A bit ago, I was talking with an Australian guy and I asked him why you don't run into many Australians visiting the US. Outside of the US, there are tons of Australians traveling, along with the usual Europeans (especially Germans.) I've found that lots of Australian kids take a year to travel after high school. So why isn't the US a top destination, as it is for many other world travelers?
He said people weren't very eager to deal with the TSA.
I told him that, yeah, the airport security is a pain, but it's not like it's the gestapo, disappearing people.
"Well, you hear stories," was his reply. He couldn't remember any specifics, and we moved on to other topics, but this is how America is now viewed! This is not OK. It is not productive to protect ourselves by making people (a college kid who's thinking of becoming a missionary, no less) believe that traveling through an American airport could lead to... what? detention? imprisonment? torture?
Our reputation has been destroyed. The majority of the world's population thinks the US is the greatest threat on the planet, but it's as if the people running the country never learned that your reputation concretely affects how others treat you. We're making it harder for people to come visit, to study in the US, to see what it's really like, and we're scaring away the people who could come.
It doesn't matter whether tyranny is actually happening, once everyone believes the US is a police state, there's nothing to prevent it from becoming one. Whether their ultimate intention is an autocratic state or not, for six years, the Republicans in power have been laying the groundwork for the complete suspension of civil liberties, and military and economic world domination, all in the name of freedom, of course. The Democrats, elected to stand up to this out-of-control administration, have rolled over. The world thinks we're already lost. Is there anything to prevent it from really happening?
If the US doesn't want to head toward autocracy, if we want the rest of the world to know that this is not, in fact, what America stands for, then we need to show the rest of the world through action. We have a reputation to restore, something that can't be done through spin, only by behaving the way you want people to think you are.