Best selling author talks to DTC about 'On Tyranny'

Author and professor Timothy Snyder urged his listeners not to accept today’s politics as normal as he spoke before the Milford Democratic Town Committee last week about his New York Times bestselling book, On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century.

“This is not normal,” he said. “Where we are now is not normal.”

Snyder is a history professor at Yale University, where he teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in modern East European political history.

During last Thursday’s talk with the Milford Democratic Town Committee at the Elks Club, he drew parallels between Hitler, Stalin and Donald Trump. Snyder said that the ideas promulgated under those regimes took hold because people didn’t immediately question them.

Snyder said people need to resist accepting conditions as normal and to remind themselves what is normal to avoid the kind of tyranny that swept across nations such as Germany under Hitler.

The Founding Fathers were terrified Democracy would collapse in tyranny, Snyder said, adding that they feared human nature would lead to its demise. They wrote the Constitution to protect the values they believed in, but they didn’t think that would be enough to protect Democracy.

Snyder said that over the years, Americans have been lucky — unless they were Native Americans or African Americans — because the nation’s leaders have been able to lead the country.

“The Founding Fathers tried to protect us from the threat they knew, the tyranny that overcame ancient democracy,” reads a description of Snyder’s book at “Today, our political order faces new threats, not unlike the totalitarianism of the 20th century. We 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.”

Snyder said he spent years immersed in European history, and said what happened in Germany could happen here.

“It’s clear to me that it can happen,” he told local Democrats last week. “Of course it can happen here.”

He discussed what he sees as signs of tyranny: the firing of FBI Director James B. Comey, the blind loyalty the president has asked from people who work for him, and what Snyder called an attack on the freedom of truth, which he said in itself “is historically a huge alarm bell.”

In his book he writes, “The European history of the the 20th century shows us that societies can break, democracies can fall, ethics can collapse and ordinary men can find themselves standing over death pits with guns in their hands.”

Democratic Town Committee Chairman Rich Smith said he saw Snyder’s talk as a clear message that Americans should not think Democracy is beyond failing.

“It is not,” Smith said.

“He cited other Democracies and countries who believed it wouldn't happen to them, and it did,” Smith continued. “He compelled his readers to get involved, to stand up and stand out, to demand facts, to defend our institutions and the people who are discriminated against in the current political atmosphere.”

Smith noted that Snyder cited historical parallels between things Americans are beginning to see in the United States and events that took place in 20th century Europe.

“He called on us to stand united as thoughtful citizens and defend our always fragile Democracy,” Smith said, “to push back on efforts to undermine facts and the constant chants of ‘fake news’ because, as he reminded the crowd, there is truth and fact, and allowing ourselves to become hostile to verifiable reality because we don't want to hear it ensures the end of our freedom.”