How Can We NOT Know?

The first warning we had that America was facing a dire threat to its existence came April 18th, 1775. This was the night Paul Revere took his midnight ride. The British are coming! The British are coming! is what he yelled as he rode through the streets of Concord.

We didn’t receive another warning like this for 165 years. Then, on December 7th, 1940, the Japanese launchd a surprise attack against us at Pearl Harbor.

Our third warning came in October 1962, when President Kennedy discovered that Nikita Khrushchev had agreed with Fidel Castro to place nuclear missiles in Cuba. The fourth, and final out-in-the-open, absolutely unmistakable warning we’ve ever received telling us that our existence as a nation was in danger came on 9/11/2001, when 19 al Qaeda extremists hijacked several airplanes and carried out direct attacks against four targets in the United States.

Today the warnings we’re receiving that America is once again under attack aren’t external. They’re neither about an imminent invasion or a thermonuclear war. Nor are they physical, warnings about an attack of some sort that will do us all bodily harm.

Instead, today the warnings we’re getting are internal. They’re philosophical not physical. And, in the broadest and deepest sense, they’re invisible.

Today’s warnings are not invisible because they’re hard to find. Actually, today’s warnings about the danger America is currently facing are on the front pages of every newspaper in the country. They’re the lead story on every news channel every night. And, they’re the subject of sermons, talk shows, and Hollywood movies. And yet, despite all this publicity, these warnings, in terms of their deepest substance, truest insights, and long-term significance, are still invisible. For all intents and principle, unnoticed and unnoticeable

Which is why so many of us DO NOT KNOW.

If you don’t believe me, watch the news tonight, or read the New York Times tomorrow morning. Then read the articles I’ve listed just below. If you do just this much, I think you’ll be moved to reach out to me and say “God almighty, I never really knew. We’ve got to do something.

Here are four articles I think will prompt you to ask yourself, “How did I not know?

  1. Larry Diamond: The Capital Siege Is The Wake-up Call America Shouldn’t Have Needed: Elite Enabling of Populist Tyranny Can Doom Democracy. This is a 10 page article describing the tendency every democracy has to morph into populist tyranny, especially when too many people become “semi-loyal citizens” to the country’s democratic principles.
  2. Amanda Taub: The New Authoritarianism. This is a 7 page article describing how people prefer to live in a democracy. Until they find themselves living in a world that is too complicated for them to comprehend and navigate. Then, in response, they move towards a preference for a “boring, tolerable form of autocratic government,” one that is surely both oppressive and suppressive, but also stable and orderly.
  3. Zack Stanton: The Problem Isn’t just One Insurrecion. It’s Mass Radicalization. This is a 25 page article that explains why and how more and more Americans are living in a ‘social echo chamber’ within which they validate and amplify each others fears, construct extremist narratives, and encourage each other to mobilize against those who have different views and values.
  4. Amanda Taub: The Rise of American Authoritarianism. This is a 68 page article that describes in clear, yet truly deep and significant ways, how the external and internal threats that all Americans have survived just since the turn of the century, threats like 9/11, 2008's economic crisis, the immigration crisis, climate change, and the large-scale demographic and cultural changes, all of which have pushed many Americans, especially those who have “latent authoritarian tendencies” into a full embrace of populist ideologies and autocratic forms of governance.

Paul Revere in 1775, FDR in 1940, JFK in 1962, and George W. Bush in 2001 were all warning us about an external threat to this country’s survival. What happened at the Capitol last January 6th, 2021 was another public, out-in-the-open warning to all of us that America’s democracy is being threatened.

But this time, January 6th is a warning about a dangerous internal threat. The “insurrectionist attack” that took place last January wasn’t conducted by foreigners. Instead, it was instigated by American citizens who, as Larry Diamond explains, have become “semi-loyal” to America’s democratic principles, and by American citizens who, as Zack Stanton suggests, have been “radicalized.” In either case, America’s democracy is under attack by citizens and elected officials who, as Amanda Taub explains, have surrendered to their deepest fears and their “latent authoritarian tendencies.”

Join Me In This Exploration

Thanks for reading this article. You can find more information about (1) the internal threats that our democratic form of government is currently facing, (2) the warnings that have been and are being offered that explain the nature of and the long-term significance of January 6th’s insurrectionist effort. and (3) the solutions that are being offered to respond to these threats at Transformational Learning’s America’s Next Revolution Resource Center.



I’m a dad, a reader, writer, and thought partner for individuals looking to improve their lives. My passion is learning and meeting this century’s challenges.

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David Nicoll, Ph.D

I’m a dad, a reader, writer, and thought partner for individuals looking to improve their lives. My passion is learning and meeting this century’s challenges.