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A gubernatorial candidate’s slogan is "Jesus. Guns. Babies." She proudly announces she wants a theocracy in America. Elected officials call their political enemies "demons" and "reptilian lizard people." They claim that those who disagree with them are cannibals, aliens, robots.

Over and over, those on the right—the mainstream right, not the fringe—call everyone else “evil, evil, evil.” Anyone on their own side who disagrees, perhaps a former presidential nominee like Mitt Romney, maybe a former vice president like Mike Pence, are demonized for displaying any hesitancy. They’re "traitors."

Meanwhile, we watch as our friends, neighbors, and coworkers take prom photos in the park, bicker over a tennis court reservation, follow the latest celebrity gossip.

We joke about the stupidity of those plotting our destruction.

As if nothing was wrong.

In a college psychology course years ago, I learned of an experiment in which a subject was observed in a room by himself as smoke was gradually introduced through a vent. If the subject was alone, he jumped up and reported the smoke almost immediately. If, however, other folks were in the room—actors who were part of the experiment and told not to react—the subject would look around in confusion. Seeing that no one else was concerned, he’d wait until the room was thick with smoke before he finally took action.

Even in another version where none of the three subjects was in on the experiment, they each still waited far longer than if left to make a judgment on their own.

If the problem was serious, someone would do something about it, right?

When I came out as gay, a member of my extended family promised to hide me “if they ever come for the gays.” Now she supports the people targeting me.

For years, center-left journalists pointed out the dog whistles in political statements from those on the right. When rightwing officials say “urban,” they mean “Black.” When they say “globalist,” they mean "Jew." A hundred different dog whistles.

Now, though, candidates, pundits, elected officials, and justices have given up the dog whistles. They’re stating their goals out loud. “We’ve won on abortion and we’re coming after birth control.” “We must overturn gay marriage.” “We don’t want everyone to vote.”

They’re making it a felony to be homeless.

They label everyone opposed to their complete takeover of government “enemies of the state” and “Satan worshipers.”

It’s not only easier to kill traitors than neighbors—it’s a moral and legal necessity.

Words matter. Like yelling “Fire!” in a crowded theater.

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We smell smoke. We see the smoke. But the folks around us go on about their day as if nothing is wrong. So we doubt ourselves. Maybe that mist will dissipate on its own. We don’t want to look like idiots by making a fuss.

Or be accused of channeling Orson Welles and causing a War of the Worlds panic.

We’re afraid even to talk about it with our partners, among our friends. We might induce a contagious yawn and all start to cough.

We don’t want to cough when we’re hiding.

Besides, behaving as if this is real only gives the right more ammunition. Emboldens them to take action. We can’t let them smell our fear.

As a recent meme pointed out, “The road to fascism is paved with people telling you to stop overreacting.”

We don’t need to guess what those on the right “might” do next. They’re telling us. We should believe them.

We smell smoke when we see the world’s most proudly capitalist country failing at providing basic necessities like healthcare. And education. And baby formula.

We smell smoke when we see worsening droughts, floods, storms, and heat domes. But presidents and prime ministers don’t seem concerned. Maybe we’re imagining that smoke.

Or…perhaps we should accept the evidence right in front of us and do something.

Find a better system than capitalism.

Stop creating new fossil fuel projects.

Believe that those on the right are coming for us.

And act accordingly.

Before the air is so filled with smoke we can no longer find a way out.