Fourth of July is one of my favorite holidays. It is family, community and nation celebrating the freedom and independence our forefathers and mothers fought and died for all those years ago. And it is a celebration of the American will and determination to maintain that freedom and independence at all costs.

It is a holiday of picnics, watermelon, flags and the smell of fireworks. It is our celebration of all America stands for.

All that made this year’s Fourth of July in our nation’s capital strange and somewhat frightening.

Of course we are grateful and proud of our military but the Fourth of July has always been more about the Sons of the American Revolution and the DAR representing the Founding Fathers rather than the fighter planes and other war equipment of today.

Are we trying to show the world that America is big and strong – and probably over-armed? I think the world knows that and fears a confrontation between the U.S. and some other country.

In addition to the war machinery, the president’s appearance at the Fourth of July celebration in Washington broke with the national tradition. Presidents just do not appear. The parade is not about the president or politics. But this year we have a president who demands the focus be on him, willing to break with tradition, precedent and, perhaps, even the law.

Our current president seems to believe that the country should operate as he and his cronies choose. He makes every attempt to skirt the separation of powers, the very essence of the Constitution we celebrate. He orders his staff to work to circumvent court rulings. His staff was ordered to find a way to get around the court ruling that determined that there was no valid reason to ask the “citizen question” in our next census.  

The legislative branch, the other leg of the stool supporting democracy, has been rendered ineffective in challenging many actions of the president because of gerrymandering and the apparent loyalty to party rather than country. Mitch McConnell and his buddies use manipulation to prevent even the discussion of important issues.

The checks and balances written into our laws has served this country well. Each branch exercises control on the other. I fear that they are falling away to allow the president to do as he pleases, some of which is disgraceful, dangerous and damaging to America’s place in the world.

Trump’s cozy relationships with despots like Kim Jong-un and Putin are outrageous. This would not have been imaginable under any other president.

It would also have been unimaginable for any president to profit from entertaining dictators at his own hotels and facilities. Our national debt soars as Trump charges for the Secret Service to stay in his hotels to provide security. His extravagant and flamboyant lifestyle is being financed by this and future generations.

And finally, the world is looking at this and also seeing what is happening on our borders. Regardless of how anyone feels about immigration, America does not put babies in camps away from their parents. We do not starve people. We saw that in Europe in the 1930s and 1940s.

These are frightening developments in our country.  The Founding Fathers provided a way to prevent one person from dictating our country. Are those ways going to work this time?

Jane Geis is a Leavenworth Times columnist.