Donald Trump's presidential motto, "Make America Great Again," is arguably one of the main reasons he was elected our president in 2016. With all that has been going on in our country and world these days, I have to confess that sounded good to me.
Following the bombing of Pearl Harbor and America's participation in World War II, the whole world knew the power of the United States of America. Most of us have basked in those memories. So making America great again was a great slogan.
However, it sounded good until you begin to do a little research into the "Good Old Days." As Robin Diangelo writes in her book, "White Fragility," "Romanticized recollections of the past and calls for a return to former days are a function of white privilege. Claiming that the past was socially better than the present is also a hallmark of white supremacy."
She follows this with the statement: "Consider any period in the past from the perspective of people of color: 246 years (her book was written in 2018) of brutal enslavement; the rape of black women for the pleasure of white men and to produce more enslaved workers; the selling off of black children; the attempted genocide of indigenous people, Indian removal acts, and reservations; indentured servitude, lynching, and mob violence; sharecropping; Chinese exclusion laws; Japanese American internment camps; Jim Crow laws of mandatory segregation; black codes; bans on black jury service; bans of voting; imprisoning people for unpaid work; medical sterilization and experimentation; employment discrimination; educational discrimination; inferior schools, biased laws and policing practices; redlining and subprime mortgages; mass incarceration; racist media representations; cultural erasures, attacks, and mockery and untold and perverted historical accounts..." That doesn't sound much like the "good old days."
Does referring to the past include what the early settlers did to Native Americans? There are treaty negotiations going on in Oklahoma even today. Does it refer to the internment of around 117,000 Japanese American citizens (yes, American citizens) in 1942, this even while the most decorated group of soldiers during World War II was composed of Japanese soldiers fighting for our (their) country? Does it refer to the great depressions of the 20th century? Surely, it does not refer to the subjugated role of women in our country who were not even allowed to vote until the enactment of the 19th Amendment to our Constitution on Aug. 18, 1920, less than 100 years ago?
Yes, most of us are proud to be "an American" as the song goes, for the United States still has more freedom than many nations and is the strongest nation in the world both economically and militarily. We also must not forget the good things in our country: great educational resources, job opportunities, the freedom to come and go as we please, tremendous recreational opportunities, natural resources, great medical resources and supplies, businesses where you are trusted to check yourself out with everything you need, music and the arts, and quality of life that is the envy of almost everyone else in the world. This is a great country!
On the other hand, we do have our problems. A careful reading of our history reveals that most of our freedoms sprang from the American people themselves. Great leaders have listened to their grassroots and led by encouraging people to look forward, not backward. The amendments to our Constitution, medical breakthroughs, economical innovation, and the development of space exploration look forward. We are no longer isolated from the rest of the world, and whether we like it or not, we have a wide variety of racial and ethnic groups in our country.
The estimated 2019 census claims that our country has around 328 million people composed of 63.4% Caucasian, 15.3% Hispanic or Latino, 13.4% Black or African American, 5.8% Asian, and 1.3% Native American. The danger of looking backward is falling into the trap of attempting to get rid of the people you don't appreciate. We are a "melting pot" and must learn how to live with one another with integrity and justice.
It doesn't do any good to promote restrictions against Muslims, immigrants, Chinese and other Asian people, and even some of our allies in Europe who appear to not be measuring up to our ideals. We are in this world together and must find ways to live in peace while pursuing good trade and protection relationships.
John Adams once said, "Facts are stubborn things, and yet too many Americans are locked into their particular vision of the world, choosing this view or that perspective based not on its grounding in fact but on whether it's a view or perspective endorsed by the leaders one follows. The dictators of the world say that if you tell a lie often enough, people will believe it." In reply, President Truman responded, "Well, if you tell the truth often enough, they'll believe it and go along with you." Human injustice toward one another must cease.
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Robert Box is the former chaplain for the Bella Vista Police Department and is currently the Fire Department chaplain. Opinions expressed are those of the author.