Cardboard sign on The Promised Land sculpture in Portland, Oregon, reminding military personnel of their duty to follow The Constitution. (Ted Timmons)

8:46 to Portland: How Trump’s Brutal Western Ends

Chaos, cancel culture and secret police. The protesters arrive just in time.

Peter Sweeney
10 min readJul 24, 2020


“The world suffers a lot. Not because the violence of bad people. But because of the silence of the good people.” From Napoleon of all people, a stunning testament to the destructive power of silence. In our revolutionary times, “silence is violence” is once again a rallying cry for change.

But silence isn’t mere complicity, it’s often compelled. Silence through obfuscation and conformity. Moments of silence. Codes of silence. Silent majorities. Silent screams. Silence inhabits all our inexplicit drives and motivations. It possesses our emotions, our institutions, and our culture. We’ll need more placards.

Yet silence, in all its forms, is utterly incompatible with a civil society. Movements may be summoned in silence, catalyzed through quiet displays of solidarity. But silence cannot sustain us. It cannot explain and so it cannot persuade other people to change.

The pandemic has made these things painfully clear. Despite the dangers of mass gatherings, George Floyd’s senseless murder kindled a worldwide movement. The Trump administration continues its dangerous descent into authoritarianism and grotesque political theater. Calls for the end of silence have stoked debates about the ideas and voices that should fill the vacuum. Defenders of free speech are raising alarms as cancel culture becomes a pervasive feature of intellectual life.

As it sweeps across America, the pandemic pulls these opposing ideological positions apart at the seams. Like equal and opposite forces of nature, the silence of complicity meets the silence of conformity. It lays bare not only the ugly underbelly of civil society, but also the mechanisms of progress and what it demands of reasonable people.

The end of silence isn’t harmonious, it’s cacophonous and effortful. The alternative is unthinkable.

Images from a worldwide protest movement. (The Atlantic)

The moment of silence



Peter Sweeney

Entrepreneur and inventor | 4 startups, 80+ patents | Writes on the science and philosophy of problem solving. | @petersweeney