Growing up, Jennifer Nguyen struggled to connect to her mother, who was born in an authoritarian regime. But given recent erosions in civil liberties and political freedoms in the United States, her mom has opened up more, sharing tips with Jennifer on how to survive the steady march to oligarchic autocracy.
Jennifer is excited her mom is now passing down something besides intergenerational trauma.
“The other day, I was feeling anxious about everything, and my mom calmed me down with suggestions on what to do in the event of mass warrantless raids and arrests,” Jennifer said. “She told me that I should make sure to have a to-go bag, and that nuts were a good source of protein to have in the bag in case I find myself lost in the woods for weeks like she once did while fleeing genocide.”
“When I said I was concerned about the next election being a sham election,” Jennifer said. “She told me that the first sham election is always the hardest, but that it gets better in that you become numb and recalibrate your idea of freedom. That was, oddly, comforting.”
Jennifer’s mom told her to expect continued propaganda and attacks on the free press. She suggested Jennifer buy board games for when the government shuts down the internet and start wearing heavy makeup to confuse facial recognition software, and suggested marrying rich so Jennifer would have the resources to bribe officials.
Recently, they’ve spent more quality time together watching videos of sick politicians pretending to be healthy in attempts to glean any information that the government is keeping from them.
“She told me how the dictator of her country was actually dead for years before the public found out because they pumped him with formaldehyde, put sunglasses on him, hired an offscreen voice actor, and somehow made his mouth move in videos,” Jennifer noted. “It was really sweet for her to share that kind of experience with me, and for me to finally ‘get’ it.”
Despite fearing that the government will soon take ownership over her reproductive system and arbitrarily arrest her, Jennifer is grateful she can spend this dark period in history bonding with her mom.
Jennifer’s mom declined to comment for this article because as a survivor of an authoritarian regime, she knows better.