Do we really need to make America great again?
Writing on this day of President-Elect Donald Trump’s inauguration into the hallowed halls of the White House, it would be preposterous not to be cognizant of the impending ceremony, historic in a way so distinct from that of President Barack Obama’s eight years ago. And what is more characteristic of President-Elect Trump’s portrait than his 2016 campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again” – especially in light of the recent announcement of his 2020 campaign slogan, “Keep America Great”?
Who could forget the phrase, so incessantly repeated, splashed across signs and T-shirts and baseball caps, trumpeted by supporters and candidate alike? It would thus seem almost criminally negligent to speak on any other matter at this time so charged with tension and uncertainty.
By the time I reached middle school, there was one fact which I had come to know with absolute certainty. I read books voraciously, and I could finish 100 basic multiplication facts in a less than a minute, but these are not the points that I speak of. No, neither of these were the lesson that had been instilled in me to such a level that it was instinctive. The fact I speak of is this: America is the best nation in the world – a proud country, with a proud past of defending the innocent and of serving as a beacon of freedom and justice. Like most other young Americans, I did not know – and still do not know – where or when or how I learned it, but it was more certain to me than my own name.
As I grew up I became more knowledgeable of the plot holes in the story. The past we are all taught – one of the noble wars fought for noble causes, the one of acceptance and tolerance and liberty – is a lie.
America is the nation of noble people, and we have taken up for just causes. But. But. Our history is no fairy tale. We have subdued immigrants, suppressed minority voices and rights, oppressed those who were different, stolen for unjust causes. When Eastern Europeans, Irish, Chinese, Hispanics flocked to our shores, in search of a better life, we rejected them. When women and people of color demanded their rights, we denied them. When Native Americans sought to defend their home, we eradicated them, herded them onto crowded reservations and forced them to abandon their culture. And when we decided that what we had within our borders wasn’t enough, we looked elsewhere for new people to take advantage of.
This is not to say that America is not a great nation. I am an American, born and bred in the USA and quite proud to say so. Every day I remember how blessed I am to live in a country where I can, to a point, voice my opinions and criticisms, live without fear of violent domestic unrest, and attain an education that will empower me to make a difference.
Our nation has defended the weak, has spread freedom and democracy, has stood up for values which I and so many others take for granted and hold near and dear to our hearts. Do we really need to make America great again?
But to love something is not to ignore its faults, or to dismiss its misdeeds. To love something is to understand its failings and its successes, and to build upon those.
Make America great again? No. We are already great. We are not perfect, but we are far greater than we have ever been at any point in our short history.
To say “great again” is to imply that we are not currently, that we were better in the past, that it would be preferable to live in a previous era. Sure, those days may seem simpler, but nostalgia clouds judgment.
“The Good Ol’ Days” of yesteryear were the days of far more dangerous and far less veiled racism, misogyny, homophobia – never mind transphobia. “The Good ‘Ol Days” were the days of oppression and suppression, of limited accountability for public officials, of social condemnation of victims of mental health.
There was no incorporation doctrine to protect individual rights from state abuse, no Food and Drug Administration to ensure meat was not rotten and disease-ridden, no protection for employees from corporate tyranny. You want “the good ol’ days”? Fine. Let me know how it works out for you. Meanwhile, I will stay in the now and enjoy the rights won for me by our predecessors while I fight for the rights