The current occupant of the Oval Office has made great political hay with his campaign slogan promising to “Make America Great Again.”
Apparently, he would have us all believe in a gradual descent from past paradise to dystopian nightmare while selectively ignoring the thorns on the rose of America’s past.
Aspiring to greatness is laudable, but even the most casual student of this nation’s history might be compelled to pose the question, “when were those good old days to which you refer, Mr. President?”
Our armed occupation of this continent and the importation of European diseases resulted in the near extermination of the indigenous peoples. Was that how America achieved greatness?
Our Founding Fathers boldly proposed that all men are created equal while enacting policies that suggested some of us are more equal than others. Slavery and indentured servitude dominated our economy for centuries while creating wealth for the few and suffering for the many. Might that be where America achieved greatness?
American brothers fought brothers in a Civil War that left 620,000 citizens dead and another 476,000 injured and maimed. The Robber Barons jumped in and profited for decades from the cheap labor of immigrants too frequently considered expendable human resources. Is this where America achieved greatness?
This nation has massacred its own citizens in towns like Colfax, Tulsa and Rosewood. That is, surely, not where America achieved greatness!
Refusing entry to the S.S. St. Louis in 1939, or the internment of Japanese citizens, constitute hypocritical blemishes on our efforts to free the world from tyranny. The installation of ruthless dictators around the world to prop up our corporate interests abroad has earned the justifiable enmity of too many. Have we confused hubris with greatness?
The military/industrial complex has armed the world to its teeth, thereby creating many of the military threats for which we now justify approximately $600 billion in defense spending annually. How does a world constantly at war make us great?
It is undeniable that America has produced meritorious achievements: public education and the moon landing leap to mind. However, any swelling of national pride must also entail an honest appraisal of the behaviors that contradict our long professed love of individual liberty. Alternative history is unwelcome here.
This nation was founded on the principle that the rights of human beings are of divine provenance and that our social contract places limits on how the government may interfere in the lives of citizens. The U.S. Constitution laid out a roadmap to greatness and we have made significant progress on that journey. True greatness for this nation, however, will only be achieved when “justice for all” becomes a reality instead of a pipe dream.