It as obvious to many of us that the rhetoric of making America “great again” presumes the existence of a golden age in the past, and it isn’t at all obvious when that was if one is honest and has the wellbeing of everyone in mind. But if we ask when the supporters of Trump thought we were great, it was obviously when slaves made white plantation owners great, when segregation kept white people elevated above others in policies that inspired Adolf Hitler, when cross-burnings and noises kept non-whites intimidated so they did work for less pay and allowed more profits to flow into white hands. Not that things then were as today’s Republicans would have you believe. To the extent that profits flowed not only to a few heads of corporations but to most white people, it was due to laws and policies closer to those of today’s Democrats. But be that as it may, the point is that people have rallied around a slogan of MAGA. Most probably have no clear sense of when America was great, just a sense that their own wellbeing and whatever category they place themselves in has lost greatness and privilege.
I have bad news for the MAGA folks, which may I hope in the long run prove good news for us all. America will never be great again. Greatness requires the admiration of the world and we have had that in the past when we have genuinely stood for democracy, equality, and freedom. Now that we have shown we will not only elect an incompetent buffoon like Donald Trump but tolerate his misdeeds with no accountability through our failure to convict him, we have shown the world who we really are, that we are in no way superior to the dictators and other authoritarians that others expected us to challenge and take to task.
In the long run, this will be a good thing. No empire lasts forever, and whenever an empire thinks it is the exception that proves the rule, it proves on the contrary that it is just like all the others.
Wearers of MAGA hats, embrace the decline of the United States you helped to bring about. While some of us continued to aspire to true greatness, justice, and goodness, you opted for a selfishness that seeks to acquire wealth and fame for oneself and/or one’s group at the expense of others, a course that never, ever, leads to true greatness.
Ironically, as the United States at long last loses any claim it may have had to be the leader of the free world, an example for others to follow, any idolatrous admiration of the U.S. will find itself disappointed, its misdirected worship challenges, and may free itself to make the future of the world better than what Donald Trump’s supporters had the insight or the foresight to see and strive for.
Was America ever great? It really depends whom you ask. But we certainly had admirable ideals. Having shown that we will not live up to them and that significant numbers us do not even aspire towards them, the MAGA crowd has succeeded in making American greatness at best a thing of the past, and at worst a figment of the imagination.
Unfortunately, the worst part is not that. It is that some will continue to develop a counterculture of Orwellian doublespeak in which America is great no matter what anyone but them thinks, or can be great again if they only oppress those different from themselves a little more harshly…