Sound the alarm

To anyone who reads history and cares about a free society, today should be a particularly haunting day. A respected member of the press denied credentials because he asks tough questions of the President of the United States. And the President continues to call the media “the enemy of the people.”

The President ridding the Department of Justice of those conducting an investigation of wrongdoing in his Administration. The President, with support of the Senate Leader, threatening retaliation if the independent and equal legislative branch does its job of oversight and investigation.

Military troops called to the border to “defend” against a non-existent “invasion,” although now that the mid-term election is over, we may see the “invasion” miraculously disappear and the troops called back to the barracks.

This is a playbook like those followed in Russia, Venezuela, Turkey, North Korea and other oppressive regimes, not democracies. History teaches that those who are silent in the face of this onslaught on democracy are complicit in it.

When I write or say comments like this, many people call me an alarmist. I plead guilty. I am an alarmist.

The thing about being an alarmist is that it is a thankless characteristic. If the development you express alarm about comes true, it is a terrible situation. An alarmist who sounded the alarm for the right reasons takes no pleasure in that. On the other hand, if the subject of your alarm does not come true, people say “See, there was nothing to worry about. You’re an alarmist.” But how do we know if, but for alarmists sounding the alarm, the catastrophe would have happened?

We know that the alarms sounded in Europe in the early 1930’s were largely discounted. The late California senator Alan Cranston, then a journalist, tried to sound alarms. So did William Dodd, the historian who became the first U.S. ambassador to Germany during Hitler’s reign and whose family is the subject of Erik Larson’s “In the Garden of Beasts.” Many called them alarmists.

I am sure there were alarmists in Rwanda whose alarms were attributed to hyper-sensitivity, or worry, or to being, well, alarmists. Same in Cambodia as Pol Pot came to power. Likewise in Kosovo.

No, I don’t think genocide is coming to the U.S. But we are seeing behavior that portends a threat to freedoms and democracy. Actions and words detailed in the first paragraphs above, combined with a myriad of other disturbing behavior, poses a real threat to the country and, by extension, to the world.

It is time for good alarmists who know their history to sound the alarm.

About the Author
Alan Edelstein was a lawyer and lobbyist in California for 30 years. He currently lives in Jerusalem and Sacramento, California and consults on governmental affairs, communications, politics, and business development. He blogs at Inquiries regarding speaking engagements:
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