Watching the circus unfold from afar, I keep hearing this phrase bandied about. I keep seeing it on hats and homemade signs. I keep reading about in relationship to Donald Trump’s campaign. And I keep asking myself…to what time are we harkening back toward here?
Remind me when the again in great again was.
Was it in the 17th century when America was ‘founded’ by newcomers displacing an indigenous population, leaving behind a legacy of booze, gunpowder and syphilis? Probably not.
Was it 18th and 19th centuries when America built its wealth on the backs of a slave population? Or maybe when North and South went to war against another, brother killing brother? Hmmm.
Are we harking back the early 20th century when women couldn’t own property or vote? Is that when we are talking about?
It can’t be the mid-20th century when America was plagued by political assassinations, civil and racial unrest and two conflicts we had no business being a part of, could it? I sure hope not. Was it then, a time when you could be harassed, fired, jailed or killed for loving someone of the same-sex?
Surely we’re not talking the beginning of the 21st century which saw a banking and mortgage crisis that was the catalyst for a global recession?
So, remind me when we’re trying to get back to?
There was America’s staunch support during two world wars, when young men and women sacrificed and pledged to rid the world of a tyrannical regime hellbent on eliminating an entire religion. That was a time of greatness; of believing in a greater good, of sacrifice for the betterment of humanity on the whole. Of doing what was right for no other reason than it was right.
It seems to me, however that the current interpretation of Making America Great Again is fleeing rather quickly in the opposite direction of sacrifice for the betterment of humanity.
The thing is, America is great. Ironically, the things that make it so are the very same things that people seem to be fighting against.
Freedom from persecution and tyranny
Guns don’t make America great. Money doesn’t make American great. Neither does manufacturing or Christianity or Hollywood or Black Friday sales.
What makes America truly great is a history of acceptance and tolerance. Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses. America was built on those huddled masses. Those huddled masses ARE America.
What makes America great is its perseverance to overcoming adversity. We shall overcome. All those examples listed above? America fought to throw off those shackles–from a tea party in the harbor of Boston to Martin Luther King imploring us to dream to the recent marriage equality victories. America’s greatness lies in its fluidity, in the ability to look at the past and say:
“Hey! This is wrong. We need to do something about that. We need to fix it.”
Those are the things that make America great.
If you think making America great again involves getting back to a time when America was white, Christian, and exclusively heterosexual? I’ve got news for you, America has never been exclusively those things. Just as there have always been those who fought against oppression, who fought to right the wrongs, to change, to fix the things that were broken. To guarantee life and liberty and pursuit of happiness.
That is what makes America great.
So, if you want to go back to a time when the country was segregated by color, when slaves were the norm, when eminent domain was de rigueur; if you want to go back to a time when homosexuals were imprisoned or killed, when women were considered less than a person, when citizens were interred because of their ethnicity, then go on, vote for it. If your idea of a great America is one where you strip the rights of others, where you close your borders, where you turn your back on what is right, then go on, vote for it.
But don’t you dare do it under the guise of making America great.