Some people have been saying that we live in one. As somebody that spent many years of his life scared to death [about government control] of living under one, I figure I'll share some of my memories.
So what does it mean to live in a totalitarian country?
It is to be very afraid of the police, because we have seen them arresting and beating up people randomly, for no other reason than they can.
It is to see the military treating you like the enemy all the time; i.e. by wantonly pointing their guns at you for no reason.
It is because you know that every paper, radio station or TV station is now controlled by the regime and only prints propaganda.
It is to be afraid of the teachers in your school because they carry guns and work for the regime, and because the principal was replaced by a regime guy who is not interested in education.
It is carrying an ID with your picture and fingerprint at all times, and losing it puts you into a panic when you see a policeman because no ID means immediate arrest.
It is to see people being picked up in the middle of the city, and put roughly in an unmarked car while screaming at the top of their lungs that they are being kidnapped. It is to be paralyzed by fear, unable to help, knowing that person will never be seen again.
It is the clergy, that while working to help their fellow man is disappeared by the regime, and shows up dead on an unmarked grave.
It is shady corporations using the regime to get rid of workers who advocate better working conditions, universities getting rid of opposition professors and students, and people targeting the neighbors they dislike.
It is families broken apart by people fleeing the country to a safer place, or by forced disappearance and the people that stay behind waiting for the missing loved ones.
It is a system that empowers the regime to govern with total impunity, unafraid of consequences.
All over the world there are people that live under totalitarian regimes. People are being kidnapped, tortured and killed. Kids are being removed from their families and raised by the regime.
Every day, extremist ideologues try to portray our democracy as a dictatorship, and this is something very frightening to a lot of people. But the fact that they can do that, that they can make this sort of claim is the ultimate proof that we don't live in one. If we did live in, let's say, Cuba - or the Argentina of my youth - they will be afraid of ending up like the hundreds of journalists who died or were tortured for speaking truth to power all over the world.
To describe our democracy as a totalitarian regime insults the lives and memories of people that live under this and other terrible conditions. It insults them, it insults us.