Editorial :: Getting Along in Difficult Times

Child's cupped hands holding the bud of a rose beginning to flower.

A friend of mine on social media posted a question today that preoccupies many of us.

Why can’t we just get along?

It’s a good question but a difficult one, as there are many ways to answer that will diverge in vastly different directions.

Below is my reply to that friend, which I later shared on social media. Now I’m sharing it with you.

I hope it helps.



I think it’s important to examine why you feel the need to “get along” as well as considering what it is specifically that makes you feel unable to sit with the discomfort caused by “not getting along.”

I bring this up because history has shown us numerous instances where friction and social discomfort had the potential to stop genocide, but the societies in which these actions were happening—often in full view of other citizens—chose to get along instead of raising alarm, which, ultimately caused an unnecessary loss of precious life as well as the permanent warping of those societies who had preferred social niceties over direct action.


The great men and women who have used the tactic of non-violence to change social norms did not (and do not) get along with people in societies that have done great harm to their fellow humans.

It is a mistake to view these people as saints. MLK Jr. didn’t get along with a whole lot of people. If you read more about his life, you’d find that he was constantly pointing out the ill actions of people, cities, companies, and countries, and would visibly work against these entities for the greater good.

The same could be said for Gandhi and Mother Teresa—as well as many other figures who fought for people’s rights against societies’ norms.


Right now in the U.S. and the world, we find ourselves living in one of those moments in which the future of entire vulnerable populations will be ultimately decided upon by you, the individual. For anyone who ever said that they would have fought the Nazis or struck back at Stalinist Russia had they been there, you are standing in the middle of the same ethical dilemma that other societies have faced to good and bad ends for centuries:

Do we go along and hope things will be better for some of us at the expense of others? Or do we go through the pain, discomfort, and ultimately transformative experience of exacting change for a great many people, knowing in the interim that making these higher choices will disrupt families and long-held friendships in the process?

If you have been afforded the luxury of being able to ask this question of yourself and your community, you have a great deal more privilege than those who will—and are already—the object of great anger, poisonous rhetoric, dehumanizing discrimination, and the will to violence.


But for those of you graced with choice, you have a decision to make that no one can make for you—and “getting along” is one part of that question.

Meanwhile, history awaits.


Smiling German Resistance fighter Sophie Scholl
Sophie Scholl helped create one of the most daring resistance movements in Nazi Germany while many fellow citizens maintained their silence. Scholl was executed for treason at the age of 22.

Photo Credit: [Top] “Child’s Hands Holding White Rose for Peace” by D. Sharon Pruitt / Wikimedia. [Bottom] Graphic design based on photograph of Sophie Scholl. by Courtenay Bluebird for Bluebird Blvd.

Editorial :: So you think your country might be fascist: A quiz

Close-up of Josef Stalin mustache and collar.

Have you ever found yourself in this dilemma?

You’re a citizen of ______________.

  1. America, the UK, Turkey, or Greece
  2. Hungary, the Philippines, or Venezuela
  3. Poland, Germany, or France
  4. Slovakia, Romania, or Russia.

A group of people who call themselves ______________ have come to power in your country.

  1. nationalists
  2. true patriots
  3. concerned citizens


If you read the national news, headlines have mostly nice things to say about your new ______________.

  1. prime minister
  2. president
  3. premier
  4. ruling party

When you read international news elsewhere, you find yourself confused because the information is different, even opposite, of what your own newspapers seem to be saying.


Your neighbors appear to have completely conflicting ideas about how your country should be run.

Some of them believe this is the best thing that has ever happened in the history of your nation. They may also believe these politicians might return your country to its days of glory. They do not specify which days were the glorious ones.

Other neighbors tell you they are terrified that this new ruling power might remove their rights, maybe even ______________ them because of their ______________.

  1. jail
  2. disappear
  3. deport
  4. kill
  1. culture
  2. skin color
  3. religion
  4. gender
  5. sexual preference
  6. political beliefs
  7. class
  8. profession


Sometimes these neighbors mention a thing that has happened to them or people that they know, but when you try to look up the incident in the paper, you find nothing there.

If it is in the news at all, it’s because the journalists say ______________ or ______________.

  1. the crime never existed
  2. it was a hoax
  3. fabricated by their enemies
  4. highly exaggerated
  5. a prank
  1. it’s not possible
  2. they don’t have enough information
  3. an investigation is pending

You are not sure what to believe because these two groups don’t even seem to be talking about the same country or the same events, much less the same politicians.


The ______________ has/have gone out of their way to assure you that they will not harm anyone and that they are here to rule everyone fairly.

Yet, every person appointed to office by that ruling party has a history of behaving in ways that your country has formerly found unacceptable.

  1. prime minister
  2. president
  3. premier
  4. ruling party

At least, you think they found it unacceptable.


The newspapers suggest you give these new political officeholders a chance before you cast judgment. They don’t seem to talk much about the other things these politicians did anymore.

When they do, newspapers use language that sounds much softer and friendlier than you remember. The facts don’t seem so harsh. The once-condemned quotes by these people are bracketed with new explanations.


Even the photos are different. Everyone is smiling and friendly. The sun is out. Well-dressed citizens are in the picture, not the paramilitary groups you remember, the ones who dragged people out in the middle of the night and made them disappear.

There are other pictures: the pretty children of the ruling party, the arenas full of supporters with their hands raised and cheering, the ruling party politicians at events with ordinary people—because they are ordinary people, like you.

But you’re not sure what ordinary is right now.


Another strange thing: During the election campaign, the ruling party claimed their opponents were fundamentally dishonest. That they ______________.

  1. lied
  2. cheated
  3. said terrible things
  4. should be in jail
  5. may be prosecuted
  6. could be exiled
  7. will be reprimanded

You keep looking in the paper to see whether the ruling party has brought charges against their opponents, especially given how grievous their crimes are supposed to be. Yet you find nothing.

It’s like they disappeared or ______________.

  1. the ruling party forgave them
  2. it never happened in the first place.


There is new legislation. The ruling party says this will help them keep your homeland safe from attacks ______________. They say the legislation will never be used against ______________.

  1. at the border
  2. outside of your country
  3. within your country
  1. honest citizens
  2. their allies

You seem to remember that the ruling party had offered up this legislation before they had power, but it was never made a law. Or that it was ruled unfair and punitive. Or maybe it was made a law when they were in power before and then not made a law when their opponents were in power last year.

Still, you can’t remember and you can’t seem to find any explanation about it on the news.


After this legislation is put in place, half of your neighbors stand in their yards with their arms crossed looking at the neighbors who ______________.  They have ______________ to call them.

  1. did not support the opposition
  2. will have to carry special papers
  3. are called “dissidents.”
  1. new names
  2. old names
  3. special terms

You feel a little uneasy about this, but you can’t quite find the words to explain how you feel.


The other neighbors never come outside of their house anymore. Their drapes are drawn tight. You’re not even sure their children are in school. One day their child came home with a black eye, crying. You have not seen them outside since.

Some of your neighbors have even disappeared. Their things are still there, but they have been gone for months and months.


Neighbors from the ruling party have put ______________ proclaiming their love for their ______________ and you see many posters and pictures of your nation’s leader everywhere. He looks ______________.

  1. flags on their houses
  2. placards in their window
  3. bumper stickers on their car
  1. premier
  2. president
  3. general secretary
  4. leader
  5. ruler
  1. fatherly
  2. stern
  3. friendly
  4. wise
  5. kind

These images are posted in government buildings and shops and on the street. You are not used to so many painted eyes looking at you all the time. You tell no one this because you’re concerned they will misunderstand you.


Your neighbors who love him say that he’s the best thing that ever happened to your country. They say there will be new jobs and better homes and everyone will feel more secure and safe. It’s just a few new laws, they say. They’re for our protection.

You cannot read their faces. The sun is out. The flags are flying. Their children are playing on their green lawns with new toys.

“Nothing can go wrong now, “ your next-door-neighbor says. “Nothing. It’s going to be sunny days all the time.”

You feel a chill.

You excuse yourself and go inside.

You pull a sweater from a drawer and put it on.

You’re still cold though, and you don’t know why.




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