We have the tools to build an extraordinary civilization. We ought to use them

Author Dave DeWitt says America can and must do much better in this difficult moment in history.

Too often sharing the news feels like being a messenger of madness. Every day, foundational democratic institutions suffer sustained assault while a corrupt, extremist right-wing tyranny over Ohio politics and policy reigns.

As important as it is to chronicle the “first draft of history” by finding the facts and holding power to account, the American cultural zeitgeist demands more.

It demands a constructive vision for what we could do with these precious tools of our constitutional republic were we to cast off the self-destructive, man-made shackles of amoral self-interest, hate, and division holding us down.

As discussed last week, human civilization has forever been locked in a battle between the will and needs of the people and the malicious, self-serving designs of ruling class authoritarians.

The American Republic is an Enlightenment-era tribute to democratic self-governance, though it should always be remembered, as Molly Ivins said, that “it is possible to read the history of this country as one long struggle to extend the liberties established in our Constitution to everyone in America.”

That’s what the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments did. That’s what the 19th Amendment did. That’s what child labor laws, worker rights, women’s rights, desegregation, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, and equal marriage rights all sought to help accomplish.

Liberty is not just the freedom to serve oneself and do whatever one likes: It’s the freedom of everyone in a society to exist and coexist with dignity, to fully participate in self-governance, to be protected equally under the law, to not be an indentured servant to industrialists working families to the bone, to have the same legal rights and opportunities afforded to everyone else.

That is the central theme of what democratic self-governance is supposed to achieve: the people’s interests in the form of representative governance.

In many cases — through the relentless striving and spilt blood of the common people and a handful of principled, conscientious leaders — we’ve taken great strides.

But America has always made progress despite a menacing weight threatening to pull it under water every high tide, much of the country gasping to breathe free.

This is the weight of our collective primitive past manifesting a dark impulse in some to suppress and subjugate others — to deny them their free and dignified existence — in order that these certain bad actors may empower and enrich themselves.

But imagine. Read more

Orwell only wrote one introduction of an Animal Farm foreign translation. It was for Ukraine

A Ukrainian demonstrator protests in London, England against the recent invasion of Ukraine. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

Eric Blair, pen name George Orwell, was not perfect as a person, but then, who is? Nevertheless, Orwell got the three major issues of the 20th Century right: He was anti-imperialist, anti-fascist and anti-Communist/anti-Stalinist.

Orwell’s military days in Burma taught him the human atrocity of the British Empire: “I had already made up my mind that imperialism was an evil thing,” Orwell reflected in his essay, Shooting an Elephant. “I was all for the Burmese and all against their oppressors, the British.”

His essays against fascism and the British Tories offering apologetics for fascism in the 1930s should be required reading alongside his classic works of fiction, 1984 and Animal Farm.

In those essays, he did not treat fascism as some special province of the Germans or Nazism; rather he argued people should search for the “fascist streak” within themselves and their own society. He warned against the mistaken belief that modern reason would inevitably prevail over the absurdity and irrationality of fascism. He picked apart the appeals of the fascists, that these authoritarian, mass-murdering aggressors somehow successfully portrayed themselves to many of their people as victims, martyrs even, pitied and loved, but also feared and awe-inspiring.

A democratic socialist, Orwell was shot in the throat by a sniper in 1937 while fighting against the fascist Francisco Franco’s military overthrow of the Spanish Republic. He did not, however, subscribe to the pro-Communist and pro-Stalinist sympathies of many of his fellow fighters. He saw past the Stalinist propaganda of seduction toward totalitarianism under the banner of Communism. He fought that also, and wrote his seminal works of literature specifically to fight it.

Animal Farm stands as a repudiation of both the plutocratic capitalists and imperialists (the humans) and the Bolsheviks (the pigs) who would each in turn exploit the everyday working people (the other animals) for their own authoritarian ends. Orwell’s allegory was an instant hit and has remained so ever since, being championed by groups as disparate in their political ideology as they could get, from left-wing anarchists to the John Birch Society.

After publication in 1945, Animal Farm was translated far and wide for republication in many languages and nations across the globe.

Orwell, however, only wrote one specific introduction for an international translation of this master work: The one for Ukrainians. Read more