The battle cry for Donald Trump is that he will “make America great again.” He will get the jobs back, he will defeat ISIS, he will build that wall and keep all the illegal Mexican immigrants out, even as he deports literally millions of Muslims from this country.
He will take us back, back to the time when, he says, America was truly great.
When was that? What made America great and for whom was it great?
America may have been “great” when Founding Fathers crafted the concept of democracy, using and relying on the words “all men are created equal and are endowed by the Creator with certain inalienable rights,” which included “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
But from the time of the crafting of the Constitution, it was clear that those words were woefully mythic in nature. The Founding Fathers never intended for some people to be free, to be considered equal, or in the case of African-Americans, to even be considered full human beings.
Nearly every endeavor engaged in by those who “made America great” involved the subjugation, oppression and discrimination against people who were not white and male. Indigenous Americans were killed off; that is called genocide. White women were considered second class citizens, prizes to be used for the sexual fulfillment of their men and to be used as an excuse to indiscriminately lynch black men.
Black people were, simply, the backbone upon which the local and global economy was built. They were objects to be used, traded, and ultimately discarded.
So, given that reality, when was America great? Or, maybe the better question is, “what” does “great” mean? What is the definition that Trump and his followers are using?
At one of his rallies, Trump ordered a protester out, saying, “remember how it used to be,” and going on to explain people who “caused trouble” were often handled. (http://www.mediaite.com/online/trump-tells-crowd-to-knock-the-crap-out-of-protesters-offers-to-pay-legal-fees/ ) Wild West” mentality, a man was considered tough by the way he handled his enemies, real or perceived. If he had to take someone out, then so be it. “In the good old days,” Trump mused at one of his rallies, “this didn’t happen because they used to treat them very, very rough. (http://mashable.com/2016/03/12/trump-rally-incite-violence/#ytvHzFqipiqh)
He is right. In the “good old days,” black people could be and were lynched at worst, or at least badly beaten, for merely being accused of a “crime,” which could be something as petty as being out at the wrong time of night. In those “good old days,” African Americans returning from battle in World Wars I and II were treated like common criminals, often being beaten by whites while still in uniform. Brutal, barbaric lynchings of blacks were carried out by white people as a matter of course, increasing in the time period after Reconstruction, with white perpetrators never having to worry about being held accountable, and with white law enforcement officers often part of the lynch mobs.
In spite of the US Constitution saying that every American citizen had a right to a trial by a “jury of his peers,” black people were almost always tried by all-white juries – which almost always convicted them. After slavery was abolished (except for people who had been convicted of a crime, per the 13th Amendment), white people and white systems sought to criminalize as many black people as possible, via the Convict Leasing program, which kept blacks virtually enslaved for the duration of their lives.
And so I ask again, when was America so great, and for whom was it great?
Trump knows what he is thinking. His definition of a great America is a time when people did not have to care about, worry about, what black people and brown people and Muslims and Mexicans needed. The great America was a place where women were objectified and used at the discretion of sexually and physically abusive men. “Great America” is a time when white people could enjoy their whiteness basically undisturbed.
That America is long gone; the demographics of this nation have shifted too much. Women have gained too many rights. A way has been made for “the marginalized.” Jobs have been outsourced by business moguls like Trump so that they can realize the greatest profits possible with as little output of capital as possible. “Great America” is now, as Fareed Zakaria says, “post America.” That idea is scary to everyone, not just white people.
But Trump is seeking the triumph of white male supremacy in an era where the resistance against it is behemoth. Trump is calling the troops for a fight that has been in the losing lane for years. The question is, if Trump wins, and those who want “Great America” back as it was, and it doesn’t come – which it most probably will not – what will they do?
What will America do?
America the beautiful is now America the embattled. Not even Trump can change the course of history that has been in place for generations.
A candid observation …