It is early days. A long road stretches out between here and November. I know the campaign crazy is bound to get worse before it gets better. But I am already shying away from the t.v. during debates and town halls. I am already flipping away from NPR when I hear certain voices, and scanning past certain things in my newsfeed. It throws me into fits of anxiety and/or despair, not necessarily in that order; the fear-mongering, mis-information and downright hatred that has risen to the top to speak for the collective conscious of our country.
But there is one phrase, in particular, that makes me yell “I can’t even” to the heavens, and angrily flip off my t.v. (in more ways than one). This phrase seems to be the mission statement of this election cycle. Stop me if you’ve heard it:
We’re going to make America great again.
Nearly every politician stumping for the nation’s top office has their own riff on these 7 little words. (A popular variation on this theme is take back our country). And while they all sing a different version of how we are going to get there, the basic tune is the same. It is the tune itself that’s misleading and misguided. And I cannot stand to hear it one more time. Not one more. But if I have to hear it again–and we all do, I’m afraid–then let’s at least take a moment to talk about what is meant by “great again.”
Make no mistake: what they mean, when they say make America great again–is let’s get another white guy in the White House, as the good Lord and the Constitution intended.
What they mean is, let’s become a force of global domination; in the name of “security” and “freedom,” but really because we like to be the boss of all the things.
What they mean is, let’s keep taxes minimal for the top 1%, also in the name of “freedom,” while we ignore a growing chasm between the very rich and the increasingly poor. And let’s reject any narrative that addresses privileges of race or gender, because if those poor people would just work a little harder, they would be rich too. Because that’s what makes America great. Because freedom.
Every time someone says they will “make America great again,” this is the undercurrent of rhetoric that is implied. And it is making me absolutely crazy.Because a country cannot possibly be great when it de-funds public education; when it invests as little as possible in its children, while also mortgaging the very air they breathe, the water they drink.
A country cannot possibly be great–it cannot possibly–when it contributes to creating the worst humanitarian crisis of all time in another part of the world; and then turns its back when refugees of that crisis seek sanctuary within our borders.
And speaking of borders, a country cannot be great if its main spokesperson talks only of walls, and never of bridges. Even the Pope has our back on this one.
A country is not great when it speaks only of its own interest, its own security, its own wealth, and its own grasp of power–while millions starve in Ethiopia. A million children, (maybe two million) who are not our problem because we are busy “taking back America,” from the black people, the women, and the gays. There is no greatness in letting the rest of the planet starve, as the direct result of climate change, which the “great nation” not only continues to perpetuate, but also continues to deny.
There is no greatness in violence; in force that shamelessly risks innocent lives to rid us of a single enemy.
There is no greatness in exclusionism. There is no greatness in patriarchy, or manufactured scarcity, or the ongoing litany of fear and anxiety.
There is nothing great about these empty words that promise nothing but continued racism, xenophobia, and protection of the rich and powerful. That is not greatness. It is cowardice, pandering and narcissism, in all its ugliest forms. And, God help us, it is winning by a landslide.
And since it is winning, I do not expect it to change. I expect that we will hear this same song, over and over and over again, until election day and beyond. I don’t have an apt response, or a 9-point plan to make it all go away. But let’s at least call it what it is. When you say, “make America great again,” what you really mean to do is take away the rights of many, and keep power for the few.