“Make America Great Again”. That was the slogan of the former president who after one term managed, to the delight of Vladimir Putin and other dictators, to turn American against American. Did anyone figure out when it was in the past of America that we want to emulate? The slogan incorporates with the word “again” the idea that at some point America was great and we should try to make it today like it was then.
When was that? What was America like in those years past that it is not like today? Is not that slogan meaningless unless you can point to that time. If you cannot you are living in an imaginary world if you are a Trump supporter. I ask those supporters when was America great for all Americans of all races, creeds, life styles, and ethnicities. The truth is there is no time in the past when that was the case. We have been constantly trying to better ourselves in America in order to “form a more perfect union” which means to examine what we have done, ask how can we do it better, and then proceed to do it. We do not want to go backwards.
Change is something frightening to many people. They would like to live in an imagined past. That’s why we have such a term as Luddite. Those were the folks who oppose the use of textile machines and went about destroying them. The term is now use to describe folk who are opposed to change, especially technological. When you fear change you imagine some time years ago when you had no such fear.
When I think of this, A.E. Housman’s poem, “To An Athlete Dying Young” comes to mind. A particular compelling line is: “Now you will not swell the rout Of lads that wore their honours out, Runners whom renown outran, And the name died before the man.”
The Trump idea of some point in the past when things were great is the same as the person who four decades later tells of his or her great achievements as a young person – a high school football star, a college debater, a mountain climbed, a star cheerleader, a homecoming queen, a blue ribbon at the county fair – that once was a happening in his or her life. You listen and say to yourself, “that’s great but tell me what you have done in the forty years since.” Or, as Housman pointed out that: “the name died before the man” who cannot escape from what once was.
The plague that hit America did not happen in 2021 but back in 2017 when Trump took the oath of office. He wants us to live in the past, an idea that appeals to many people – to the time before gay rights, women’s rights, the Medicare Act, the Civil Rights Movement, and the Social Security Act – all instances of government intervention that the Trump folk believe are communist (liberal) inspired.
A person some called America’s greatest philosopher said: “It is not actual suffering but the taste of better things which excites people to revolt.” When I read his classic I came away with the idea that if people see a better way of life they will always strive and fight to maintain it. The Trump Americans cannot go home again, the old homestead is no longer standing, and the laurel has withered. Most Americans have seen a better day ahead. America is great now and it will become greater as we move forward.