I'm hearing a lot of questions about America's diminished greatness in this election cycle, and in some ways, I think this speaks to legacy as well as to our current situation. As I listen to people who keep talking about how bad off America is, I can't help but wonder about the point of comparison. What is their point of reference? These people appear to have working body parts, shelter, consistent food on the table, steady income or government subsidies that arrive on a regular basis. Some people projecting this message even seem to have power and prestige. So what is it specifically that we need to make great again? And who are we making it great for? Is it for all men who are created equal? Are we substituting in "people" for "men"? Just curious. I like to be clear about these things.
Also, how long does greatness have to last? History tells us that societies rise and societies fall, and this cycle happens repeatedly. Do we always have to be nostalgic about how things used to be? Or is the sign of true greatness cultivating an understanding and acceptance that people evolve and what matters to the individual and to the collective changes over time?
Sure, let's worry about the next generation and consider what we're leaving them to deal with. But history certainly tells us that no matter how much we worry about and plan for the future, it always comes up with something even more disruptive or destructive. Example: Nuclear arms race ends; people figure out how to crash planes into buildings. All the planning in the world doesn't stop the inevitable quest for power and the evil that emerges as a result. Planning for the moment seems far more pragmatic than planning for the future.
And finally, what ever happened to acknowledging that America's greatness emerged on the backs of immigrants? Am I aware of this because I live in a city where I walk past historical buildings built by immigrants? Or because I encounter immigrants every day on the subway? And actually shouldn't I be saying "people who immigrated to the US" rather than simply defining someone by where they were born or is that too politically correct? And shouldn't I be considering that my great grandparents emigrated from Italy and Ireland? Or that my ancestors came to the New World on the Mayflower because of religious persecution? Is that why I have empathy when I look at all the people around me today? Or should I forget about all that history and make America great again by building walls, ostracizing people who have a dream, who are willing to work jobs that others aren't willing to take? Again, I'm just trying to get clear on this.
See, I have a problem. I can't forget about history. Maybe some people can, but I can't. History is how I know who I am and why I have what I have and why I'm #grateful for all of it. But I refuse to get stuck in nostalgia or self-pity or simple flag waving at a rally. America has always been and continues to be about action. Mud slinging and cheering at a rally is not action. Yes, voices are getting heard, but what happens after that?
You see, this is where I have this problem again. What happens after that?
What happens after that?