The Universal Notebook: Are we becoming a police state?

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In totalitarian countries like China, Russia and North Korea you expect to find troops at the borders, state security checking citizen IDs and massive military parades.

You don’t expect those sorts of things in a democracy. But more and more these days it seems as though America is becoming a police state.

No, I do not believe President Donald Trump is consciously intent on becoming a dictator, but the evidence is everywhere that America under Trump is drifting towards tyranny.

Perhaps we should have seen Trump’s penchant for gold-plated despotism coming during the 2016 presidential debates when, to the horror of patriotic Americans everywhere, he refused to say whether he would accept the results of the election, the peaceful transfer of power being the hallmark of our democracy.

Pressed to pledge to honor the outcome of the election, Trump would only say he would do so “if I win.”

Spoken like an autocrat-in-waiting, not like the elected leader of the free world.

And to further establish his tendency to tyrannical rule, Trump first argued that “Crooked Hillary” should not be allowed to run at all and then, even though she lost, he still wants the Justice Department to jail his opponent. That’s the sort of thing Vladimir Putin does; but then, Trump adores strongmen.

In his first year in office, Trump has consistently praised leaders like Putin, Xi in China, Kim in North Korea, Duterte in the Philippines, Erdogan in Turkey and el-Sisi in Egypt – men who rule their countries with iron fists – while badmouthing our allies, especially those like Germany, the United Kingdom and New Zealand, where women are in charge.

Like the dictators he admires, Trump greatly fears freedom of the press and regularly attacks journalists.

“I would never kill them, but I do hate them,” he has said of reporters. Big of him.

In an attempt to suppress criticism, Trump has threatened to sue journalists, change libels laws to make it easier for him to do so, and cancel broadcast licenses of companies that criticize him.

“It’s frankly disgusting the press is able to write whatever they want to write,” said Trump, making it clear he has no use for the First Amendment.

Now Trump wants a grand military parade like those in Moscow, Beijing and Pyongyang, a show of force estimated to cost taxpayers $10 million to $30 million. Fortunately, the Pentagon has nixed a display of tanks and missiles.

Frustrated in his efforts to build the Great Wall of Trump along the U.S.-Mexico border, Trump recently ordered U.S. troops to the border. When it was explained to him that he could not order the U.S. military to the border because the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 prohibits the military from being used for civil law enforcement, Trump asked governors to send National Guard troops to the border.

“Until we can have a wall and proper security, we are going to be guarding our border with our military,” Trump said.

Republican governors in Texas, Arizona and New Mexico quickly complied, but governors in Oregon, Nevada and Montana have resisted. Don’t be surprised if Gov. LePage offers to send the Maine National Guard to the Mexican border. Then again, Dear Leader Trump may want Mainers to stay home to protect the country against invasion from Canada.

Already Trump has U.S. Border Patrol agents boarding buses in Maine to check on the citizenship of passengers, a practice the American Civil Liberties Union has opposed.

“This sort of show-me-your-papers policing makes all of us less free,” Maine ACLU Legal Director Zachary Heiden said. “We shouldn’t have to carry our birth certificate or passport or otherwise prove our citizenship every time we board a bus.”

One of the more chilling manifestations of Trump’s tyrannical tendencies was his suggestion at a fundraiser at his Mar-a-Lago resort that the U.S. might want to consider doing away with presidential term limits, as China did at the urging of Xi Jingping.

“He’s now president for life. President for life,” enthused Trump. “No, he’s great. And look, he was able to do that. I think it’s great. Maybe we’ll have to give that a shot someday.”

Maybe Trump was just kidding, but his high-roller supporters sure applauded the idea.

The fact that the loyal opposition did not applaud his State of the Union Address led Trump to tell a crowd in Cincinnati that Democrats in Congress were guilty of treason.

“Can we call that treason? Why not?” asked Trump. “I mean they certainly didn’t seem to love our country that much.”

Love of country does not mean love of Trump. We all love our country. A lot of Americans just hate what Trump is doing to it.

Freelance journalist Edgar Allen Beem lives in Brunswick. The Universal Notebook is his personal, weekly look at the world around him.

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