Our Founding Fathers were concerned whether our democratic republic would prosper or collapse. Leaving Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Benjamin Franklin was confronted by a woman who asked, “Well doctor, what have we got — a republic or a monarchy?” Franklin replied, “A Republic, if we can keep it.”

In his book "On Tyranny," historian Timothy Snyder writes, “Aristotle warned that inequality brought instability, while Plato believed that demagogues exploited free speech to install themselves as tyrants.”

The march toward tyranny begins with the demonization of political opponents and the free press. Factual news relating to an authoritarian government becomes “fake” news. The lies, and phony stories coming from the authoritarian government become “real” news. A second step towards tyranny is that the ruler subverts the rule of law, disregards the legal profession, and rebukes judges.

Joseph Stalin, dictator of the Soviet Union, used these methods during his show trials of the 1930s in which thousands if not millions of his countrymen met their fate in the concentration camps (gulags) of Siberia.

Next, when the ruler of a country develops a “cult of personality” that country is in trouble. Finally, when certain ethnic, gender and/or racial groups are marked for discrimination and/or deportation in order to purify the country, that country has lost its soul.

Can we keep our democratic republic? Only time will tell. Each one of us must stand up against the march toward tyranny by saying no to the abuses of our democratic values.

Joseph Kiemen

Racine

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