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The Russian invasion of Ukraine has a lot of people thinking about authoritarianism. It’s sometimes described as strongman rule, but it’s not exactly that. Those strong men in authoritarian regimes are propped up by a whole network of people who are willing to snitch on their neighbors. Egged on by Vladimir Putin right now, schoolchildren, teachers, shoppers and storekeepers are denouncing their fellows for anti-war sentiments and many are getting arrested. 

We describe it as horrifying when it’s happening in Putin’s Russia, but just how different, really, is Texas?

In Texas, under the state’s new abortion law, not only is abortion banned as early as six weeks into a pregnancy, but anyone, anywhere, is deputized to sue those they suspect of aiding or abetting a person seeking an abortion. There’s even the chance of a $10,000 bounty. 

It’s not just abortion.  In a letter to his state’s Department of Family and Protective Services,  Governor Greg Abbott has called for the parents of trans kids receiving gender-affirming care to be investigated, and called on doctors, nurses, and teachers to report on those parents or face criminal penalties, legally obligating people to snitch on their students and patients.  

No one should be forced to snitch on anyone, but similar bills have been introduced in Idaho, Oklahoma, Florida, and other states are following suit. Not only is abortion care likely to be banned in 26 states after June (if the Supreme court decides against choice), but snitching is going to be rampant. 

What’s the opposite of authoritarianism and a culture of control? Democracy and dissent. A majority of Texans, when polled, support keeping abortion safe and legal. State court judges and district attorneys, who are elected, not appointed, in Texas, have pushed back against the Governor, and refused to investigate the parents of trans kids. It’s no surprise then, that Republicans are working hard to control elections in the state. Gerrymandering and throwing up all sorts of new obstacles for voters.

In Russia, even before the invasion of Ukraine, experts say Putin had returned the country to a grim time of secret informants and squealers. We can hope that the invasion pushes that regime past its breaking point. But in the US we are no stranger to hunts and denunciations, either. Do we want to relive that part of our history? 

We have a choice to be either a nation of voters or a nation of snitches. Where would you rather live?  

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