What made America great?

Written by Jeffrey Hann Category: Article Op ed Published: Monday, 05 September 2016 14:03 Hits: 4137

 

We have all been inundated with Trump’s campaign slogan “Make America Great Again” over the past year, but what does that really mean? The slogan was originally created in 1979 to be used with Ronald Reagan’s 1980 presidential campaign. If Trump and his supporters are to be believed, then America is not great and Reagan failed to make it great. Now Trump says he will make it great again.

 

Do you know what he means when he says he will make American great again? What made America great in the first place? I asked this question on Facebook and got several responses:

  1. The Industrial Revolution
  2. The ability to learn and grow
  3. An imperfect bastion of freedoms

 

Do you agree with any of these answers? 

 

First, the Industrial Revolution began in England so it is not what made America great. Second, we as humans have the ability to learn and grow, which is not exclusive to Americans, so it is not what made America great. Lastly, America did start as an imperfect bastion of freedoms but does that mean it was “great”? Great is defined as “of an extent, amount, or intensity considerably above the normal or average”. Does granting men, non-slaves, “guaranteed” rights on paper constitute as being great? The Constitution is a flawed document that allowed for slavery, the slaughter of Native Americans and the theft of their land, and countless other violations of rights. But wait, if this is how America started out, how was it great? America definitely didn’t become greater as time went on after freedom was won from Britain.

 

An argument can be made that the winning of freedom from Britain made us great. I would disagree since many other countries have won freedom from oppressors. Does that also make them great? What sets us apart?

 

I disagree with all of these reasons. What made America great, albeit briefly, was the very act of defiance. The etymology of the word defiance is a “challenge, declaration of war”. Defiance in the face of oppression from a government that does not represent their wishes or will. Defiance in the face of statism. Defiance in the face nationalism. Defiance against those who wish to violate the rights of the innocent.

 

 

Defiance is what made us great but since that great moment we have lost our way.

 

Thomas Jefferson wrote to William Smith about the Shay Rebellion which led to one of Jefferson’s more famous quotes:

 

The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots & tyrants. It is its natural manure.

 

Recently 49ers QB, Colin Kaepernick, caused a national “scandal” when he refused to stand for the “Star-Spangled Banner”, originally a poem turned into a song and made the national anthem in 1931. The national anthem was created to foster nationalism in the citizens of this country. It succeeded. Many call themselves patriots and speak of their patriotism when condemning Kaepernick for his silent protest.

 

 

What is patriotism? Patriotism comes from the word patriot + -ism, and patriot came from the Latin word patriota “fellow-countryman”. 

 

Country means “an area of land that is controlled by its own government”. Therefore a Country-man is a fellow citizen and supporter of said Government

 

Many who claim this title speak of our forefathers as being patriots using the definitions above. There is a problem though, in the mid-18th century (when our forefathers started to rebel against Britain) the word patriot, ironically, was used to describe “a factious disturber of the government”. Which definition do these so called patriots use? Would our forefathers view these individuals as red coats? Which definition describes our founding fathers?

 

Now read Thomas Jefferson’s quote again.

 

The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots & tyrants. It is its natural manure.

 

Which definition of patriots did Jefferson mean?