Whether or not you hold long-standing loyalty to a political ideology or partisanship, or whether your support is based on candidates and issues, it does not define who you are.

We just celebrated our tradition of Independence Day. Our triumph of liberty. The feeling of unity which makes us Americans. We witnessed “Old Glory” grandly waving her stars and stripes as a reminder of our freedom. As Americans, we always stand proud with hand over heart when we hear our national anthem played. We love being an American. Lee Greenwood confirmed that with lyrics to “God Bless the U.S.A.”  It begins, “if tomorrow all the things were gone I’d worked for all my life.” Lyrics continue with, “I’d thank my lucky stars to be living here today, cause the flag still stands for freedom and they can’t take that away.”  Or, can they?

We may be “Proud To Be An American,” but is the American spirit beginning to erode? Have we not witnessed politics as being a dirty business?  Are the poor and needy listened to, or is it the rich and powerful that mostly get their way? Are we willing to simply tune out all the political  yammer and go about our business? It would be easier to ignore our country’s leaders as they blaze trails of despair for Americans to become lost on. Will people eventually see all the warning signs they missed or ignored about potential rough terrain. If endurance allows them to reach the trail summit, is there a chance that the view will have changed? Will we as Americans allow that to happen or will we continue to shield our freedom? We need to ask ourselves, “who are we and who do we want to be?” Can we set aside political differences and focus on our country? Can we stand together against those lacking restraint in the use of power by whoever holds the political sword, or will we fall short?

Are we sliding away from our democracy? Are we seeing the beginning of small steps forming to censor our freedom as a country?  Is ours a democracy that has seemingly just gone haywire, or are preconditions present for this administration to push the country down a rocky slope toward illiberalism?  Lacking knowledge of our constitution, Trump seems to ignore its liberties. Like a toddler on a surfboard, he just rides the waves of his emotions doing or saying whatever he wants to do or say. It’s reckless and defies common sense.

Illiberal democracies seem to be increasing around the world. Countries like Hungary and Poland have been criticized for moving toward repression. They step on media freedoms, undermine checks and balances, and the rule of law. Then there’s Erdogan reigning over Turkey like Putin rules Russia. They view alliances like NATO or the EU as weak and meaningless. Remember Trump calling Erdogan to congratulate him on winning a controversial, narrowly passed referendum in Turkey. Men like Erdogan may not resemble our democratic ideals, but they could possibly be the future. Although elections take place in an illiberal democracy, civil liberties get stolen. The activities of those who exercise real power get hidden from citizens. The benefit of that power is less to persecute the innocent, but more to protect the guilty.

Think about the avenues where Trump has left footprints pointing in the direction of autocracy. He lacks any ideology and without hesitation has praised autocratic leaders. Authoritarianism usually begins by undermining legitimacy. Like Trump inciting the false birther claim against Obama for five years. He has also  falsely accused him of wiretapping, and while in Poland, Trump see-sawed about Russia interfering in our election but wrongly slammed Obama for doing “nothing” about it. (Right. Like my cat’s up a tree, blame Obama!) Going off script, he also attacked CNN for “being fake news for a long time. They’ve been covering me in a very dishonest way,” he added before turning to the Polish President to ask if he had this problem. Trump had to have known the Polish government has been accused of suppressing the freedom of the press and taking control of state media outlets. He agreed with Poland’s President Andrzej Duda that “press coverage was a problem in both their countries.” How many times have we heard Trump yap about “fake news.” That is an attempt to delegitimize our First Amendment to the Constitution. While in Germany, Trump seemed to have agreed with Putin that Russia did not interfere in our election. That discredits the very intelligence agencies he’s supposed to depend on. The image and reputation of what the office of the presidency is suppose to mean is being damaged. Trump is also doing harm to America’s world image which results in loss of our position as a world leader.  That is abuse of office.

Are Republican Congressmen “falling short?”  Who will have to own Trump’s illiberalism and aberrant behavior?  Is he the “Caesar” that conservatives cheered for, and that nobody in Congress or the Supreme Court with any power will now try to stop him?  But, as Edward L. Hudgins wrote, “the principles of this country are no mere abstractions; they are written in the hearts of all true Americans.”  And, that’s my opinion. . . .