot. He is a clear and present danger to America and to the world. All who love freedom must stand up, speak out, and take to the streets. See you in Washington, January 21.]

 

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Harvard Library Presents “Alice in Wonderland” Online Exhibition

In the 150 years since the publication of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll’s story has become more than a literary classic; it is part of our collective cultural imagination. Its illustrations, originally conceived by Carroll, realized by John Tenniel, and reinterpreted by hundreds of artists, are instantly recognizable; its nonsense songs and memorable lines are frequently quoted and repurposed by countless admirers.

This exhibition explores the incredible influence the book has achieved, through Houghton Library’s rich collection of Carrolliana, compiled principally by Harcourt Amory (Harvard 1876) and given to Harvard by his widow and children in 1927.

So don’t be late! Venture again through the looking glass and down the rabbit hole, along to the mad tea party and the queen’s croquet ground. Please try to keep your head, and don’t seek to find a moral anywhere. As Alice herself discovered, the evidence is clear:

“We’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.” [said the Cheshire Cat].

“How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice.

“You must be,” said the Cat, “or you wouldn’t have come here.”

Cheshire Cat

Down the Rabbit Hole at Houghton

Alice 150: www.alice150.com

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Add the Arts to the STEM Curriculum and Unleash the Full Power of STEAM

This year as Lewis Carroll fans worldwide celebrate the 150th anniversary of the publication of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, I was privileged to attend a presentation by sculptor Bridgette Mongeon at the spring meeting of the Lewis Carroll Society of North America (LCSNA), held at the Harry Ransom Center in Austin, Texas, in conjunction with the Center’s special Alice exhibition.

"Move One Place On" -- Copyright Bridgette Mongeon 2015

“Move One Place On” — Copyright Bridgette Mongeon 2015

Bridgette, an artist, sculptor, writer, educator, public speaker, and wife and mom too, has been commissioned to create a monumental bronze sculpture of Alice in Wonderland’s Mad Hatter tea party, to be placed in a Texas park (the exact site has yet to be announced). Visitors will be able to not only admire the sculpture, but also sit themselves down to it and have a picnic lunch with Alice, the Cheshire Cat, the March Hare, and the Hatter, as shown in the above digital model.

In her talk to the LCSNA, Bridgette spoke of the STEM curriculum (science, technology, engineering, and math) and how vital it is to add an “A” for art, which turns STEM into STEAM. She has given STEAM programs to young women in grades 6 through 8, in which she ties it all together: Art, Technology, Medicine, Math, AND Literature. Bridgette creatively fuses art and technology: she creates sculptures using both traditional (clay and wax) and digital processes. Lewis Carroll fits well with Bridgette’s many interests because he was an artist and photographer, a mathematician, and, of course, a writer.

I was fascinated and inspired by Bridgette’s LCSNA presentation. In my freelance work as an editor for a national educational organization, I specialize in STEM and STEAM subjects. I’ve edited manuscripts on animation, archaeology, architecture, energy, environmental science, oceanography, photography, textiles, and theater, among others. Even the most technological subjects need the “A” added for “art.” Art imparts the human touch and often creates a fresh perspective that can lead to new discoveries.

Bridgette cited the example of an artist who sculpted her cancer tumor, and how the creation of “a full-on object that they could walk around” is changing the way oncologists approach the treatment of cancer.

I was also reminded of astrophysicists’ reactions to the computer-generated black hole in the movie Interstellar. Actual observational data was used to create the movie’s visualizations, leading physicist Kip Thorne to realize: “Why, of course. That’s what it would do.” From the art, he got something he didn’t expect: a scientific discovery.

With arts programs on the chopping blocks at too many schools, we all need to be championing STEAM. While the current emphasis on science, technology, engineering, and math is very welcome, we must also keep a central place in the curriculum for art. While science and technology may reveal the structure of things, art reveals the heart.

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Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland: Alice150 Exhibit at Harry Ransom Center, Austin, Texas

On Saturday, April 18, I had the great pleasure of seeing the “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” exhibit at the Harry Ransom Center in Austin, Texas, as part of the spring meeting of the Lewis Carroll Society of North America. The exhibition (#aliceinaustin) is wonderfully done, tracing this classic tale from its inspiration, little Alice Liddell, on through 150 years of translation, interpretation, adaptation, and illustration.

Alice150LogoHere are a few photos from my visit, but I highly recommend that you make the trip yourself. Alice is on view at the Ransom Center through July 6, 2015. To see what other events are happening this year as we celebrate the 150th anniversary of the publication of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, go to www.Alice150.com.

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At the Harry Ransom Center, Austin, Texas, through July 6, 2015

Deborah J Lightfoot with Alice

I’m helping Alice fend off the cards!

Alice popup_best

I love pop-up books, so I was drooling over an entire display case full of them.

Alice translations

Alice in Wonderland has been translated into a staggering number of languages.

Ransom brochure

The exhibition guide/brochure is a keeper. When I’m done showing it around, I’ll be slipping it inside my copy of Martin Gardner’s “The Annotated Alice” to save it for posterity.

While rabbit

“Oh my ears and whiskers. I’m late! I’m late!” I’m nearly a week late getting this posted, but you still have time to take in the Alice exhibit at the Ransom Center, through July 6.

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Simple Green: On Earth Day, Confessions of an Earth Child

Carl Sagan_Trees
On my father’s farm, environmentalists grew with the cotton. I was my daddy’s Earthchild. In my earliest memories I’m clambering over the West Texas sandhills past straight rows of crops. I’m digging bare toes into the cool dampness that hid beneath sun-blasted surfaces. I’m sharing with the rattlesnakes the scant shade under the cockleburs along the fence rows.

The land nourished me. Quantities of arable soil made their way into my mouth. I ate dirt and it did me good. Modern science reveals that children from antiseptically clean, urban homes are more prone to asthma and allergies than those who grow up in rural environments. Though I waded in stock tanks awash in cow manure, I suffered few infections, never had asthma, seldom saw a doctor for any childhood complaint.

Our family wasn’t big on going to the doctor. My mom treated my itchy chickenpox with calamine lotion. When I dropped a knife-edged sheet of tin on my foot and nearly cut off a toe, she doused it with Merthiolate and wrapped it in a cotton rag. The active ingredient in Merthiolate is toxic and a cause of birth defects. Luckily for me, my sliced toe bled so profusely it washed out the poison. I wasn’t rushed to the doctor, neither then nor when a rabbit bit me. Both wounds healed with little scarring and no complications—no rabies or tetanus. Growing up on a farm makes for a wonderfully vigorous immune system.

Past fifty now, I still reap the benefits. I’ve been hospitalized only once, to have my wisdom teeth out. My tonsils and appendix live in me still. I can eat almost anything and not get sick. On trips to Mexico I enjoy lettuce salads and fresh tropical fruits, indulgences that leave most turistas throwing up their toenails. Blessed are we who had the chance to eat dirt and muck about in cow shit.

Few people remember Euell Gibbons now, but he was my childhood hero. Mr. Gibbons showed my generation how to eat naturally, how to live off the land, foraging for our food outdoors like primitive hunter-gatherers. Like him, I was game to try anything: roots and shoots, dandelion crowns, cattails, tree bark. These days when I go hiking I’ll taste any fruit, grain, or berry that lines the trail, picking them fresh from field or forest as Euell taught me. My husband swears I’ll poison myself someday. He’s probably right. As a young thing I nibbled an oleander blossom and swelled up like a toad, Mom said. I don’t remember that. But I now know that one leaf of an oleander is enough to cause death. Eating any part of the plant can stop your heart. Euell didn’t tell me that.

I went to college to become a park ranger or a wildlife biologist. Those ambitions succumbed to the impatience of youth. When the subject of careers arose, my professors let slip that jobs for rangers or ecologists were few and far between. This was the 1970s, at the dawning of the environmental movement. We had Earth Day (first celebrated in 1970) and the Clean Water Act of ’72, but we didn’t have anything approaching a “green” industry. (The 21st century hasn’t yet reached the healthy shade of green we should be enjoying, this many years on. But we’re getting there. More about that in a bit.)

The prospect of unemployment scared me. I wanted work after graduation, I needed work, and so I quit as a wildlife science major and switched to agricultural journalism. I’d grown up on a farm; I’d written since my earliest days as a crayon-wielding diarist: the combination fit. And I knew firsthand that family farmers were not the rape-pillage-plunder-the-Earth villains that urban ignorance held them to be. I’d watched my daddy put on the brakes, stop his tractor dead in the field even with the day’s last precious rays of sunlight fading in the west, so he could jump down and move a box turtle or a bird’s nest safely out of the plow’s path. My dad’s environmentalist instincts ran deep.

Now I survey my tech-laden home and I wonder what happened to me. What became of that primitive nature-lover who went barefoot through dunghills and wanted to live like a savage? I have all the comforts: a microwave oven, a fax machine, central heating and air; two computers, two printers, two scanners, two DVD players not including the ones built into the computers; four phones counting landlines and cells. How did I become so materialistic? When and why did I replace simplicity with clutter?

(Read the rest at Smashwords.)

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The “Alice” Books and Waterspell: How They Connect

Writers are often told to write what we know. Thus, it is not surprising that many authors choose to write about books and the people who love them.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak tells of a girl who steals the things she can’t resist—books. The hero of Michael Ende’s The Neverending Story becomes a character in the mysterious book he is reading. In When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead, the protagonist relies upon her favorite book, Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, as a kind of “life compass.”

Pool of TearsFollowing in that tradition, Lewis Carroll’s Alice books appear “as themselves” in my Waterspell trilogy. My heroine, Carin, first encounters Through the Looking-Glass (TTLG) and discovers the book holds within it a powerful weapon that only she can wield. Later, Carin gets her hands on a copy of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (AAIW) and continues to find veiled connections between the Carrollian world and her own perilous situation.

As an enthusiastic fan of Martin Gardner’s The Annotated Alice, I like to imagine how the late Mr. Gardner might annotate the Waterspell trilogy as he picked up on my novels’ subtle homages to the Alice books. I think he would remark on the reversed order in which Carin encounters the books. Lewis Carroll wrote AAIW first, then TTLG some years later. Throughout TTLG, things “go the other way,” so it is appropriate (as well as necessary to the plot of Waterspell) that Carin reads the books “the other way”—second book first.

Another play on the “other way” can be seen in the spelling of the names of the two leading ladies. “Alice” is vowel-consonant-vowel-consonant-vowel, while “Carin” (also five letters) is consonant-vowel-consonant-vowel-consonant.

The names of things are important in the Waterspell trilogy. In AAIW, the dormouse speaks of drawing all manner of things that begin with the letter M. I don’t doubt that Martin Gardner would notice the characters in Waterspell whose names start, like his, with M: among them Myra, Megella, and Merriam.

And on it goes. In Waterspell Book 3: The Wisewoman, Carin is required to travel under an alias. What name does she choose for herself? “Alice,” of course.

In no way, however, are the Waterspell novels a retelling of the Alice books. Though there are analogies—Carin’s reflective “mirror pool” recalls Alice’s looking-glass—my story follows its own unique trajectory.

To capture the gist of Waterspell, one might say it’s “Jane Eyre meets a sorcerer.” The relationship between my main characters is reminiscent of the stormy sparring between Jane and Rochester. Waterspell is a story for young adults and older. Though an Alice motif runs deep in my trilogy, Waterspell is no more a “children’s book” than is The Hunger Games or Philip Pullman’s epic trilogy of fantasy novels, His Dark Materials. My characters encounter great danger, violence, murder, and betrayal.

Alice150LogoWriting this blog post has helped me pull my thoughts together as I prepare to attend the April 18 meeting of the Lewis Carroll Society of North America in Austin, Texas. In the company of fellow Carrollians, I might have occasion to explain how my books connect to Alice. I want to be prepared, for I can think of no more appropriate readers than a group of Lewis Carroll enthusiasts who know the Alice books backwards and forwards. (There’s that reversal theme again!)

 ~~~~~

Waterspell trilogy by Deborah J Lightfoot

“If you like epic fantasy that sweeps you to amazing, immersive worlds and while following intriguing characters, be sure to add this series to your to-read list.” —Once Upon a YA Book

“Keeps you enthralled until the final sentence. Carin and Verek are such rounded and full characters.” —Kim Durbin

“I really loved the main characters, particularly because they are complicated. I also enjoyed the writing. It is stylized perfectly to the story, so you feel you are in the Waterspell world. I definitely recommend these books!” —Beck Digs It

“I was hooked instantly when I started reading [Waterspell Book 1] The Warlock. I willingly gave up sleep and honestly could not wait to get up to read more of this book. I’m reading the whole series, and I absolutely am loving it.” —Sarah

“… a fabulous trilogy that should be read by every fantasy reader who would like something a little different. The author cleverly creates tension without resorting to the battles, complex political intrigue and predictable structure favoured by many in the traditional fantasy genre. I give it 5 stars without hesitation.” —Tahlia Newland

“The writing is absolutely fantastic with so much detail and description. The imagery was so vivid that I felt like I could see this mystical world forming around me.” —Laura Hartley, “What’s Hot?”

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“Drop Everything and Read!” With Me on April 12

Dear Readers! D.E.A.R. Texas Day is nearly upon us. It’s set to become the Biggest Statewide Book Festival in Texas. What will you be reading on April 12?  DEAR Texas 2015 flyer I invite you to drop by the Lincoln Square Half-Price Books in Arlington, Texas, where I’ll be selling and signing complete sets of the Waterspell fantasy trilogy. My award-winning novels are good choices for readers who enjoy epic fantasy or dystopian YA.

Sunset banner with 3 covers1_cropped

What Is D.E.A.R.?

D.E.A.R. stands for “Drop Everything and Read,” a national celebration of reading designed to remind folks of all ages to make reading a priority in their lives. Because, what’s more fun(damental) than reading, really?

When Is D.E.A.R. Celebrated?

D.E.A.R. programs have been held nationwide on April 12th in honor of Beverly Cleary’s birthday, since she first wrote about D.E.A.R. in Ramona Quimby, Age 8 (pages 40-41). Inspired by letters from readers sharing their enthusiasm for the D.E.A.R. activities implemented in their schools, Mrs. Cleary decided to give the same experience to Ramona and her classmates. As D.E.A.R. has grown in popularity and scope, the program has expanded to span the entire month of April … offering classrooms and communities additional time to celebrate!

Can D.E.A.R. Be Celebrated Anytime?

Yes, of course! We encourage you to “Drop Everything and Read!” every day throughout the year. The goal of the program is to prompt people to make reading a regular part of their routine … whether they’re reading solo or together with their classmates, parents, or friends. So, go ahead and join the millions of families, schools, bookstores, and communities who have participated throughout the years and pledge to “drop” what you’re doing in order to read a good book.

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