Making America great, again is a catchy campaign slogan. Donald Trump was smart in adopting that phrase, after all who does not want to be great, but again? Doing it again implies that we are not a great country, and I recent the implication that we are not a great country. The slogan basically says that we were great but that we are not now, and you need to elect me to make us great once again.
I might and have criticized our country and our leaders fairly often but I have never said that we are not a great country. It really depends on how you define what it means to be great. Can we do better, well yes. But what country exists that does not strive to do better for its people?
Frankly, one person can not make a country great, we falsely hope, that when we elect a president, he or she will fix everything. It is only human to believe and hope that this is possible but sorry it is impossible to accomplish. One would have to have the power of God to make it happen.
Let us try to define what makes us a great country. Our Declaration of Independence is a good start. In it, for all of history, Thomas Jefferson proclaimed that, “We hold these truths to be self evident: that all men are created equal; endowed by their creator with inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” Our Constitution when ratified codified into words our system of government and along with the Bill of Rights, created a government. The government has three co-equal branches of government thereby insuring that there is a built in system of checks and balances to thwart the dangers that the founders knew so well. They knew the risks of giving too much power to one person. They distrusted monarchy and the aristocracy, believing that men, had certain rights that kings and other rulers were most likely to deprive us of. These were new and novel concepts founded upon ideas and the beliefs of the men of the Enlightenment.
Democracy and Republics are messy and not quick to react to the needs of the people but they are still the best forms of government that men and women can find. This has been our gift given to us by our founding leaders who set the ship of state, the American Republic in motion. As long as we keep faith with our history and in our laws, we will still be a great country, no matter what the naysayers might say or do.
Again, what do we mean by greatness? If we are a free society where individuals are still free to speak, and free to worship are we not still a great country?
Is greatness defined by conquest or by financial wealth? Are we or have we ever been an empire? Critics on the left and on the right have it all wrong. We are not the evil empire that those on the far left would have you believe nor are we the nation, of Exceptionalism, that Republicans on the far right claim that we are.
Critics claim on the left that we are the Security State, that we have an empire. If we have an empire it is unlike any definition of empire that I have read about. We may influence the world or at least try to influence the world for good, or at least that has been our stated intent. The results of our leadership may not have turned our well, but even the worst President that we have had, had good intentions. We offer democracy and the ideals that we represent. Sometimes we align ourselves with bad people in an attempt to defeat an ideology like Communism. Yes, we have made mistakes, but in the most part, the mistakes were not meant in a malicious way.
We have not heeded the warnings of President Eisenhower nor our founders when it comes to the dangers of the Military Industrial Complex. In a cynical moment or two, one can think that it is possible that the wars we have gotten into since the Korean War have been a consequence of the need to feed the machine, the machine of war, the Military Industrial Complex. After all, most Congressmen have a bunch of their fellow constituents working for a company that makes things for wars. What are they good for if you don’t use them, right! Let us not forget that in the many articles written about whether or not to ratify the Constitution all were consistent in their worry about a Republic surviving based upon the wrong headed idea of having a standing army.
Our history is not one of purity, as we are imperfect men and women. We have had a history of religious intolerance, but we are a nation that gets it right eventually and welcomes those who have different beliefs. We are nothing but human when we are faced with the unknown of those who tout a different belief either in a political ideology or in a different version of a religion that teaches hate and violence.
We are not the shining city on the hill when we mistreat and kill off Native Americans through disease and by murderous acts and destroy their culture just because they have gotten in the way of our westward expansion.
We gave into fear when we interned a whole group of American citizens during World War II just because they shared an ancestry with those who attacked us at Pearl Harbor.
We have also shown greatness when we ended slavery. We were needed desperately in World War II in our fight for the very existence of civilization. We have reason to be proud when we helped rebuild Europe after the end of the war.
If Trump means by being great that he wants us to bully the world into submission to get our way in things like trade negotiations, those days are over. We have a global economy now, it is time to face that reality. We can not turn back the clock.
Let us not doubt for one moment, though, that we are not a great nation which provides the opportunity for inventiveness. Companies like Google, Apple and others still rock the world and provide an opportunity through the geniuses of technology to change the world.
If Trump means to use our military power to force people to be subjugated to our way of thinking, Americans do not want any part of that.
Greatness is determined by how our own people are doing? Can we do better by and for our people to have greater opportunities to pursue happiness and actually enjoy the fruits of our labor. Yes, that can be a good starting point on how we can now improve things for our own country after the disastrous effects of the Great Recession.
My hope is that the Second Bill of Rights as articulated by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt will become a reality so that our own people, our own citizens can once again see the Middle Class be the example to the world.
Honestly, my greatest fear is that our country will lose its way out of fear and change our way of life and our liberties in exchange for security. Fascists offer security and order. I prefer liberty and freedom, for that is what makes us great. No one can remake this nation into greatness. We are a great country, we are the United States of America.