My parents were born in 1914. Before they were age 10, Mussolini snuffed out democracy in Italy.

In my parents’ teens, Stalin and Hitler crushed dissent in Russia and Germany. Salazar and Franco did the same in Portugal and Spain.

Shortly after their 25th birthdays, the UK declared war with Germany.

My father volunteered as an army medic, was wounded, captured and imprisoned in a German camp. My mother volunteered as a nurse, treating burn victims from Dunkirk. Unsung heroes like them bequeathed to all of us the opportunity to lead charmed lives, underpinned by a functioning democracy.

We are facing another tide of authoritarianism. In China, Russia, Turkey, Hungary, Poland, Myanmar…

This tide is lapping at the USA. Last November it was blocked by courageous officials, many Republican, who rejected demands to overturn the results of the election. These honest Republicans are being purged from their posts or otherwise shunned. Onerous laws, making it harder to vote and easier to overturn elections, are being ramrodded through partisan legislatures.

This is how democracies die.

The fate of ours is finely balanced. A small weight on one or other side of the scale can tip it toward autocracy or toward a reaffirmation of founding principles.

It is easy to feel helpless during these defining moments, but we are not helpless. Collectively, we can be that small weight that tips the scale to democracy.

If not, I fear we will inch ever closer to the troubled times endured by my parents.

Nigel Calder

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