I’m sitting in a coffee shop inside the neighborhood Gelson’s, using their WiFi. Yesterday, my gardener accidentally severed my cable and Spectrum will be sending someone in a few hours. Meanwhile, it’s been 24 hours with no TV, no landline, no internet. It was a total mess at first, but I’ve been improvising. I’ve also been doing other things. Ertegrul will still be on Netflix when cable service is restored and it isn’t the end of the world that I have to post less on the blog, right? Instead of my normal routine, I did extra laps in my pool. And I went to sleep an hour earlier and woke up an hour later. I cut my toe nails, paid 7 bills and threw away tons of accumulated mess. I learned how to do stuff on my iPhone. And I’ve been reading a book that I’ve been meaning to get to for over a year.
As a young girl in Holland, my old friend Hilda Van Norden was a resistance fighter against the Nazis and, by the time I met her, decades later, a national hero. When she died a couple of years ago, I wrote about her passing and about her life. The publisher of Sophie Polderman’s book, Seducing and Killing Nazis, contacted me and sent me an English language version of the book… which has been sitting on my desk for several years now. Until my cable got cut. I had just written a post about the coming battle against fascism in this country. and I figured this would be the perfect time read it. I was talking with some of my friends about resistance— whether or not they would fight a fascist takeover of our country. Polderman says that 90% of Dutch people did their best to get on with life as normally as possible, even if many did some passive resistance, like listening to a forbidden radio station (Radio Oranje) or reading anti-Nazi pamphlets. 5% collaborated with the German occupation and 5% were active in the resistance, like my friend Hilda and the 3 girls I’m reading about in Polderman’s book.
Holland— and much of Europe where there was active resistance to fascism— was invaded by a foreign power. Fighting home-grown fascism, as was the case, when it happened, in Germany, Austria, Italy, Romania, Hungary— was a different matter… and probably models that are better to compare to what Americans may soon face.
In our country, fascism has been seeping into the fabric of our politics. Lately the pace has accelerated. The GOP has pretty much morphed into a fascist party, posing a mortal danger to democracy. Their position has a great deal of support in the country, alarmingly so, the result of a consistent, decades-long, largely successful Republican effort to cut back on public education.
In the prologue to her book, Polderman asked why it’s important to reflect upon the meaning of the concept of freedom today, so many years after the Nazis have been defeated. “Freedom,” she wrote, “is not as self-evident as it might seem. People are still excluded and discriminated against. There is always a war going on somewhere in there world, and sadly enough there probably always will be… As a response to the first raids by the German occupiers, in which more than 400 Jewish men were arrested and deported, the ‘February Strike” took place on February 25, 1941. The event was the first large-scale act of resistance against the German occupation and represented a turning point; the February Strike was the only open protest on a massive scale against the persecution of Jews in occupied Europe, and it stirred up resistance throughout the Netherlands.”
But what happens when there’s no foreign occupier perpetrating injustice… when the fascists come to power by using a flawed and decrepit electoral system designed over 300 years ago— and made worse since— to stifle “too much” democracy? There’s a shooting range not that far from where I live. I used to blow off steam with target practice when I worked at Warner Bros. I haven’t shot a gun in a couple of decades. I think I need to start again… and maybe buy one as well. Just in case. I have a very bad feeling about what's coming, especially after the Rittenhouse trial and the Weimer-like weakness of the Biden administration and even of the dysfunctional Democrats in Congress. I hope not, but things could turn very ugly here, very quickly.