What's your plan for fascist America?
December 4, 2023 7:48 AM   Subscribe

You have a year to prepare before your country becomes a fascist dictatorship. What should you be doing now?

Pundits everywhere are shouting that a second Trump term is possible, even likely, and that that will mean the end of American democracy. Okay, so what do you propose we DO about it? If we're going to be living under a fascist dictatorship in a bit more than a year, how will we deal with that, and what can we do now to get ready?

A couple ground rules please:

1) Of course we'll vote and organize and do whatever we can to head this off. That's been covered at length. But for our purposes, assume it isn't going to work. What's your plan for living in fascist America?

2) Different people will be affected differently. I'm a white cis het man with a family and a white collar job. A lot of people have a hell of a lot more to fear than I do. If you're in the line of fire, what's your plan for staying safe? If you're less threatened, what's your plan for protecting the vulnerable, undermining the fascist regime and helping restore democracy?

3) I do not care whether Joe Biden is a good President or not. That's not relevant to the question. Please try to stay on target. The question is: Assume that, in a little over a year, the United States WILL fall into fascism. What can I/you/we start doing now to prepare?
posted by Naberius to Law & Government (30 answers total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
Make friends with your neighbours and strengthen your community - volunteer with youth or seniors. That’s my advice for any uncertain communal future. If I believed what you’re worrying about, I would also join a local liberal progressive church community with ties or a hierarchy outside of my country as well, to be a part of that pipeline.
posted by warriorqueen at 7:53 AM on December 4, 2023 [23 favorites]

Revealing one's plans to undermine a fascist state by posting then online seems like an unwise choice. Learn how to communicate offline and organize isolated cells.
posted by briank at 7:58 AM on December 4, 2023 [19 favorites]

Buy Plan B and stock up on it for the friends and young women in your life who may need it.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:04 AM on December 4, 2023 [29 favorites]

We are actively searching for a place to be living when the various shits hit the assorted fans. There's a bunch of reasons we left Los Angeles that are more concrete, but in the background was the understanding that even in the lightest of poop showers the entire city would gridlock and services/resources would be a) wildly unevenly distributed b) largely inaccessible even with a working vehicle. I was also deeply frightened of a fully-unleashed LAPD and LASD. I don't want to be in any big city, I don't think, but for sure I don't want to be in a city surrounded by mountains and ocean and at best like 4 extremely fragile roads out.

We're in small-town Vermont right now - not a place that had been on my list, but an opportunity arose - and aside from a particular flavor of libertarianism (that seems to be loathed by other flavors of libertarianism in ways that suggest fascism would be as unwelcome as anything else) and some serious whiteness problems there is a sense of "welp, this shit isn't going to scoop itself" here that is definitely a quality I'm going to be looking for in future explorations.

I've tried over the past decade to recreationally supply myself with skills that would be maybe helpful. I'd last about 45 minutes in a true survival situation but I could contribute well enough in a keep-your-head-down kind of way, enough to make myself valuable in community, which I think is the only solution to any of the rest. I think we all are going to need a lot more "not going to scoop itself" mindset, in conjunction with the actual people living around us, to get through this and do whatever has to be done. I think we can expect significant measures to keep people unstable, uncertain, desperate, and too afraid or demoralized to fight back, and that's where community has to step up.

But I do think staying connected online and staying up on technology is important too. The collapse of news media and the social media most often used to access news and journalists and activists is not coincidental, and if we all have to meet in the review section of a rarely-updated furniture store website or somebody's "gardening" oriented IRC server, I want to be able to find it, use it, and help keep it running.

I'm renewing my passport, but I have no faith in that getting me anywhere. I just don't want to NOT have one in case it turns out having one or having some kind of secondary identification is important at some point.

I have been acquiring as many hard copy + electronic/unlocked manuals as I can for both extremely practical needs - field medicine, midwifery, canning and other food preserving, animal husbandry, various forms of construction - and some of the other soft and hard skills used in the defense of democracy.

I'm also trying to get stronger, physically. I am extremely soft and middle-aged, and it's been years since I practiced throwing a punch or picking up heavy things. It'll be good for my bone density, anyway.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:43 AM on December 4, 2023 [11 favorites]

Clarification question: are you defining "fascist dictatorship" as "Trump getting elected" or "Trump getting elected and the rest of the US government, including state governments, magically changes to being entirely dominated by radically conservative fascists"?

I think a Trump election is plausible. However, like his previous presidency, I don't think he'd be particularly effective at getting any policy agenda accomplished. A consistent theme around the USA is that citizens generally like their own senators/representatives, regardless of their vote for the President. Even if Trump is elected, the House and Senate are almost guaranteed to be split close to 50/50, making any consensus for radical policy shift extraordinarily difficult.

If your question is "how to prepare for Trump being elected", my answer is the same as it has been for decades as a political strategy - donate to the Democratic Party. I don't make pre-emptive plans for counterfactual realities, so I want to avoid that election. But even if Trump is elected, the best way to avoid the scenario you're suggesting is to keep the rest of the US federal and state government Democratic. The President is only, at best, 1/3 of the US federal government, and has even less impact on state governments.

If your question is "how to prepare for a fascist dictatorship", my answer is the same. The majority of the US populace is not fascist, and has generally centrist to slightly left-leaning political views. There have been changes to US citizen political views, but they are definitely not particularly prominent, and notably they are, at worst, similar to the early 2000s. So, if such a government magically popped up, despite the absurdity of the scenario, my best course of action is to rapidly replace it with the only viable other alternative - which is the Democratic party.
posted by saeculorum at 8:50 AM on December 4, 2023 [26 favorites]

Things my grandparents did:
Build a network of like-minded friends. When the bad stuff happened, they culled their friend group of possible snitches and found new friends with ressources like access to healthcare, routes out of the country, real news, food and other relevant stuff. They never abandoned that mindset which was sometimes confusing during post-war Western Europe.

Put a lot of their savings into gold. My Gran had a lot of jewelry. There were also dollar bills hidden in books. I'd go with Euros now, though.

Did not put a lot of their savings into real estate. Didn't want to be caught up in a situation where they couldn't liquidize and get out.

Learnt to handle emergency situations -- up to surgery in the field (they weren't doctors)! I don't know if anyone would teach you how to remove a bullet or stitch up a wound today. But since the olds taught us what they could, I'm pretty good at bandaging. And cooking from scraps and foraging.

Share, share, share. This is the place for the legendary Dee Extrovert comment. The US is not going to turn into Sarajevo in 2025, but if the Trumpists do what they say they will do, no-one knows what will happen.
posted by mumimor at 8:53 AM on December 4, 2023 [33 favorites]

Dee Xtrovert. Sorry.
posted by mumimor at 9:00 AM on December 4, 2023 [3 favorites]

I think the two good answers are, connect with people who are organising, and give money to causes you support. The people who are organising can probably suggest practical ways in which you can stand up and help protect your neighbours. Every cause you support can always do with more money.

It is difficult to predict the future, and a future like 2020s Hong Kong is different to a future like 1990s Sarajevo, is different to a future like 1930s Berlin, is different to a future like 1970s Santiago.

Perhaps, if you really want to consider the worst case, recognise that your choices will be constrained and your willingness to help will be limited by the risks you are willing to take. If you are not prepared to lose everything, then you will at some point and in some way, have to compromise with a genuinely fascist regime.
posted by plonkee at 9:02 AM on December 4, 2023 [5 favorites]

We are already living in a country where many women don't have access to their choice of safe reproductive healthcare.

We are already living in a country where over 1/6 of the black population is legally disenfranchised due to (often non violent drug related) criminal record.

We are already living in a country where you can be in debt for the rest of your life for simply getting sick.

We are already living in a country where your risk of dying by firearm is greater than your risk of dying by motor vehicle accident.

It already sucks here, man. A second Trump term would make it worse, but it's already bad enough that people are experiencing genuine harm. Ask your friends who aren't white cis het men what would support them most. If you don't have those friends, go make them.

I'm a white cis het woman. What would help me the most is knowing I would be able to get affordable medical care for the condition I was born with if I lose my job. What would help me is knowing I can continue to have safe and legal abortion access if I get pregnant. What would help me is being believed if I am the victim of sexual harassment or violence. What would help me is knowing I can continue to keep the right to make my own financial choices. My life is very free of hardship and I have a life of extreme privilege. Other people will have different answers to this question because very few people have it this easy.
posted by phunniemee at 9:06 AM on December 4, 2023 [52 favorites]

This question annoys me because it is framed as you asking us to wake up. the rest of us who have been marginalized have been living this for decades. I would be more concerned about your ability to survive a fascist government and whether you could tell the difference if you would be a comrade who would narc me out or not. I would recommend you learn how to understand your privileges and take the time to learn from marginalized groups who have been working on this for decades and learning to not assume an unwarranted leadership role when it isn't deserved. I would recommend this same advice for anyone. There are plenty of white guys in leftist organizing who reperpetuate oppression within our spaces already and have caused considerable harm from their grandstanding, and this kind of Ask already is a representative of that.

Source: me learning from protest movements and organizers for over ten years as a disabled queer trans person of color
posted by yueliang at 9:26 AM on December 4, 2023 [55 favorites]

Also fun fact -- if it's taken this long for you to wake up and understand that we were always within a death grip of fascism and US imperialism has helped uphold it in other places, you also are the likely audience and target to convert into upholding fascism because of your privileges. There is also incredible propaganda that is incredibly hard to weed though about the US empire.

This is my advice to everyone reading this thread who is upset and confused and not sure what to do, is to think about your proximity to white supremacy and capitalism and empire and how you help be complicit about it, which includes liberals and racist and transphobic and misogynist and ableist leftists.

If you don't understand what I am talking about, then consider spending time reading about anti imperialist and third world feminist political thought and engaging with people who have done this work, but approach it from a humble place.
posted by yueliang at 9:32 AM on December 4, 2023 [31 favorites]

...you also are the likely audience and target to convert into upholding fascism because of your privileges.

Excellent, then, that we caught them early and can block that!

I have been thinking a lot about the line "Men are afraid of being laughed at; women are afraid of being killed" a lot this weekend. I think there's a parallel in the two groups which "fascist America" would split into: GOP & dominionists:men::everyone else:women.

I am a cis het white man, and I freely admit that first reading that line really jarred me, and made me wake up. When I heard it, I knew I had to contribute to my extended community in tangible ways...so we joined our community farm and got to know the local people there, givers and helpers all.

And I did more volunteering and joining because, as much as I hate it, if "fascist America" arrives then all the marginalized groups will have a better shot if there is a visible White Dude in their midst. I have no illusions that my contribution is special, but I am happy to be some group's Fascist SpokesMerkin if that's how I can be most useful. *shrug* And in the mean time, I am learning more hands-on skills and continuing to meet people.
posted by wenestvedt at 10:16 AM on December 4, 2023 [7 favorites]

I would also recommend reading about the 'fascism debate' occurring on the left. Many people have legitimate and well-meaning problems with applying the term 'fascism' to contemporary US politics. I don't care which side you come down on but its worth educating yourself as to what the implications of labelling US politics 'fascist' (hint: the threat of fascism in the US has historically been used to crush the left). Danny Bessner and Jason Stanley have a great debate on this in one of their podcasts.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 11:32 AM on December 4, 2023 [2 favorites]

Yup, my take on this is, and has been for the past many years, that there are a lot of people a lot more directly threatened than I am who have been doing this work for a long time. I am not going to come in at this late date with The Vision That Saves Us All From Fascism; no one needs that from me. I see my job as finding the local organizations doing this work, giving them money, giving them my time and effort where I am able (disability works against me here, but where I can't march and protest and come to meetings, I can write letters and make calls and do tech support and write comms), yelling at my city/county/mayor/whoever to also give them money and support and a platform, and basically going where pointed and throwing my privileges around as told to.

But yes, I also have a passport, and cash and various hard copy books about practical skills, and decent knowledge about safer communications of e.g. protest plans that does not include talking about them on Metafilter, etc. I'm working on becoming more a part of my local community and mutual aid networks. That feels like a good investment of my time in the long term no matter what's coming in the short term.
posted by Stacey at 11:45 AM on December 4, 2023 [6 favorites]

What I'm doing is to try to streamline my life and tie up loose ends as much as possible - getting rid of things I don't need, trying to get moved to a more sustainable housing situation, trying to get my time and my responsibilities arranged so that they are as manageable as possible, trying to create habits that help me do things that I otherwise often forget. I don't know what's coming down the pike, but either it will be so bad that preparation won't make a large difference or else being organized and nimble will be really helpful. Getting rid of unneeded stressors and worries so that I have headspace for more pressing problems, basically.

Also, do you have aging family members or others in your life who need a high level of support and care? What routines can you develop with them and what resources can you channel to them? Not that one should be, like, ruthlessly ignoring their needs when everything is politically stable, but think about what will happen if there are various kinds of large scale disruption. Are any friends/family in places that are remote or could be difficult to travel to?

In terms of headspace stuff: I think that bracing yourself for serious unpredictability is important. Middle classness is kind of about the long term and the predictable - you are supposed to save, build, plan ahead, game it out, get a useful degree, fund your retirement, etc, and you are rich enough that this is possible but not rich enough that it is simple. We know that bad things are going to happen, but we don't know which, how fast or how intensely. Is the GOP, for instance, going to override state level laws protecting marginalized groups or are they going to figure that in the interest of governing they're just going to leave that stuff up to the states? If they do override those laws, is that where it stops, or are they going to, eg, pass laws that say queer and trans people can't work with youth under 25? We don't know.

If you do in fact have a stable income, now would be a great time to get your finances in order so that you're in a position to give as much money as possible to individual people who may need it. What happens when your kid's mom gets fired for being gay and they're going to be evicted, for instance? Do you have an extra few thousand dollars lying around? Again, not that you should just sit on a dragon hoard of wealth if times are stable, but many of us can do some budget rationalizing to free up as much money as possible.

On the "America was always like this, it's just that YOU are too privileged to see it" front, I don't find that line of reasoning helpful - here is an example of why. Ten, fifteen years ago there were many, many fewer homeless people in the Twin Cities. Now there are a lot. Things are worse. It's not just the same but now privileged people are homeless or something. First off, the conditions that meant there were fewer unhoused people before were part of conditions in general being better - lower rents, less landlord power, more available housing, less policing, less heavily armed police, less of a culture of "tell the cops to smash these inconvenient people". Second, because fewer people were unhoused, each unhoused person had access to more resources - not only was it easier to lend someone enough money to get into a room because rooms were cheaper, but since there were fewer unhoused people there were more housed people who might help for each unhoused person AND because everyone's expenses were lower, they could afford to help more.

When things get worse, it's not just one thing getting worse in a sequestered way for a clear-cut group; it's a whole gestalt of things getting worse for all of us in different ways. Things are a lot worse right now around here than they have been at any point in my adult life; they are worse for all of us in interlocking ways.
posted by Frowner at 1:03 PM on December 4, 2023 [36 favorites]

Thought experiment style, as I'm not in the US, so this is just for myself, and based on stuff from childhood growing up in alternative scenes.

Have a social network on the same page as you.

Stockpile contraceptives (IUDs if possible), pregnancy tests, morning after pill, mifepristone and misoprostol.

Look into ways to accommodate more people in the houses available - assuming a lack of safety net, so for the people all into tiny homes, utilise that to tiny home a *house* in a liveable way. Bunk beds in kids rooms, sofa beds as couches, spare mattresses, so you can accommodate as many people as suddenly needed as possible. You *always* have room for people to crash with you when needed.

Get familiar with your local police force, as in, recognise them by eye where possible, in a friendly way as that will aid you /humanise *you* to them, but particularly in a, you can recognise as many potentially undercover cops as possible. Know what shoe brand they usually wear in uniform (they might have gotten better in your area, but it's still pretty common to not change their shoes etc), and what types of cars and undercover cars they usually buy in your area.

Be familiar with the political organisation and organisations in your area.

Don't go crazy with stockpiling food, but there's no harm in getting rice, cooking oil, red lentils and curry powder in quantities you can use over a year, and just keep using your stash *as* your pantry stash. This is more so, no matter how many people turn up suddenly at your house, you can make rice and dhal if there's suddenly 20 people there.

Scrub your social media down to innocuous community-minded profiles, and on linked in etc, share standard corporate info security postings, so your profile looks like, you're avoiding online because you're security conscious, not because you're trying to hide.

Assume your phones etc are all being tapped.
Do not discuss anything of importance, particularly not any minor misdemeanours or crimes (duh) over them, they will be used as an excuse. Turn them off regularly, because you're being 'anti-screentime'.

The safest safe-houses in your network need to be *safe*, so no stashes of any drugs or anything that could get raided, not personal use, nothing suspicious.

Keep reminders on how to interact with the police, to deescalate (be polite, play a little in shock or dumb if necessary (there must be some kind of misunderstanding, I'm sure friend *x lawyer* will clear it up, but don't talk), and what your rights are (*practically, not in an ideal world*) printed out and stuck on the back of the toilet door, as a regular reminder to everyone. Ice contacts so you remember them.

No matter how alternative you are, everyone have at least one emergency outfit/suit that is as passably professional-normcore as possible.

The more of a minority you are, the more norm core you start appearing on the daily.

Know your ICE contacts *without a phone*, as in you need to remember at least one phone number. In your social group, have the calmest, whitest, most professional-looking and hopefully legally minded folk available to be support people for anyone suddenly in trouble, ready to turn up and provide bail or deescalate a 'miscommunication', and have support for them to be able to do that.

Queer couples will all figure out who their beards will be - people who will probably become new housemates. No point arguing you/they weren't queer, but at least a paper thin 'conversion story'.

These all go for escape routes out of the country. Who has citizenship in another country, or can get one? Who can marry and get it? Who can get contract work overseas?
You can get a short term work visa very easily for NZ etc at the moment.
posted by Elysum at 2:31 PM on December 4, 2023 [5 favorites]

Get your travel documents in order now, today. Fascists lock down borders in both directions, to keep people in as much as keep others out. Stockpile US paper money. Set up or burnish contacts with friends or family outside the US, if that is available to you. If you have an escape route to another country, get enough foreign currency to set up a place to shelter and take care of food and water needs for couple months.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 2:53 PM on December 4, 2023 [4 favorites]

Stockpile contraceptives (IUDs if possible)

Stockpiling IUDs sounds completely unhinged to me, I'm sorry. What the absolute heck. For what. Come drop by the house next Sunday for a cookie swap and I'll pop in a mirena? Some of the advice in this thread is wild. If you want to help people get IUDs, drive them to a state where they can today and pay for it.
posted by phunniemee at 2:55 PM on December 4, 2023 [22 favorites]

Seconding all the answers here that skew towards mutual aid and community. Things like "fascism" and "decline" and even "collapse" don't have a universally-recognized scale or tipping point, they sort of get diagnosed after the fact, so I think take the good answers here about the experience many US residents are already having and think about applying them now rather than if there's a second Trump presidency.
posted by kensington314 at 3:04 PM on December 4, 2023 [12 favorites]

I know plenty of midwives who could insert an iud, it's just whether they can get one. It's a shelf stable device, and weird things happen where people get approved for one, or pick up their prescription for one, and then don't end up using it/getting it inserted.

I've kept contraceptives, and a spare morning after pill and benzos in an emergency kit just for a week long festival, and honestly I wish I had had an antipsychotic on hand as well, but oh well.
That's totally without the, what if you genuinely thought things were going to go to shit politically in the next few years.

Yes, if I was preparing for *fascism*, or even widespread contraceptive or abortion bans, keeping a LARC (long acting reversible contraceptive) on hand is totally what I would do. You do you.
posted by Elysum at 3:11 PM on December 4, 2023 [7 favorites]

if you seriously believe this is going to happen and you seriously intend to resist it or defend yourself, get a gun - persuade your comrades to get guns

whether you can actually resist the government this way is perhaps debatable, but you will be able to resist your political enemies
posted by pyramid termite at 3:21 PM on December 4, 2023 [7 favorites]

posted by Ardnamurchan at 4:34 PM on December 4, 2023

Regardless of the likelihood of this particular scenario, this is a good sort of question to ask, and one to which I've seen a few answers over the years from people with the experience to know. At heart, most of the advice I've seen has one theme in common, which is this:

The period you think you need to be prepared for is far, far longer than you ever imagined.

This is one of the main points of Dee's well known comment here, but it comes up elsewhere too. And it's worth remembering: you only get to hear that perspective from the people who survived long enough to tell the tale.

Lately I have been reading Milton Mayer's They Thought They Were Free: The Germans, 1933-1945 (PDF). There is a particular chapter in it, But Then It Was Too Late, which you have almost certainly seen quoted from many times over. It may be the best explanation ever written of how fascism happens: creeping in, by so many small steps over so long a period, that there is never the right moment to organise against it until it is already impossible.

But it's not often quoted to the end, and the end of that passage is this:
"The people in Germany who, once the war had begun, still thought of complaining, protesting, resisting, were betting on Germany's losing the war. It was a long bet. Not many made it."
Hitler came to power in 1933. Those who didn't get out had to survive 12 years of Nazi rule. Could you last that long?

Would there even be help coming? Who would come to your aid, with the US military under fascist control?

Anyone left alive who tried to wait out the dictatorship in North Korea has been waiting 78 years now.

Could your children last long enough? Could your grandchildren?

I think that it's an impossible thing to prepare for. I think that if you really believe it's going to happen, you either fight to prevent it with every ounce of your being, or you leave. Otherwise you have already accepted it.
posted by automatronic at 6:26 PM on December 4, 2023 [13 favorites]

I see Peak, Unregulated, Untaxed, Capitalism as a major problem driving a lot of the Very Bad Things that have happened and will continue to increase. I think we are entering a new feudalism where the privileged hold most of the wealth and control most stuff and the unprivileged get screwed. Homelessness, people living on the edge of poverty with no way out. Most of what's wrong with health care in the US is because of profit, and healthcare profits keep growing. We have a huge ridiculously funded military because it's crazy profitable for the 1%, and they've convinced Americans to fear everybody and be proud of weapons, violence, and colonialism.

So. Be willing and able to help those without privilege. Non-whites, women, disabled people, immigrants, children. Fight for something like Affirmative Action, Stick up for Black People against violence and racism, for women's rights, for decency for disabled people, etc. Fight for continued public school funding. Stick up for Jews even as you stick up for Palestinians. Fascism is well-organized bullying, and they look for groups to pick on.

Fight against the fascists who want to be on the school board, town council, state rep. In Maine, they're active, funded and running for offices. Be vigilant AF. Learn how to organize locally. Knock on doors for local candidates. Fight Complacency, and Fight the weird thing progressives do where they're too pure for the Democratic Party, or any established group. I campaigned against Mom4Liberty candidates with old school Dems and we used every tool available. The Dems have the voter lists and some fundraising capability. Get active, make them the party we need. The 2 party system is not wonderful, but changing it is a pipe dream, so exploit it. In Maine, Many Dem Party officials will happily help. Same with Dem. Socialists - DSA. Assess local politics, find acceptable candidates, get them elected, repeat. The Far Right is doing this with quite a bit of success.

I do not expect any kind of rebellion in the streets. Far Right Nazi wannabes tried to start a militia camp in Maine, failed miserably. They want their 60" tv and major league sports, AC, etc. I expect a continued chipping away at decency and democracy, continued acceptance of corporate price-gouging, election interference, and control of more and more of the country. One difference between now and Nazi Germany is that technology makes it more possible to spread vicious, lying propaganda. Promote truth, promote the things you believe in. The fascists are good at propaganda, and people fall for it.

Climate Crisis is here. Climate disasters continue and as they are expensive to recover from, that makes opportunities for wars, schisms, all sorts of troubles. There are already climate refugees. Things will develop is ways we don't expect, and the fascists/ 1%/ Bad People will exploit every opportunity to exploit power.
posted by theora55 at 6:57 PM on December 4, 2023 [9 favorites]

Thanks for this question, I think it's useful to think and talk about. After the 2016 election, I made an effort to become more visibly queer/gender non-conforming. I may revisit that in future (per other comments) - but currently being publicly not cishet feels like a good use of my privilege. I also set a big goal for the end of the administration, for something positive to be doing.

I am not prioritizing relocating myself, but do plan to encourage the young people in my orbit to attend college and then settle elsewhere, to the extent feasible. If Trump returned to power, I would prioritize finding and joining a compatible worship community, supporting my local arts community, and building more practical skills and flexibility. Things that will also be useful for an economic downturn, climate change, or other large change in local circumstances. (And it's honestly embarrassing that I can't speak Spanish already, where I live.)

One statement that's stuck with me that I think is relevant, "De-escalate all conflict that is not with the enemy." We're not all going to get out of the country, or become expert field medics, but hopefully we can look out for one another.
posted by mersen at 7:07 PM on December 4, 2023 [11 favorites]

What worked in Weimar Germany?

Get valid passports and vaccinations for everyone, and the means to travel on short notice. Everyone includes the dog. People stay in deadly locations surprisingly often because of pets, or because of a family member who can't cope with being transplanted. You need to be able to either take Mittens and Molly, the parrot, the grandparents and the grand kids, and the woman who provides care to a disabled family member with you, or be willing to leave them behind.

Make sure your assets are available from different locations. You don't want to have ALL your money in Western Union US dollar accounts and you want to be able to get at it if you become a refugee once you arrive in a stable location, or even to help you get to one.

Plan several directions to go if the location you are in looks like it is heating up to be dangerous or economically unviable. Since the States are big you probably can get by with only one flight plan out of the USA and a couple where you simply decamp to other safer States. Plan to leave at the point when other people think you are jumping the gun and panicking. You want to get there early enough that you can find employment and a place to live, not to end up in a tent city dependent on rations provided by other people.

I would not recommend Canada, for the same reason I wouldn't recommend Austria or Czechoslovakia to someone in Germany in 1934. There is, I think, a not too improbable scenario of politically active Americans crossing the border into Canada and continuing their struggle for power from there, and whoever ends up in control in the US going after them across the border. Also, if climate change gets bad in the Southern US people are going to want to move north for cooler temperatures, so the US Canadian border is likely to eventually break. If Canada is lucky if and when the US tips into serious unrest, the US will decide she can play the role of Switzerland, but I'm not betting on that luck.

Have transferable skills so you can work and make a decent income no matter where you end up, even if you find yourself blindsided by become a refugee in Mexico, after having always planned only to go north or east or west.

Don't get stuck having insufficient resources to keep running. Otto Frank made it as far as Amsterdam, and had money, income and contacts there to to make a good life for his family. Unfortunately when the Germans invaded the Netherlands he didn't have the means to get any farther before it was too late.

Become as invisible as you can, politically, so that you are not high on any list of people to round up. Do not appear to be richer, better educated, more sexually active, more liberal or more conservative than your community. Participate on the fringes of the most popular religion so that if anyone investigates you have attended the same church as everyone else, but not enough to look like a fanatic. Christmas and Easter attendance is sufficient.

Make contacts in different communities and quietly assist them. You don't want to have a reputation for hanging out with Evangelicals, or Jews, or the Gay community, etc. but you do want to have at least one person in several such groups who will vouch for you because you gave them some significant help. Do this in cash, if you can. The kind of help I mean is if you discretely hand someone a not insignificant amount of money to pay for their child's medical care, or to help get them back to having a vehicle again. The less privilege and the more at risk a group is, the farther your money will go to protect them and you, but the flip side of that is that the less power they will have to protect you in return. On the other hand helping out a local cop who is your neighbour is likely to be ineffective, as the more powerful someone is the more entitled they are apt to be, nullifying any contribution you can make to being just what you owed them anyway, in their estimation. Don't bribe the rich, or the armed. If you give them money they will see you as prey and come back for more. If you start having to make payoffs of that nature you should have left before the first payment.

Get all your dental work done. Stay or become physically fit. Get fit enough that you can walk all day, for several days in a row if need be, to ensure that you are not dependent on car or other transportation to get around. Get at least a year's supply of all important medicine. If you are female and of an age to get pregnant, get an IUD fitted. Give your daughters that option too. Have at least two pairs of up-to-date corrective lenses if you need them.

Make plans and back up plans for where and how to meet or make contact if you get separated. If half the family is in Oregon and the other half is in Texas and neither has a clue if the other set is alive or dead, or even what State they are in, you want to have a way to get in touch, other than hoping the Red Cross can help.

Memorize contact information and vital statistics. Don't get it tattooed to your skin. If you know someone who lives in a safe third country who is appears to be very firmly settled and in a stable situation, get permission to use them as a go between and get everyone to memorize their contact information. Your graduate student now back in Japan could get mail from both Texas and Oregon and help you reconnect, without you having to risk the police in Texas knowing where the family there is staying.

Don't share information with family members that could potential endanger them, or cause them to endanger you. For example if you are planning an urgent midnight move to another State, your teenagers only need to know that the family would be moving if they could, and might do it suddenly, but not anything about who, how or when, let alone that the plan is next Tuesday night on a side road that goes north. You can tell them on Tuesday morning.

Be willfully blind. If your next door neighbor is hiding people in their basement, you not only didn't see anything, but every member of your family already knows that they also are too short sighted to see anything they aren't supposed to see, on principle. When you have some spare food you can bring it over, but you don't say anything about the basement to your neighbour or to your family.

Stay close to family members so you know if they are being sucked into any kind of radical affiliation. This includes radical to the side you sympathize with - you really want to know before your son denounces you, or before the house is suddenly full of police there to arrest your daughter for handing out leaflets and demanding enormous bribes not to arrest you too.

Be gentle and pleasant to everyone. Don't make enemies.

Learn some extremely useful/essential skills if you can. A Jewish electrical engineer went through the entire war with his identity known by everyone in the community, but since his job was to get the electrical power back on line after each bombing raid and there was nobody else who could do it, he was never imprisoned and or deported. He WAS condemned to death for disappearing for a week while he got his daughter to a safe location ahead of the Russian Army, but as soon as the sentence was pronounced they sent him back out to reconnect the power as that death sentence was tacitly commuted to "after we win the war."

As another example, a dental hygienist with a full set of tools is likely to be a welcome member of any community going through severe unrest. Being an abortionist used to also ensure someone would be able to thrive during a long term break down of society, but I would avoid THAT one for this go round, as that would put a BIG target on your back. Some people have done well from picking up the skill of hog butchering. Many people can handle raising a pig, but can't handle the killing and processing.

Learn the geography of wherever you live, very well so you know alternative routes to everywhere.

Have back up copies of all documents that can be backed up, in case they get lost or destroyed.

Marry into any community where you want to stay, and have a child there with an accepted member of that community. This will likely make in-laws willing to invest in you.

Presume your cell phone is a tracking device and whoever is most dangerous to you will use it to track you, and will get access to anything on it.

All this is assuming you have lots and lots of cis het decent-income male privilege. For people without those the situation is immeasurably more scary.

Keep in mind that boys need to be protected and spirited away well before they are old enough to be drafted.

Keep in mind that a broken house without electricity, but which belongs to you, is a much better place to survive than no house whatsoever. Try not to set out without a secure destination to arrive at.

In previous decades I would have had things to suggest about participating in demonstrations and resistance, but with the current technology all I can suggest is that you find apolitical ways to make a difference. Filling sandbags for a flood will not put you on anyone's hit list, where filling sandbags to make barricades will, and with facial recognition technology and drones and trackers your best bet for survival isn't throwing yourself into the fray.
posted by Jane the Brown at 1:54 PM on December 5, 2023 [5 favorites]

Stay or become physically fit. Get fit enough that you can walk all day, for several days in a row if need be, to ensure that you are not dependent on car or other transportation to get around.

Absolutely this. Work hard at strength training. If you have to walk all day, several days in a row, you will likely have to wear a pack or carry people. Or both.

Take Red Cross classes. There's no need to say why; we should all do that regardless of the political situation. Take a look at the Mother Earth News. Learn how to forage.

But get really strong.
posted by jgirl at 3:33 PM on December 5, 2023 [4 favorites]

I recommend reading Heather Cox Richardson regularly, she commented during her recent book tour that she doesn't expect a new civil war as a war, but as continued efforts to damage democracy, steal elections, etc.
posted by theora55 at 5:58 PM on December 5, 2023 [3 favorites]

Also, stuff like an IUD -

I wouldn't anticipate that wealthy folks would have any problems getting one. You can extrapolate that out to other resources.

What is more likely, is that say, various groups of people will find it harder to access, or funding will be cut in ways that trap them, in ways that might mean getting one 'off the books' will be an advantage.

Eg you might need parental permission to get one at older ages, and foster kids are suddenly out of luck, what a coincidence. Or husband's permission even if you're separated etc.
Or funding for *other* health conditions, might get tied to *not* getting an IUD, or getting one might mean that you are expected to pay higher premiums forever (no matter how little that makes sense), or go onto a social rating score, or be viewable by far too many government agencies for reasonable privacy of health concerns.
Or yes, people might have to go *out of state* to get one, which - will be fine if you have an economic safety net, or might screw you over if you're in a precarious financial position working two jobs where you'll lose a job if you're not available.

Tradeoffs like that, where technically you can get one, but in practice there's barriers, and going 'under the table' is worth it.
posted by Elysum at 12:54 PM on December 7, 2023

One thing that I feel has gone a bit lost here is: you need to develop strategies of resistance with your friends and allies. Which is effing dangerous. So you need to be very careful. But you need to do it. And you need to do it together, because no one can do that alone.

Ages ago, I visited a family in Germany who had been in the resistance against the Nazis and were still there to tell the story. One detail that shocked me was that someone had reported them for not eating the official German food. It's not that totalitarians really care about what you eat, it's more that they make rules about everything, so they can get you on a technicality when they can't get you on anything substantial. I feel that is probably what the abortion-banning, the book-banning and the LGBT+ hating is about in the US today.

So it is hard, but it is necessary to resist now. Don't wait for the actual fascist in the White House.
posted by mumimor at 11:51 AM on December 8, 2023 [6 favorites]

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