Those of us old enough to have lived during the tragic tenure of the 20th-century totalitarians should be forgiven if we are hearing rumbles from a hundred years ago. Enough time has passed that even those who should know better are heard saying things which prove that no lesson is long remembered.

These dictatorships came to be called totalitarian for the way they controlled all important aspects of their society. And they shared several attributes:

n Ideology was a system of concepts which explained and justified the regime’s world view. It was dogma that demanded the world be seen through its lens. It created a clear distinction between us (good) and them (bad); and provided the pretext for the horrific deeds that followed.

n Control of and willingness to use coercion (police, military, secret police) provided the muscle to further the regime’s goals, and punish enemies, real or invented.

n Control of information (propaganda) was essential to mind control. The regime defined the “truth” with “The Big Lie.” Everything else was “phony news.”

n Control of the economy directed resources toward ideologically important objectives; to reward friends and punish opponents.

So what does this have to do with today? A lot! I suggest this administration admires autocracy and leaders such as Putin. It seeks to adopt his playbook, originally Lenin’s, to subvert our institutions, no matter what the cost.

The president came into office leveling heavy criticism against the FBI and the intelligence services. He sought to silence the credible voices that could oppose him. Now his man is Attorney General. The leadership of FBI is gutted.

Our new commander-in-chief insulted our friends and allies. In one stroke the alliance that defeated the Soviet Union was thrown into chaos. Internally and around the world his words provoke violence. Can America be trusted? Ask our Kurdish or Ukrainian friends.

Attempts at subversion continued with the blitzkrieg against the press; attacks on innocent “internal enemies” and even heroes like John McCain. Ultimately even the foundations of our economy were destabilized.

Our economic policies were not perfect. But programs that would have improved the lives of the average person were rejected by the same folks that gave unnecessary tax breaks to the 1 percent. Are tariffs good for America? Ask the steelworkers. Or farmers?

So, who benefits from weakening America and her institutions? Why should we care? How about patriotism and “enlightened self interest.”

Joe Pugliese lives in Lewisburg.

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