American Greatness

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Make America Great Again. — 2016 campaign slogan of Donald Trump

America is already great. — Hillary Clinton, 2016

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These contradictory statements raise this question: Was America ever great? Let’s look at the record.

The Closest We Came To American Greatness

Perhaps our nation came closest to greatness during the Second World War when "the greatest generation" managed rise from the depths of the Great Depression to put together in an all-out effort to defeat our totalitarian enemies who threatened to take over much of the planet. Still, virulent racism, anti-Semitism, and a virtual feudal subjugation of women would take decades to even partially overcome.

Arguably, the best measure of a nation’s greatness is how it treats its children. The U.S., arguably has the highest child poverty rate in the industrial world: One out of every five American children grows up in poverty. Half of our children are eligible for free or reduced rate school lunches. And half our eighteen-year-olds cannot read at an eighth-grade level. We are among the few industrial countries without affordable universal preschool and daycare.

More than 150 years after the abolition of slavery, many Blacks remain second class citizens who are disproportionately arrested and jailed, and are still subject to systemic housing and employment discrimination. A white high school dropout with a criminal record has a better chance of getting a job than a black college graduate without a criminal record.

Americans, by far, own more firearms than the citizens of any other developed nation. And many more Americans die of gunshot wounds than their foreign counterparts. Indeed, we have more mass shootings – invariably involving automatic weapons – than any other nation. Many of these take place in schools. This “great” nation cannot even require background checks when people buy guns, or prohibit the sale of military style automatic weapons which are almost always used in mass shootings.

We pay about twice as much per capita for health care as the citizens of other wealthy nations, but the quality of our health care -- measured by life expectancy and infant mortality rates – is not as good as that of our foreign counterparts.

Trade War With China

Running for president in 2016, Donald Trump argued that we could not be great again until we not only stopped our trade rivals - especially China - from taking advantage of us and putting our industrial workers out of work. To solve this problem, he started trade wars with China and a few other nations, succeeding in causing substantial economic disruption, but no discernable return of the millions of lost jobs.

Trump also thought we was restoring American greatness by sharply boosting our already bloated defense budget. In the meanwhile, he succeeded in alienating our closest allies by insulting their leaders, demanding that they boost their defense spending, and threatening to withdraw from longstanding military alliances.

Trump famously labelled climate change and global warming a “Chinese hoax,” and pulled us out of the Paris Accord, which called for curbing our global carbon footprint. In addition, he demonized nonwhite immigrants, while labelling several African nations as “s----hole countries.” To Trump, making America great again was apparently making America white again.

By attacking the credibility of the press – which he termed an “enemy of the people” – and an assault on truth itself – and by attempting to subvert the electoral process and claiming, without evidence – that widespread electoral fraud threw the presidential election to his 2020 electoral rival, Joe Biden, Trump not only undermined confidence in the legitimacy of our government, but in the democratic political process itself.

I am not optimistic that America will ever become a great nation. Over a third of our electorate is composed of ignorant and stupid people who believe that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump, that humans and dinosaurs coexisted, and that the Sun revolves around the Earth.

These jerks – all core Trump supporters – think wearing masks and social distancing during a pandemic is an infringement on their personal freedom, and that invading the nation’s Capitol to overturn the results of a presidential election was their patriotic duty.

That is not the behavior of the citizens of a great nation; it’s the behavior of the citizens of a s -- hole country.