Before I begin, I must clarify that the opinions I express here are indeed my own and do not necessarily reflect those of the other PCU contributors. One of the things I have loved about running this site, is that the people who contribute to it are from different backgrounds and hold different opinions regarding some of the same matters. Even with our diversity, we at times come together and call out BS on some of those issues that hit close to home. This piece that you are reading is filed under our PCU Zeitgeist section for good reason. Now, while we may not always skew to political talk on this site, we make room to allow our contributors to express themselves regarding the spirit of the times. That’s what ‘zeitgeist’ means…to understand what makes the moment we live in, what it is. This particular moment in time is very difficult to ignore when we have a culture rife with divisive rhetoric that has also found its way into affecting a lot of the geeky things that we love so dear.
Being in this moment of time, I felt compelled to ask a question because in this political season, I keep hearing the same thing over and over again: “Let’s Make America Great Again”. This statement has bothered me almost as much as when politicians said, “Let’s take our country back.” Back from whom? Where did it go? Was an APB issued for a missing country? Rhetoric like this can be a dangerous thing especially when it comes from people afraid of change. Thus, when I now hear people spouting “Let’s Make America Great Again” I have to ask, “When was America really great?” So, let’s attempt to answer that question together.
Was America really great when in the late 1700’s, a band of landowners decided that they wanted to declare independence from a monarchy by forming their own nation? A declaration that stated “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” – which was great unless your skin was a darker hue.
Was America great when, in less than 100 years after said declaration, this newfound nation would be up in arms over granting people that were treated like 3/5ths of a human the same rights as the people who owned them? Was America great when they were kidnapping millions of people from one country and forcing them to work in another? Is this the same America in which many to this day try to deny that the Civil War was about slavery even though clearly the Cornerstone Speech does not hide that not all should be treated equal: “But not to be tedious in enumerating the numerous changes for the better, allow me to allude to one other — though last, not least. The new constitution has put at rest, forever, all the agitating questions relating to our peculiar institution — African slavery as it exists amongst us — the proper status of the negro in our form of civilization.”
Maybe America was great that one time back in the 1930’s and 1940’s when nearly everyone got together to fight against some Germanic nation that was slaughtering millions of people based on their religion. But, while America was busy being great abroad, (even with segregated military units), they were busy setting up detainment camps at home to detain Asians. So, that couldn’t have been it.
Maybe America was great when, in less than 20 years after the television was invented, people all over this great nation could see how the south was treating people that they were forced to free 100 years prior. Maybe America was great when the President at that time, in order to keep the peace, had to sign the Civil Rights Act to protect those that were being treated less than equal. It’s possible that America was great when it had to actually have laws to force schools to desegregate.
Maybe America was great back in the 70s when certain segments of our great nation tried to stop the Women’s Liberation Movement, Pro-Choice Movement, and Gay Rights Movement – among other things. Maybe if we look ahead to the 80s… America was great when we were in denial of how to treat veterans of the Vietnam War who came home defeated and traumatized. Speaking of denial, how about that one time when some actor who got elected president went through 5 years of his presidency before attempting to act on a disease that was killing Americans. Oh yes, it was a ‘certain type’ of American it was killing, so it was ok.
Or maybe, there was that one time in the 90s when video cameras caught a fellow being beaten by police and, as you all know, the police walked. Somehow lately, these types of incidents have been repeated more and more. The problem is, more unarmed Americans of a certain description are being killed and it’s still being ignored. Or maybe it was that other time when some homegrown terrorists bombed some buildings in Oklahoma City. Maybe they didn’t think America was so great.
There was that one time, however, when a bunch of people took down two towers in New York, when it seemed like we came together for an instant. However, there was that pesky problem of America going to war against another nation without real evidence of some WMDs that America was supposedly looking for. Knocking down those towers sure was a good excuse though. Then there was the Patriot Act, and then for some odd reason, America was detaining people again in some bay in Guantanamo.
Many would have thought that America would have become great by electing some unknown senator from Chicago to become President. I mean, it took over 225 years just to get one Black president elected in America. South Africa had beaten us to it in the 90’s and other nations were already letting women run their countries. America’s greatness is so far behind the curve inn that respect. How did we reward this president? With gridlock in Congress from both political sides, blatant disrespect, a shutdown, anti-LGBT rhetoric, mass shootings going ignored, and people who claim they want their country back. As I asked earlier, back from whom? Has an Amber alert been issued? Is America’s face on the back of a milk carton? Also, those Civil Rights I mentioned? SCOTUS has rolled portions of them back.
Maybe I am missing it, but maybe there was no time when America was “great’. America can be defined by some of the progress it attempts to make, but also by many of the glaring mistakes it makes with its people as well. Now don’t get me wrong, living here is better than some of the alternatives in the world. The biggest issue however is some of the sacrifices that many of us have to make in order to live decently and usually it occurs when you have a different skin color, culture, sexual orientation, or gender than the status quo. For many of us, America is not all that great. So, when many of us hear this, our miles will vary at what ‘great’ means and to whom. When I hear someone spout those euphemisms of “taking America back” or “making America great again” I really just want to hand them a history book and ask them to show me when was America great?
Maybe it was that time long ago before Europeans landed here.