Some Americans don’t like our government, its foundational Constitution, its rule of law, its institutions nor its norms.  They want change no matter the cost or consequence.  When change has come in other countries it has often been greeted later with misgivings after the new order of things has settled in, too often by use of violence and subjugation.

The founders of the United States were well-educated, knowledgeable men who realized they had an opportunity to organize into a nation the underpinnings of a democracy. They knew democracy meant people would choose leaders through free and fair elections, providing for the participation of its citizens in its politics and civic life, protecting the human rights of all citizens, and governing by a rule of law as applied equally to all citizens and the Constitution was designed accordingly and been flexible enough to adjust to “bumps” along the way down to the present day.

Indisputably, the U.S. has had its ups and downs as a nation: the protests of the 1960s, mainly over the war in Vietnam, that led to a proverbial corner-turning by many an American from that decade down to the present time. Dissatisfactions, by a whole lot of Americans, has taken this nation’s people from a time when Americans in general—save for the Civil War, civil rights legislation, and intermittent episodes of fear-mongering—accepted their plight and somehow muddled through adversity to arrive now at a split, fractured society where hardly anyone is willing to accept his circumstances. A nation so broken that the Russian Federation under Vladimir Putin, a man determined to terminate democratic nations and their institutions, is not only influencing U.S. elections but who might also have a firm grip on our president.

What is important to recognize these days is the drift of the nation towards an autocracy with leaders and their supportive followers trying to reshape the government to enable them full control without the rule of law.

Hallmarks of a new order without democracy are characterized by citizens not allowed to choose their leaders or hold them accountable. Protests are forbidden while the citizens lose their sovereignty and political authority.  Criticism of the ruling class results in imprisonment and, depending on their severity or threat, death.

It is where the citizens do not know or take part in the formulation of public issues.  Voting is the exclusive reserve of the leaders.  There’s no such entity as a political party and thereby no campaigning by candidates for political office or consideration by the citizenry-at-large in favor or against those persons in charge of all the others.  No debating of public issues is allowed any more than attending community meetings, petitioning the government or, most severely prohibited among the unacceptable behaviors, open or even clandestine protests.

No citizen has basic rights such as those in the Bill of Rights.  There are no private beliefs and citizens may not write or say what they think. Freedom of religion is abolished while private and public gatherings to worship and practice religion are forbidden.  All news is censored and then organized and delivered from one approved source established by the ensconced leadership.  Truth and facts vanish while mendacity and fake news reign uncontested.  Citizens cannot freely move about the land and, unless special permission is approved by the authority, citizens must remain located where born while kept under continuous surveillance.

The establishment of laws are not permitted as regime-supporting rules of conduct and behavior are identified and enforced and are constantly tested for obedience from cradle to grave.  Any citizen can be arrested, imprisoned and/or executed arbitrarily and without cause, torture and cruel inhumane treatment are willed by the leadership and dependent upon absolute compliance with the rules.  The rulers have total authority and judge in rule-breaking and punishment.  There is established and maintained a ruling class that enjoys the wealth and riches of the state while those citizens not among the ruling class must accept their plight and express joy and happiness at their servile state.

The citizens of the Weimar Republic of Germany (1919-1933) did not prevent what became Nazi Germany until it was far too late.  There are nations in the world today that are getting close to or have arrived at a place very much like or are identical to the descriptions provided here. The People’s Republic of China is one of them while others include Cuba, Egypt, Libya, Myanmar, North Korea, Russia, Saudi Arabia, The Philippines, Turkey, and a growing list of others, with their strongmen in unlimited terms of office.  Only we Americans can defeat ourselves and our way of life; only we can make certain our future as a democracy is secured.

(Gene H. McIntyre lives in Keizer.)