When Was America Great?

The MAGA movement swept President Trump into office and has been a bone of contention in America ever since. Its defenders say there is nothing wrong with the phrase – Make America Great Again – while its detractors view it as a racist dog whistle. The truth is that many presidents have said something like it during their campaigns and their terms in office. Wanting to make America a great place to be is perfectly fine; all of us who love this country want prosperity and peace and happiness. The word that has been at the center of my frustration is the last one: again. This word assumes that, somewhere along the line, we lost our greatness. Which means, at least to me, that something or someone has made us less great, and we need to reclaim who we were before that happened.

I have asked hundreds of MAGA Republicans a simple question, and none have been able to answer it. Maybe you can. Here goes: When Was America Great for Everyone? There is no denying the greatness of our Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, and the people who created this country were seeking something very different; a place where every person had the same rights. Well, not every person. As long as you were a white, male, landowner, you had rights. America was great for people like me, but not for someone like my wife, or my friends who are people of color. And there is no denying our greatness as we fought the Nazis; the world would be a far different place if we had not stepped in – albeit a little late – and helped crush fascism. Still, women had only recently gotten the right to vote, and African Americans were segregated and voiceless in America. Was America great for them at that point?

Built into our foundation is the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Our founders wisely allowed for the Constitution to be changed; they knew that to seek a more perfect union, we would have to evolve as a nation. It took centuries for same-sex couples to have the same rights as straight folks; was America great for them when they could not marry or keep a job or a rental home if people knew they weren’t straight? The truth, I believe, is that America has never been great for everyone all at the same time, and that is what many people are fighting for, and too many people are fighting against. They sling words like “woke”, knowing that this will trigger people into not thinking things through. They attack trans people because they seem to be easy targets. They point at men holding hands with men and women with women or Drag Queens telling stories about kindness as dangerous to society. They claim that teaching history correctly will hurt white kids’ feelings, and all while Rome burns. 

America is great and has always been great, but that greatness is incomplete. Until every person has the same rights and opportunities, we will not have reached our God-given potential. Until we recognize inequality and seek equity in education and housing, we will continue to fall short. I love this country for what it has been and for what it is, but I yearn for an America that is even greater. We can Make America Greater than it has ever been; unless we continue to turn the clock back and destroy people’s lives. Going backward will only Make America Worse. I don’t know anyone who wants to see that happen.

Prayer – Holy God, You have given all nations and people the opportunity to be great. Greatness will not be found in hate, only in love. Amen.

Today’s art is “Charmeur du Serpent” by Abdelaziz Haounati.