Hiding In Plain Sight: The Invention of Donald Trump and the Erosion of America by Sarah KendziorSarah Kendzior (Flatiron Books)

The rise of Donald Trump may have shocked Americans, but it should not have surprised them. His anti-democratic movement is the culmination of a decades-long breakdown of U.S. institutions. The same blindness to U.S. decline – particularly the loss of economic stability for the majority of the population and opportunity-hoarding by the few – is reflected in an unwillingness to accept that authoritarianism can indeed thrive in the so-called “home of the free”.

As Americans struggle to reconcile the gulf between a flagrant aspiring autocrat and the democratic precepts they had been told were sacred and immutable, the inherent fragility of American democracy has been revealed. Hiding in Plain Sight exposes this continual loss of freedom, the rise of consolidated corruption, and the secrets behind a burgeoning autocratic United States that have been hiding in plain sight for decades. In Kendzior’s signature and celebrated style, she expertly outlines Trump’s meteoric rise from the 1980s until today, interlinking key moments of his life with the degradation of the American political system and the continual erosion of our civil liberties by foreign powers.

Kendzior also offers a never-before-seen look at her personal life and her lifelong tendency to be in the wrong place at the wrong time – living in New York through 9/11 and in St. Louis during the Ferguson uprising, and researching media and authoritarianism when Trump emerged using the same tactics as the post-Soviet dictatorships she had long studied.

Hiding in Plain Sight is about confronting injustice – an often agonizing process, but an honest and necessary one – as the only way that offers the possibility of ending it.

I have favorite books. This is not one of them.

I have books I want to suggest to people. This is not one either.

This book is not enjoyable. It is sobering. Reading it is like sinking into ice-cold water. Every fact is laid out crystal-clear, with the piercing pain of a truth you knew but hoped you could ignore. I could only read a couple pages each sitting before I had to walk away.

And yet, it’s possibly the most important book I’ve ever read. With grim steadiness, Kendzior draws on her experience studying autocratic states to establish that we in the US are experiencing an autocratic consolidation of power, hardly different from those seen in former democracies such as the Ukraine or Hungary. She draws careful connections between several Republican operatives, as well as many White House officials and Trump himself, and powerful figures in the shadows who have sought for years to, as she puts it, “strip America down and sell it for parts”.

It is about the decline of America and the rise of Donald Trump. It is an obituary for American exceptionalism. It is a desperate warning.

I can’t just suggest this book. It’s not just good. It’s imperative. It’s necessary. I want to plead with you:

If you never take any other recommendation from me, please read this book.

Please. Read it soon.

Because before long, it may be too late to matter.

A few days ago, I realized, with a sharp jolt, that I wouldn’t be able to carry an ink bottle onto the plane with me during my upcoming summer of world travel.

If you’re a normal person, this might not register as an issue–an inconvenience on the same level as a coffeeshop lacking a hitching post for your horse, or the discovery that none of the supermarkets in town offer telegraph services. But since the beginning of the year, I’ve been writing almost exclusively with fountain pens, going so far as to replace my long-beloved Parker Jotter with them. As much as it may seem a blast from the past, I own and use bottles of ink with some regularity, and not only was I going to be unable to keep them in my carry-on, even if I checked a fragile glass bottle of deeply colored ink, carrying it around in my backpack seemed like an invitation for disaster. Traveling with my fountain pens was simply not going to work. What was I to do?

It was only after that brief panic that I realized I’d already anticipated this dilemma and purchased a Fisher Space Pen M4B for my travels. I am a forgetful man. Continue reading