So Just When Was America Great, Again?
I'm making a promise here and now: I will not spend the next several months wasting my breath on Trumpisms or the election at all really because as a libertarian I don't have a dog in this fight anyway. Plus it's stupid, stupider than elections before it that were pretty stupid. But I digress. Let's talk about America.
Rather, let's talk about the phrase in question: Make America Great Again
I am of the belief, as a born and raised American citizen, that despite its numerous issues and problems, America is pretty great. In fact, I identify with America in that respect -- like my beloved country, I too am kind of fucked up sometimes and don't always make the best choices but at the end of the day, I am pretty amazing. I'm kind of an asshole but I mean well, and in that way me and America are 100% kin.
I'm what you'd call a new-ish American in that my people only found their way here in the last 100 or so years. None of us came over on the Mayflower, nor owned slaves or put their names on buildings that have stood on street corners in Manhattan since the 1800s. I could be wrong about that and I'm sure a relative who hate-reads JDA will email me later to tell me just how wrong I am but as far as I know, we're somewhat late adopters of this whole America thing. Still, I'm glad we got here and I'm pretty into being an American. It's pretty rad. I'm all about doing my own thing; I'd surely be dead by now if I had been born in, say, Syria. So yay fate, good lookin out.
That said, I don't entirely grasp what greatness we would get back to should certain word-vomiting hot air factories somehow become president of the United States.
I am reminded every day when I hike along the James River in scenic Richmond, VA which I currently call home just how ungreat America can be. The river walk I take to the grocery store has markers for the Richmond Slave Trail all along the way -- a reminder that human beings were once bought and sold on the very streets I now trot along in workout gear on my way to get craft beer and frozen pizza. My neighborhood held the port that made Richmond the largest source of African slaves on the east coast from 1830 to 1860; it's now a growing, trendy riverside hive of loft apartments and art galleries.
I don't want to see America made "great" like that again. I'm ashamed that kind of ungreatness is part of my history as an American even if my people had no part in it.
Obviously no one wants to return to slavery days. We have offshore operations in China to handle that for us. So what else is great about America?
To me, it's that little girls like I once was can still tell our Montessori school teachers "I'm gonna be whatever I want to be" when we're asked -- at age 3 -- what we want to be when we grow up. I mean seriously, who the hell asks a 3-year-old what they want to be when they grow up and expects a serious response? According to my mother, may she rest, I was the only one who didn't say fireman or nurse or policeman. I said whatever I want to be and to me, that right there is the American spirit. That a 3 year old believes she can and will be whatever she wants to be in a long-distant future she can't possibly imagine when she grows up. I wish I could go back in time just to give that little girl a big high five, as she was more right than she could ever possibly know at that young age.
That would have been about 1984 which probably wasn't that good of a year for any of you who remember it. Thankfully I don't, only the parts my mom repeated back to me.
I have brief flashes of the 80s. I remember my single mom working her ass off to provide for us, with a little help from social services which served as a safety net. I remember powdered milk and weird cans of government food that lacked any graphic design integrity whatsoever but who cares, we ate that day. I remember when Challenger blew up but mostly I remember seeing it blow up again on Punky Brewster. I remember Hands Across America and being happy it got us out of class for an hour or two as we lined up outside of our inner city Milwaukee elementary school. I remember weird ass Slim Goodbody with his creepy fro telling us to be active and I remember Nancy Reagan, may she rest, telling us all to Just Say No which of course led to an entire generation of drug users.
And then I remember the Internet. The first time we fired up our brand new Windows 3.11 computer in 1994 that I think my mom paid $1500 for (in 1994 money and on Best Buy credit, natch), it was like the world had suddenly opened up. As an angry, too-smart kid from Wisconsin, it was incredible to know I now had the entire world right before me. Up until then, I'd hide in the local library and read Hume while lamenting the fact that I was just an angry, too-smart kid from Wisconsin.
Is that the great America we want to get back to? Kids like me stuck between Gen X and a hard place trying to find our way in the world on the Internet while our idol Kurt Cobain was finding his way out via shotgun to his head? Ugh, no thanks.
Is it the 50s ideal my grandmother subscribed to? Because that wasn't so great either as far as I can tell. Did any of you watch Mad Men FFS? The 50s and everything that came after kinda sucked. Though I really dig their idea of "the future," the fruits of which I am still fucking waiting for *coughcough* flying cars.
The thing is, all this talk of getting back to some mystical place we never actually were is ignoring just how far we've come. Again, I relate to America in this way. America used to be kind of shitty and oppressive but over the years, it has matured and come into its own.
I like the America that allows gays to marry. I like the America that is embracing free speech in ways it never thought it would. I like the America that extends me the right to protest the Fed with my kid and then take him out for ice cream after while giving him a lesson in monetary policy by saying we can get ice cream but the Fed is going to take a cut because they're printing our money so we can only afford a $2 ice cream even though we have $4 as the Fed took the rest so our bank could loan out money on the money actually in our account.
I kind of like America how it is. I get it, we have some major issues. But how exactly would we even start to make it great "again"?
When exactly was it great? Please tell me. I'm dying to know. It was good. It always has been. But when the fuck was it great?