In late February, the Hungarian parliament voted to approve Sweden’s membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. That was the final vote – unanimity is required – needed to expand NATO membership to 32 countries.

          Finland joined the alliance last year. Both High North neighbors sought inclusion in the protective pact following Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine two years ago – Putin’s second attack on his neighbor, having occupied Crimea in 2014.

          This is the first time in 210 years – the Napoleonic Wars – that Sweden has forsworn neutrality though its World War II neutrality was based on its willingness to provide iron ore to Nazi Germany. Sweden’s cooperation/collaboration meant that Germany did not have to install a puppet government as in Denmark, Norway and elsewhere.

          But, assessing the expansionist dreams of Russia’s would-be czar, Sweden decided to align itself with the other democratic republics of Europe and the U.S.

          Neutrality is a tricky business – for individuals as well as nations.

          In the current political climate, Donald Trump condemns conventional, conservative Republicans who have the audacity to think for themselves instead of waiting for his words from on low to tell them what to think.

          Since his first election, many elected conservatives have chosen retirement – political neutrality – as preferable to standing up to Trump’s bigoted base in a primaries. Former Rep. Liz Cheney was an exception. She lost, but still retains a national presence based upon the integrity she displayed.

           “Appeasement” was the curse of European leaders, whose refusal to confront Hitler on small matters, led to the conflagration of World War II. A similar appeasement by Republicans has enabled Trump’s 30% base of the GOP to turn the party into a not-so-grand new Trump cult.

          Add a constant threat of violence against dissenters to the vitriolic rhetoric heaped upon them and you create a flock of supporters afraid to express themselves even with a secret ballot.

          While this go-along-to-get-along disease is a visible rash upon the Republican Party, its members are not the only ones choosing neutrality in this grave time in our country’s history. For many, their most cherished convictions are matters of convenience – what is the easiest way to turn a profit each day or enjoy idle pleasures.

          Will we lapse into the fascism that Trump advocates – according to longstanding definitions of that governmental system?

          Threats of retribution, feelings of inadequacy and just plain laziness keep many liberals silent as well.

          And, of course, to say today’s dire times make activism essential ignores the obvious that times have always been perilous.

          But, I do think more is at risk today. We have a presidential candidate declaring himself above the laws of the land, who has already sent one mob to seize control of the government and who promises vengeance against all who oppose him. And many Americans think this shift away from our republican form of government is just fine.

          This really isn’t the time to leave the struggle to others, to stand on the sidelines and hope they will give you the world you want. You might even fool yourself and think that you are an ally though you never dare to risk the flak that crusaders earn.

          Neutrality is enticing. Much Eastern theology extols noninvolvement in societal affairs as the ultimate virtue. Some Greeks agreed, though, when Epicurus declares, “We must free ourselves from the prison of private and public affairs,” we need to temper that “withdrawal from the multitude” with his prerequisite: “When tolerable security against our fellow humans is attained.”

          We currently enjoy that “tolerable security,” but the retributions promised by Trump and his disciples make its future tenuous at best. Mandated conformity eliminates aloofness and desires for benign noninvolvement.

          The Swedes assessed the condition of the world and decided it was time to choose sides, to stand up for freedom against tyranny. If you have ever considered doing so, now would be a fine time to step forward to speak out in support of our republic to ensure that we keep it.

            (Gary Edmondson is chair of the Stephens County Democratic Party.)

Swedes decide to choose sides

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