The Night Before Dictatorship

posted in: The Quickening | 1

Hi all,

This week I revisit the poem “The Night Before Christmas,” written way back in 1823, nearly 200 years ago. The news of Elon Musk’s continued evisceration of Twitter and Donald Trump’s continued efforts to regain the presidency gave me a horrific holiday vision of one future America may take.* Social change is disruptive, and environmental change is as well. Reactionaries and populists often thrive on people’s fears of the worse to come—as can be seen in the U.S., Brazil, Italy, Peru, and now even Germany!**

And let’s be honest, no matter how well we navigate, things will get worse for many years to come as there are eight billion of us living on a rapidly warming planet where oceans are rising and acidifying, tens of thousands of species are dying off, and hundreds of billions of dollars continue to be spent each year encouraging us to live unsustainable consumer lifestyles. So consider this strange holiday reflection a mix of forewarning, attempted humor (not to mention my awkward meter and rhyme scheme), and an overwrought mind!

Have a warm and sunny winter solstice!


‘Twas the night before Christmas when all thro’ the USA
Not a person was tweeting, not even Elon Musk, ‘k?
The bankers were mad, asking “Where’s our billion a year?”
And Musk said, “Go sink yourself, I’m out of here!”
So Twitter was put on the market and sold for a steal.
And guess who bought it? That guy who wrote The Art of the Deal.
With Twitter’s code and his Truth Social bros,
Trump became more toxic than right-wing NGOs.
He tweeted, and tweeted, and tweeted some more.
Enraging the Woke, the Republicans, and even Al Gore.

But like COVID, he grew wilder, and harder to halt.
And his campaign for president went on full assault.
With visions of fascism dancing in their head,
Democrats tried their best to defeat their worst dread.
But with inflation and change the people were discontent,
And once again, Trump became your (but not my) president.

From Day One his rollbacks were so quick,
All knew in a flash he was still a dick.
He whistled and shouted his many mean plans:
“Now! Pardons! Now rollbacks! Now Muslim bans!”
“On Court stacking! On improper profit! And presidential indiscretion!”
“Now voter suppression! Now climate denial! And another insurrection!”
“Now violence, And Now “BUILD ME THAT WALL!!”
“And dash away, dash away, civil liberties to all!”

But perhaps the scariest to behold—the Republicans again went along,
Cowtowing and gerrymandering all the yearlong.
Some businesses yielded, focused on quarterly earnings. But others, fearing overthrow,
Said “Enough is enough!” and moved to Europe, Canada, even Mexico.

The economy quickly tanked, but Trump says it’s All Great ‘Gain.
And in 2028, at 82, Trump declares he’ll run again.
People complain—it’s your third term! But he says no way!
This is my second, as the first was stolen away.
He plays dirty again, limiting votes, investigating each and every foe.
But amazingly, the Democrats sneak the win, thanks to New Mexico.
Until that is, votes are contested, and the Supreme Court rules Trump the winner.
It happened before—Hello Gore! But this time America says no more, “We ain’t a chicken dinner.”

But too little, too late. With Twitter Social, Facebook and TikTok,
Lies grow and shift like a wild Starling flock.
Untruths spread and are believed.
To the point that many, many are aggrieved.
The peaceful protestors are beaten with sticks, some are shot.
And Trump declares martial law, with fascism now brought
To the shores of America and across its plains, from sea to shining sea.
The election finally ends, and with the Supreme Court’s decree
Trump is president. And while he may be despised,
The influence of the Congress is minimized,
And the era of American democracy disappears out of sight,
With Trump exclaiming “Happy autocracy to all, and to all a good night!”

Final word (literally) goes to you: Should I have used night? Or perhaps fright, or maybe even fight? (Image from DALL-E)


*From the day after I posted this reflection, comes this news about the January 6th committee’s final ruling, that “Trump knowingly led a dangerous conspiracy to overturn the 2020 election and should be held criminally responsible for the violent attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021” (quoting The New York Times).  In case this feels like a partisan essay, I vociferously make clear that it is not and make this comment: Gaians (or anyone else for that matter) should never stay quiet as systems of governance are wrested away from the people. History has shown the danger of this, over and over and over again. This is not about political parties (other than the fact that many Republicans went along with Trump), but the workings of increasing numbers of individuals (in the U.S. but sadly in other democratic countries as well) to seize and neuter democratic systems for their own ends.

**This past week I watched David Letterman interview Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskyy (in a working metro station in Kyiv to protect against Russian bombing attacks). Towards the end of the interview, Letterman says to Zelenskyy, “In the United States, there is regular discussion that the United States may be nearing the end of its democratic government…. And when you invoke authoritarianism, I can’t imagine what people would find more desirable with that form of government than struggling to make democracy work. It’s beyond conception, but it seems like that’s a regular possibility.” The last few years, and frankly history more generally, has shown, just how fragile an institution democracy is—made all the frailer today with social media’s inflammatory role. Combine that with the high winds that environmental change is bringing and much work is needed to shore up, protect and increase the resilience of democratic systems, before it’s blown away.     

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