If America’s enemies wanted to see this country decline, how would they go about it?
They would hack into the nation’s electric grid, showing the world how easily it would be to dismantle it entirely.
They would hack into the nation’s largest companies through the Securities and Exchange Commission computers.
They would foment resentment, anger and frustration by dividing the country through the use of such terms as “white supremacy” and “white nationalism.”
They would send a signal that the U.S. government intends to wall the country off from her neighbors and make it difficult for immigrants from other countries to enter, both legally and illegally.
They would signal that non-Christians are not welcome in America.
They would loan vast government-backed sums of money to new tech start-ups and energy and resource development companies in developing countries, many in South America and Africa, to prevent U.S. companies from getting a foothold in such countries.
They would paint American companies as greedy and environmentally cavalier instead of being moral global citizens.
They would undermine NATO and other international organizations that have prevented world war for half a century.
They would undermine the admired and imitated U.S. democratic election process, using social media, hacking into computers and wreaking discord at all levels of government.
They would distort reality so citizens don’t know what is true and what is not.
They would hinder rebuilding of roads, sewers, water mains, bridges, tunnels, ports, airports and other infrastructure necessary for a vast country to function properly.
They would point out that the rule of law doesn’t always apply to the top echelon of American society, that its top political leaders can be immune from indictments and prosecutions.
They would make sure America pulls out of long-held commitments to allies, causing consternation in world capitals about what this country stands for and what it no longer supports.
They would cause Americans to lose faith in their government, possibly shutting down services in an arbitrary and unfair way, denying pay to employees for their services while demanding they continue to work.
They would shake up trade alliances so that the economy wobbles and investors pull back and American farmers and manufacturers are harmed.
They would cheer U.S. leaders making false claims such as that her terrorist enemies had been defeated and destroyed, thus setting the stage for attacks on American servicemen and women abroad. Americans abroad would become more vulnerable to attacks.
They would encourage everyday racism, inflaming tensions among races and classes and convincing more and more people that fairness and justice in America is disappearing.
They would cheer as America pulls out of arms control treaties, relinquishing her seat at the table, leaving chaos behind and an invitation for her enemies to move in.
They would divert money from necessary social services, such as early childhood education, food stamps and housing allowances. They would bolster the nation’s richest citizens, making sure their taxes are cut and their benefits increased.
They would give energy companies new access to once forbidden public lands such as once-pristine parks and wildlife reserves and coastal areas, stealing assets from future generations.
They would make sure the U.S. president removed congressional sanctions imposed on some of the richest friends of Russia’s autocratic leader. They would ensure the president’s campaign aides had close ties with Russians, that he held secret meetings with that leader, confiscating the translator’s notes. He would announce he would withdraw U.S. troops from Syria as Russia demanded, refuse to accept intelligence agencies’ agreement that Russia interfered in the U.S. election, ignore Russia’s wars on its neighbors and invasion of Crimea.
They would make other countries distrust America, worried her word no longer means anything as she pursues an “America First” policy on all fronts.
They would rejoice as American morale plummeted, as Americans bickered among themselves, forgetting pride in and love of their country, the many bamboozled by the few.
They would make chaos and dissension the new normal.
It can’t happen here.
Or has it?
On the other hand, Americans are helping each other during the government shutdown. Iowa Republican Steve King lost his committee assignments because of his racist comments. A judge ruled the White House can’t put unconstitutional questions on Census forms. The president’s job approval is sinking fast.
Ann McFeatters is an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service. Readers may send her email at firstname.lastname@example.org.