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When Was America So Great?

Magnolia Mulqueen, Journalist

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“Make America Great Again,” the motto that has been seen on hats, t-shirts, banners and more across the nation. This is the campaign slogan of President Donald J. Trump and the 38.9% of Americans who actually support his presidency. The phrase itself paints this picture that America was once this promise land, a powerhouse of some sort, and what is so great about the phrase is how delightfully vague it is. It sets one goal to “make America great again,” however it has no set of directions, no road map telling people what era in American history was so great to begin with.

It really begs the question, when was America so much greater than it is now? What time is President Trump trying to get back to? Because quite frankly, I am having trouble thinking of a time when America was any better off than it is now. From the beginning, as soon as European colonists landed on North America, there was conflict, disease ran rampant, killing off the majority of the Native American population. After that, there was endless religious chaos and prosecution, women and men were mercilessly murdered during the Salem witch trials. Is the Great America the one with an economy built on slave labor? Or the one where Native Americans were forced out of the land that had belonged to them for thousands of years, and then made to walk hundreds of miles until they made it to a reservation, or died of starvation, disease or exhaustion? Was America great when it was split into halves during the Civil War when half the country was fighting for the right to keep slaves, to keep other humans as property? Or was America great in the more recent past, during the Vietnam war, during the civil rights movement, during the stonewall riots, or the financial crisis of 2008? The truth is, when you ask students when America was so great, the overwhelming response is “America was never great,” because for most of the people who live in America, history has not been kind to them or their ancestors.

“When or where was America great?” asked head boy, Jua Fletcher, “All throughout history, America has been this struggle bus, for lack of a better term.” He expressed a very good point and that was that “America has always been great for some people, but it has never been great for everyone.” This was another opinion that was expressed over and over, by almost every person I interviewed.

“America has been acceptable, but it has never been great for the black community, it’s never been great for the LGBT community, it’s never been great for the Native American community,” said Trinity Martin, a senior involved in the Black Student Alliance.

I’m not here to dwell on all the things that our country has done wrong, even though there are many things our country has done wrong. What is important is considering what we can do to make things better, to make America great, for real. To do that we have to take a step back, and look at the fundamental ideals that America was founded on. I think head girl Eliana Goldberg said it best, “A great America is a together America,” meaning that in order to achieve such a bright future we need to band together. We have to spread a message of love and support to everyone we can in order initiate more progress, instead of fantasizing about an imaginary past where things were better. We have to remember that America was built on the backs of refugees and immigrants, instead of focusing on ways that we can close off our borders.

I hope that one day I can say that I think America is great, with pride, but until that day we have to band together and consider what it is that means.

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