I try to stay out of politics because it’s a topic that vehemently divides people and causes hurt when in reality very few people know what is really going on. We all have political leanings and bias. What seems so obvious to one person is bafflingly illogical to the next and so I usually try to stay out of it as much as possible. That being said, I feel pretty strongly about this so I’m going to go for it. Plus I’m on spring break and don’t have a lot to do except write and think.
Political sayings and ideas get used and reused time and time again. We like catchy things that give us a feeling we’re searching for. That’s why Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan touches quite a few people. The same way Obama ran on the slogans of “Hope” (taking advantage of the O in Obama, he made some cool posters) 1. What the hell are we hoping for? and 2. Not all change is good change leaving this one completely moot. The point is that I’m not picking on Trump, all candidates have stupid slogans and run on vague, incomplete thoughts. But they do make you feel a certain way. Hope makes you feel like you’re close to achieving your dreams. And “Make America Great Again” sends us spiraling back to the image of a “real” hard working free market economy—we think of coal miners and living off the land, but there is real danger in this slogan.
Currently our world terrifies even the staunchest optimist. I mean I’m in the Peace Corps so full of peace, love, harmony, and sunniness that I’m almost a Peace Corps hyperbole cartoon, and I’m one sad headline from sticking my head in the sand like a damn ostrich. We have ISIS bringing violent extreme jihad to not only the Islamic world but the entire planet, we have the Syrian Civil War, mass shootings, oil spills, horrific climate change, students left behind, ugly politics, racism, sexism, homophobia, a grid-locked uncooperative weasely Congress and so many other problems I can’t even list them here. And it’s all very overwhelming and frustrating. Americans are angry enough to show up for the first time in my lifetime. I’m not saying Trump rallies and the protesters are a great thing, but at least people care enough to show up. America has long suffered from Apathy and it’s good to see signs of that dissipating. And to be honest with all the craziness it’s an alluring romantic notion to return to simpler days. I get it, I’m with you.
So if we want to return to the good ole days, let’s take a minute to figure out what that means. When was America “great?” Was it the revolution when we had war on our own soil, mass disease and looming colonial powers? Or westward expansion when people died of dysentery—that is literally shitting yourself to death, and families went west in desperate hopes of reaching somewhere and scraping out a living, but often died while we displaced and murdered Native Americans? Or the Civil War when we had overtly cruel slavery and families shot at each other? Or the early 1900s when women couldn’t vote and John Crow reigned the south? Or the 1920s when we’d just come out of WWI and had prohibition and the rise of organized crime in America? Or the 1930s plagued with the great depression? Or WWII when everyone’s sons, brothers, uncles, cousins, fathers, and friends kept dying, everything was rationed and the great U.S.A. became the only country in the world to drop nuclear bombs? Or the 50s characterized by segregation and sexism? Or the 60s with the U.S. going to the war in Korea and civil rights leaders murdered in the streets? Or the 70s with Vietnam and communism haunting our steps? Or the Cold War and imminent global nuclear apocalypse? Or the 90s, which weren’t too bad only beleaguered by a few pesky wars supporting our oil interests? Or the 2000s where terrorists flew planes full of loved ones into our buildings and we started an endless war in the middle east where are soldiers are still dying today?
My point is any time in American history has had its issues. I’m not saying it’s all bad, but I don’t recognize the “great days” of yesteryear as any better than today.. When people refer to “making America great again,” I think they reflect on the time when you could go to college for a modest price or even skip college, get a job and work to provide for you family until you retired. The dissolution of America’s middle class complicates this picture. You can work your whole life and still be broke as shit—trust me I know. We’ve been taught to blame immigrants and foreign competition for this when in reality far more blame rests on the Donald Trumps of the world who wildly profit and have not provided for the average employee on the street, but that is neither here nor there. The blue-collar workers of America have been forgotten and abandoned by industry and politicians.
Regardless, the fact is that we now live in a global economy and that can’t be undone. It is not profitable to do manufacturing in the U.S. any longer. It has nothing to do with unions or any other step along the way: it has to do with the global market. Likewise, coal is not sustainable and attention is being paid to green alternatives. These industries are dying and their employees becoming obsolete. Our economy is growing and expanding but it’s a very sad and painful growth. As much as wish we could have the same jobs and feel secure within those jobs, it’s time to listen to Mr. Bob Dylan—the times they are a changing. Our nation must go where the fertile soil lies. We can’t go back to what no longer exists. It’s excruciating, but true.
So having established the fact that there is no going back to the good ole days, where’s the danger in daydreaming about them? Going back hurts the people formerly left out. If you’re dreaming about the days when the workforce consisted of all white men, you’re inadvertently wishing for the discrimination of women and minorities. It’s an illogical leap as mentioned above we now live and work in a global economy which means our own economy must do double time to stay up to date and strong; and we are more heavily influenced by what happens abroad . But the tendency is to take it out on the newest additions to the workforce as they are the latest addition and our brain sees their addition as the catalyst for change instead of the real underlying causes. See this clip for further explanation.
When people claim that Donald Trump is racist, this is the type of racism driving those complaints. He doesn’t use the n-word, but he promises a time of return to the days when it was used. Now I know a lot of people are going to call me a liberal hippie whatever, but this is real. It’s a thoughtless kind of racism, and it’s what people are reacting to. He’s not sound-bite racist, he’s systemic racist.
And to further my stance on this, I will even argue that America is great now—no remodeling or restoration needed. According to CNN, we have a B to B+ economy, our markets are stable again for now and unemployment is under 5%. I will concede that unemployment statistics do not factor underemployment, but that’s another topic for another day. Where would you rather live? Living in Guyana and Jamaica there just literally isn’t any work available sometimes. In Guyana it might not matter if you have all the degrees in the world, in society we need taxi drivers we don’t need theoretical physicists or PHD candidates. America has more than we realize. I know I’ve been living in the “developing” world, but it’s a refreshing view from the outside. Our freedoms are protected, and there is usually a way to get by. It is difficult to keep up with America’s consumer culture financially, but if you divorce all the wants from the needs, you’ll likely come out okay. Yes, America is flawed, but even so living in America is pretty great.