Was America ever really “great?” There are many blotches on our history going back to the days before the Articles of the Confederacy:
- the wanton destruction of Native American communities
- slavery of African’s on American soil
- the post-Civil War poll taxes
- the Monroe Doctrine of subjugation of Latin America
- dropping an atomic bomb on civilians in Hiroshima and Nagasaki
- internment of American’s of Japanese descent during World War II
Through the distorted lens of many, these atrocities and events are, indeed, what has made America “great.” It is hard to believe that those in favor of a “Muslim ban” or fortress America closing its boarders to all immigration seeing anything but heroic and epic struggles in “winning the West” by decimating the Native Americans, or ending the war in the Pacific with a big atomic bang demonstrating American superiority.
That’s good enough reason to reject the Trumpian dog whistle call to “Make America Great Again,” right?
Not so fast. We do not have to accept the jaded historical interpretation implied by what the radical right wants to do “again.” The US has been a beautiful and progressive dream for millions for a couple hundred years because of real achievements. So what if, instead of simply rejecting “MAGA,” we coopt it to mean working to repeat some of the really great things that the US has achieved.
For example, why can’t we make American great again by celebrating some of the truly impressive achievements. And each of these historical achievements can be the foundation for improving the country, today:
- the successful struggle against slavery is the basis for our ongoing struggle to make sure all Americans, whatever their skin color, have equal access to a prosperous future without discrimination.
- the early (by comparison to many countries) suffrage for women, and the eventual vote for ex-slaves, is what we should remember when fighting the plague of fictitious ‘voter fraud’ and the denial of the vote to felons. We can fight for universal vote-by-mail under kind of MAGA!
- the New Deal that set the stage for Social Security and an expanded welfare net. It was the keystone, along with the WPA, rural electrification and the GI Bill of the post-WW II blossoming of an egalitarian middle-class America. A Green New Deal is the opportunity to leverage that history, to create good jobs and opportunity, while reversing the damage that has been done to the environment.
- American became great in the eyes of millions after World War II because we engaged the world in a positive way for the first time, after centuries of stubborn isolation. The Marshal Plan, though clearly designed to stay ahead of the Soviets, helped millions of Europeans rise from the ashes of two world wars faster than it ever would have on it’s own. That kind of boldness is what is needed on the international level to address the mammoth impact of coronavirus. The US has the most to lose from the shambolic, nationalistic responses favored so far. Reversing that will make the Coronavirus Plan the highlight of the 21st Century.
So it’s time to don your MAGA hat and wear it proudly – though don’t buy one from one of Trump’s front organisations. Make your own so that people ask you about it and you can share your thoughts about exactly what will make American Great… Again.