The “People’s Republic” of America?
The parallels are startling and scary. And if enough of us don’t see them, we’re in big trouble.
America is currently and clearly mirroring conditions that ushered in the communist, totalitarian regimes of 20th century Eastern Europe. Are we headed for totalitarianism? Could it happen here? In many ways it is already happening, and if we value freedom it is crucial that we recognize and resist the plague of communist ideology infecting every area of American life before it completely overtakes us.
“Live Not By Lies” by Rod Dreher is an excellent resource towards that end. The title is taken from an essay by Soviet dissident Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, in which he challenged his fellow Russians to refuse to submit to, or perpetuate by complying with, the lies inherent in and propagated by communism. Dreher and others (like me) are calling on our fellow Americans to wake up and recognize those same lies undergirding progressive ideology here.
The foundational lie is that the state is the sole source of truth and justice and that anyone who opposes its authority or agenda deserves to be punished. In Soviet Russia and the communist regimes of Czechoslovakia, Romania, and others, dissenters were marginalized, excluded, jailed, tortured, and/or executed. In the communist People’s Republic of China today the same brutal injustices are occurring.
In the “people’s republic” of America, dissenters from and objectors to progressive, Marxist-like ideology are not currently being jailed, tortured, or executed. But many are absolutely being marginalized and excluded. Founded on the ideals of freedom and inalienable rights, the USA finds itself now under the threat of soft totalitarianism.
Dreher describes a totalitarian society as “one in which an ideology seeks to displace all prior traditions and institutions, with the goal of bringing all aspects of society under control of that ideology.” Whereas “hard” totalitarianism is established and maintained through armed revolution and imprisonments and torture of dissenters, the “soft” version exploits and manipulates weaknesses in a society to get its citizens to hand over power willingly. The author describes it as “therapeutic.” He says, “It masks its hatred of dissenters from its utopian ideology in the guise of helping and healing.”1
Consider the preconditions of totalitarianism Dreher cites from an expert on the subject:
- loneliness and social atomization (fewer ties to our neighbors)
- distrust in hierarchies and institutions
- a desire to transgress and destroy
- propaganda and a willingness to believe useful lies
- a mania for ideology
- valuing loyalty more than expertise.
Can there be any doubt that we are seeing all of these in the U.S. today and that we are ripe for totalitarianism and need to do something about it?
The first and most important thing we should do is be intentional about noticing and examining what’s going on in our country and where we’re headed. Reading “Live Not By Lies” may be the most effective way to take that first step. It is truly eye-opening.
1 Rod Dreher, Live Not By Lies (New York City: Sentinel, 2020), 7.