Lesson From Poland

Recently, an op-ed from Jennifer Rubin and a daily Letter from Robert Hubbell combined to send the same message: don’t lose hope! Loss of hope, after all, is what the Steve Bannons of the world want–to “flood the zone with shit” in amounts sufficient to wear us out.

Rubin took a lesson from last week’s election in Poland, which she very accurately described as a hopeful message for democracy. As she pointed out, authoritarian regimes count on increasing our depression, resignation, cynicism and despair; they know that continued outrages disable opposition and induce widespread compliance with even a despised regime. Her point: If free people are to resist authoritarian repression, they must cultivate the habit of optimism.

I read that column on the same day that I received Robert Hubbell’s almost identical exhortation. (For some reason–perhaps my position somewhere on the Pacific Ocean, I can’t find a link, so you’ll have to trust that my citations are accurate.)

Hubbell begins:

This is a pep talk to my family (and myself). You can listen in.

We are living through an extraordinary time. The world is being rocked by multiple overlapping crises: The terrorist attack on Israel on October 7; Israel’s subsequent declaration of war on Hamas; protests throughout the Middle East sparked by a Hamas missile strike on a hospital in Gaza; the ongoing war against the Ukrainian people by Vladimir Putin; the inability of the majority party in the House to elect a Speaker; the possibility of a government shutdown before Thanksgiving; upcoming elections in Virginia and Ohio that will serve as bellwethers for 2024; the hottest year (2023) and hottest month (July) since scientists began keeping climate records; and a new term of the US Supreme Court that could fundamentally reshape American society and personal liberties (or not).

          That’s a lot.

           It is easy to feel overwhelmed, to withdraw, to look away.


Hubbell continued by pointing out that our emotional exhaustion and intentional disengagement are the goals of today’s Republicans, a cult intent upon retaining power by undermining democracy and ignoring the will of the American people. (When Rep. Tom Cole nominated Jim Jordan for Speaker of the House, Cole emphasized one of Jordan’s “leading qualifications”– his commitment to cutting Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. Does anyone who isn’t a lunatic believe that such cuts represent the will of the American people?)

If the election in Poland teaches us anything, it teaches us that Hubbell is correct when he insists that “Our generation has one job: To endure, to abide, to keep the faith until this moment of reactionary extremism subsides.”

Exhaustion is the point of MAGA extremism. Republicans say:

Impeach Trump? We’ll impeach Joe Biden, Merrick Garland, Jack Smith, Alejandro Mayorkas, and Christopher Wray.

Indict Trump? We’ll indict Hunter Biden, Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, and Joe Biden.

Recognize the equality of LGBTQ people? We’ll legalize discrimination against them.

Protect Americans from a deadly virus? We’ll undermine trust in science.

Fight human-caused climate change? We will make it illegal to discuss climate change in the classroom.

We must recognize those responses as a mind game designed to make us give up and go away.

We have one job: To endure, to abide, to keep the faith until this moment of reactionary extremism subsides. If we can do that, we will leave to our heirs a healthier, stronger democracy.

             We can do that. We must do so. We have no other choice.

He’s right. We have no other choice.

Poland’s election should serve as a lesson that–with hard work and perseverance –We the People can defeat the agents of discord and hatred, and return our institutions to the often dull but utterly necessary work of democratic governance. 

We need to hang tough….and we need to VOTE.


  1. All good points.

    Regarding the GOP’s inability to do anything, I started thinking about the difference of being a majority party and a minority party. As long as they were in the minority they could hurl flames and whine about this and that because they did not have the responsibility of making laws and legislating, which Nancy Pelosi did, and she accomplished a lot. But now they are in the position of governing, and it is clear that they are incapable.

    It is one thing to criticize when you are not responsible for anything, and an entirely different thing when it is your job to accomplish something.

    I hope you are having a good cruise Professor!

  2. More and more the whole world is watching as the Rs try to burn our country down. The rest of the world wonders is America a serious partner in anything? We better be. The world is on fire right now and the idiots refuse to even pay the credit card bill. They need to be defeated. ..ALL of them.

  3. You can only indict if some one has done something wring? No. Biden should be indicted because he actually took money from foreigners for political gain.
    CNNs Jake Tapper admitted Trump was right in the debates about Bidens corruption.

  4. John S. Still no evidence that Joe Biden is corrupt regardless of what Jake Tapper did or did not say. Contrast that with Trump and his cronies who have been investigated, indicted, tried and found guilty of various criminal and civil charges.

  5. I agree with James: the whining, yapping dogs finally caught the car and have no idea what to do with it, so they keep whining and yapping in order to distract everyone.
    The news from Poland brightened my spirits considerably and gave me hope for the US; among the things that swung the votes there were reproductive rights for women and treatment of LGBTQ+ people. As I recall, there was a record turnout of voters. If the Poles can do it, surely we can too. (Now, if only the Hungarians follow suit.)
    Enjoy your cruise, Sheila, and have a safe journey home.

  6. James 1:4,
    “But let endurance complete its work, so that you may be complete and sound in all respects, not lacking in anything.”

    2 Corinthians 6:4-5
    “In every way we recommend ourselves as God’s ministers, by the endurance of much, by tribulations, by cases of need, by difficulties, by beatings, by prisons, by disorders, by labors, by sleepless nights, by times without food.”

  7. We must not let down our efforts to get out the vote. We need to find a way to convince young people that this election is the most important of our lives. Get your friends and family to promise to vote.

  8. How about we move to Poland if so inclined? 😉

    Once we pass the MAGA crowd, we must eliminate the Oligarchs. Rubins and her ilk keep forgetting we rank 25th in the world for a democracy. Who are the brave elected officials willing to start a campaign to end Citizens United?

    Poland, I don’t think so.

  9. WWIII is nigh. President Joe “Sniffin’ McKids” Biden is not capable of being the C in C. As the world burns, he just quietly hides away within his basement.

    His response seems to be to just let it burn. There is no statesmenship in that response at all.

  10. I have a cynical streak, but I’m not giving up hope.
    Todd, I think you nailed it!
    I believe that the issues that The Other Sheila pointed to will turn out to be focal points here, as well.

  11. I agree with the Professor. I must be hopeful, patient, and encouraging to our similarly minded friends and family. Our parents and grandparents went through WWII with no sure end in sight. They were called the greatest generation. It is our turn now-in spite of all the muck.

  12. Ian — Are you on Planet Earth with the rest of us? Off your meds again?

    I love that the “Steve Bannons of the world want–to ‘flood the zone with shit’” because that’s all that comes out of their mouths!

    Let’s hope (and work) for a Democratic outcome in 2024. We women are certainly fed up!!

  13. Ian’s post is entirely fictional and complete nonsense, a regurgitation of Russian disinformation memes.

    Thanks, Ian, for being our reminder of the garbage that is out there.

  14. Ian – “hides away in his basement”?!? Please explain that one? This is guy that has been to Kiev, and Tel Aviv, both during war time. Despite a totally dysfunctional Republican party who was somewhat in control of the house, he has passed bipartisan legislation. The US has the strongest post-COVID economy in the 1st world with the lowest inflation. Hiding in the basement would be things like cutting aid to key democracies under attack.

  15. Jane – the “greatest generation” didn’t get through WW II by hoping. It took GOVERNING…

  16. Lots of great responses today (with a few exceptions). It used to be that the enemy was identifiable and the contrasts between ideologies was clear. Now we are the victims (some are soldiers) of the world wide web and its power to obfuscate, influence and sow doubt. To Poland’s credit, its people have made a collective decision to meet their enemy head-on by changing the hands on the controls of government. The question is: Can we step up and demand better?

  17. The lie we are facing today is that Biden is a good president . Any big govt president over the last 50 years has claimed they are doing great things for a few varied facts that usually amounts to the fed flooding the market place with huge amounts money contending this is a better way than to just let the market even itself out.
    Many other countries did this during Covid and those countries also long with the US faced massive amounts of inflation. Just because our inflation is less than their inflation it does not make it a good thing for so many people in the stores can barely purchase food products in order to feed them selves.
    Congressman James comer recently showed that Jim Biden receive money from Americorp as a loan that might be forgiven, if he could rnhance sales thru the Biden name. Since he filled it out, they took him to court for $600,000. It was settled for $350,000. The real problem with this is that one time they gave Jim Biden check for $200,000 and on the same day supposedly he was repaying a family loan For $200,000 and wrote a check to Joe Biden. He. So, in fact, we were being told we should vote for a man who had money funneled directly to him as a plaer politician from a company through his brothers bank account. Of course, this is totally ethical because he’s a Democrat and we must vote for him.

  18. First we have to have someone to vote for. In way too any places, especially in Indiana, there are many uncontested positions open for votes. If the person running for that office is the only one to vote, s/he wins by default.
    Gerrymander and voter suppression kill opportunity and hope.
    The R mayoral candidate in the upcoming election has “loaned” himself 93% of his $14.5 campaign fund. He is running obnoxious and defamatory ads on local and national media that cast aspersions and plant seeds of selective information completely out of context, all the while claiming to have a “plan” to change things. We never hear what the plan is or how long it will take or what it will cost. And the biggest question is who will pay for it.
    One of my questions is how does he intend to pay himself back if he wins or loses? It seems that the very wealthy come into office most often by buying the position with their own money or the funds from the PACs that are shell organizations for the oligarchs.
    Even more to the point, in this state where the R super-majority has been in control at the state house for more than a decade, the General Assembly has moved several times to allow them oversight of local governments as well as forcing their ideology on cities to the supposed benefit of the rural aggrieved voters. So they have created the environments that allow increased violence and under-maintained infrastructure, then accuse the D urban officeholders of failure to decrease violence and poor infrastructure management. Now the mount their white horse and ride to the rescue all while lining the pockets of themselves and their big money supporters.
    No wonder so many are cynical and disengaged.
    The only way we can change those dynamics is to vote.
    But to restate my first comment, we need someone to vote for on the ballot. Unfortunately, in Indiana, it is too late to get on the ballot and way too late to push for write in candidates.

  19. “Cultivating the habit of optimism” is much easier if one is already endowed with what I call a “sunny disposition.” The authoritarians among us make such a habit much more difficult to maintain, but contrarily, much more necessary to maintain. It is not easy to make light of political situations where, for instance, a major political party (via its fascist captors) are set to nominate a secessionist for president who is under 91 counts of indictment (so far), a man who has had considerable success in normalizing racism, sexual battery, larceny, and the wholesale destruction of the institutions undergirding our American democracy – a sort of burn it down nihilism under the cover of political choice. . .

    I lament such loss but spend more energy in trying to do something about its restoration than wallowing in hopelessness and helplessness at the current Republican nihilism posing as politics, and Poland and Argentina suggest that hard right politics may be on the wane. If so, it’s because majorities of voters there left the couch to save their respective democracies. We should take note, since democracy or lack thereof apparently depends upon a rather simple measure, i.e., turnout.

    To do? Talk to your friends and neighbors and anybody else who will listen about abandoning their respective couches on Election Day in the defense of democracy – and per Sheila’s advice today – with a smile.

  20. John S, Ian,

    Wow, just wow! These talking points are taken directly from maga mouthpiece Fox News. The mouthpiece that got sued and lost in a court of law. So how could anything coming from that cesspool be taken with any sort of credence whatsoever?

    You see, most everybody remembers the previous presidents term. At least everybody on this blog. I try not to be political, but as I recall, he decimated government. And somehow he became some sort of savant genius along the way. Something that he never demonstrated before in his entire life. A life based on chicanery and malediction, amongst other ambiguous nomers.

  21. To protect my own mental health, I make very careful decisions about what I read, watch, and listen to. I also exercise, which is good for my brain and my mental outlook. I refuse to succumb to the idiocy. Excellent blog, Sheila.

  22. WW3 is nigh.

    Biden is unfit for such an endeavor. Biden’s legacy will be totally negative– conjoined with Likud for the present day allowance of genocide.

    It’s ironic that Poland has been brought up. Poland was the site for many deaths via Ukrainian Bandarists.

    I don’t mind the acrimony and naysayers. This is a very shut-in group. Shit is going to hit the fan. The only question is what will be the proverbial Gulf of Tonkin incident?

  23. John Sorg:

    Your sanctimonious religious posturing is…..

    You’re like an old VCR stuck on pause and rewind.

    I hope you can forgive me.

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