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LETTER TO THE EDITOR: United States is a country in peril

It is almost redundant to write another letter to the editor decrying the decline of America under Trump. Indeed, his lies and outrages surpass each other with bewildering celerity. His latest tax proposal, for example, will benefit his cronies at the expense of much-needed services to the public at large (in the form of health care, infrastructure, education and environmental protections).

And the divisions Trump continues to sow as he not so subtly blows the dog whistles of bigotry continue to eat at and corrupt whatever vestigial sense of the commonweal remains.

Samuel Johnson in the first English dictionary defined patriotism as "the last refuge of a scoundrel." He was thinking of corrupt politicians who wrap themselves in their country's flag in order to sow discord and consolidate their power. Thus,Trump's attack on black athletes is of one piece with his failure to condemn fascism following the episode in Charlottesville and his perverse pardon of a self-declared KKK sympathizer, Sheriff Arpaio, who shamelessly compared his outdoor incarceration compounds to concentration camps.

We should all fall to one knee in sympathy with the NFL protesters who affirm our freedom of speech even as Trump threatens that freedom by ascribing "fake news" to legitimate news sources while denying Russian meddling in his own election.

"The letter killeth but the spirit giveth life" is a Biblical adage that applies to patriotism as well as to religion.Thus Trump lauds the letter of the flag to obscure the living values of this country.

Furthermore, it is not only Trump but the Republicans and the NRA whose policies threaten our civilization by rejecting all regulatory laws that might curtail gun violence. The Republicans even want to make silencers universally available -- the munitions industry which supports them being one of their top funders..

Isn't it time to recognize that we are becoming a democracy in name only? Through gerrymandering, cronyism and greed, Trump's party has created an oligarchy of the rich wrapped in a hijacked flag desecrated by their policies. Unless this country awakens from its stupor or indifference it is hard not to believe that matters will get even worse.

In the meantime, we have an aberrant president who delights in fomenting both domestic and international chaos. And the dissenters who refuse to be part of those who march to the lock-step "patriotism" of Trump are examples every one of us should emulate.

Stephen Gurney