Thoughts on “Making America Great … Again?”

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo came under fire this week for comments he made on Wednesday at a bill-signing ceremony.

“We’re not going to make America great again — it was never that great. We have not reached greatness. We will reach greatness when every American is fully engaged. We will reach greatness when discrimination and stereotyping against women — 51 percent of our population — is gone and every woman’s full potential is realized and unleashed.”

For the record, and at the risk of drawing my own fire, I agree with him.  There are things about this country that are truly wonderful, but there are a lot of things that are broken and need to be fixed, as well.  To his comments, I would add that we will reach greatness when there is no discrimination and when we accept that it is the responsibility of every adult to care for those less fortunate, and when we acknowledge that people matter more than ‘things’.

Reading his words, the criticisms and his rather odd retraction set my mind on a ponderous path, wondering … what, exactly, is “great”?  I strongly suspect that each of us have our own ideas of what makes a nation ‘great’, and that many of our definitions would be at odds with one another’s.  We don’t have to wonder what Trump means when he claims he is ‘making America great again’, for he lets us know in no uncertain terms.  Trump’s idea of greatness and mine diverge more than slightly, however.  But what would really be interesting is to understand how other average people would define greatness, and whether we have any common ground, republican vs democrat, liberal vs conservative, in our ideas about ‘greatness’.

Do we even know what we think would make the nation ‘great’?  We use the term often enough, but have we really sat down and taken the time to think about why our nation is or isn’t great, and what must change to make it so?

And so, dear friends, you have the dubious honour today of being privy to the ponderings and meanderings of my scrambled mind.

What is ‘great’?

I went my usual route, seeking the ‘official’ definition, but Merriam-Webster was no help:

  • notably large in size; of a kind characterized by relative largeness
  • large in number or measure; predominant
  • remarkable in magnitude, degree, or effectiveness
  • full of emotion
  • eminent, distinguished; chief or preeminent over others; aristocratic, grand
  • long continued
  • principal, main
  • more remote in a family relationship by a single generation than a specified relative
  • markedly superior in character or quality
  • remarkably skilled, marked by enthusiasm
  • a generalized term of approval

Hmmmm … likely the only one that even vaguely fits what Trump is referring to when he says he is making the country great is “markedly superior in character or quality”.  But I have a problem with that, for that word ‘superior’ doesn’t define at all what I think of as great, unless I’m talking about an ice cream sundae.  Otherwise, superiority equates with arrogance, a trait I dislike immensely. likewise had multiple, unhelpful definitions … 23 of them, to be precise!

Okay, I’m going to tell you what I think it would take to truly make this a great nation, thus creating my own definition of great as it applies to a nation.  The following are in no particular order of importance, but are simply in the order they popped into my head.

  • Equality for all, meaning that nobody would denigrate another based on race, skin colour, religion, ethnicity, gender or gender identification, or social status. This means that police don’t shoot unarmed black men, religious organizations don’t discriminate against LGBT people, and we all treat each other as simply being humans.

  • Eradication of poverty and relative income equality. It is true that somebody who works very hard should be rewarded financially.  But the extreme income inequality in this country today is, frankly, ridiculous and the wealth of the upper 1% (or less) is further enhanced by tax cuts, tax loopholes, and other governmental assists.  The wealthy in this nation do not carry their own weight, do not bear a fair share of the tax burden, and until that happens, this nation cannot be said to be ‘great’.

  • Universal health care to ensure that all people are able to be taken care of properly when they are ill.

  • Affordable college tuition so that we can have a better-educated populace, better able to participate in government and make wise decisions on a personal, professional and civic level.

  • Renewable energy taking the place of fossil fuels as quickly as possible in order to protect and repair the quality of the environment that is suffering from decades of deterioration. This would include a return to the Paris Accord.

  • Preservation of natural resources, lands, and wildlife. There should be absolutely no commercialization of national parks and other lands set aside for wildlife conservation.  The earth is one ecosystem comprised of many smaller ecosystems … everything is designed to fit together like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle, and when you destroy one piece, the rest is affected as well.

  • Campaign finance regulations that prohibit donations by any corporation, lobby or individual. Campaigns financed by state and federal taxes, with each candidate receiving precisely the same amount is the only way to ensure fairness and hopefully encourage honesty in our elected representatives.

  • Improved relations with allies and NATO, for this is indeed a global world, and those who eschew ‘globalization’ as being something evil are choosing to wear blinders and live in the past. We produce soybeans, other nations produce oil … punitive actions such as tariffs are counter-productive to a mutually advantageous trade relationship.  Additionally, it is in the best interest of all nations to get along, for we may need their help someday, or vice versa.  The days when a nation could stand alone, be an isolated entity, are long since gone.

  • Strict gun laws are essential to a peaceful society. Weapons that were designed for military use only must be banned from the civilian population and returned to the military where they belong.  For other guns, there should be competency testing, intense background checks, and periodic re-licensing requirements.  Limits of one gun per household, and a repeal of conceal-carry laws should also apply.

Okay, so it’s just a wish list, and a pie-in-the-sky one at that, but until we are at least working toward the things on this list, I don’t see that our nation is at all great.  Certainly it is better than some, but not at the top of the list by any stretch. Instead of working toward the things that would make it better, we have a leader and a Congress who are actively working against these ideals.

Racism is not only being tolerated, but encouraged by our elected representatives!  Religious groups are being given the license to discriminate against others.  The ‘right’ to shoot and kill others is state-supported (Florida – Stand Your Ground laws).  Tax cuts and breaks are given to the wealthy, not those of us who most need a few extra dollars.  Trade tariffs are causing rising prices on food and other goods, particularly automobiles and home appliances.  College costs are making higher education impossible for the average young person.  Fossil fuels are being encouraged and given advantages, while renewable sources are being shunned by the government.  The gun lobby (NRA) has more power than almost any other entity. Environmental regulations are being scrapped in the interest of big corporations.  We abuse our allies and wine-and-dine our antagonists.  And the list goes on and on.  No, folks, Donald Trump is definitely NOT making America great, at least not by my definition.

So, how would you define ‘greatness’ in terms of a nation?

29 thoughts on “Thoughts on “Making America Great … Again?”

    • For sure, my friend. I think each person defines greatness at any given time, based on how his/her own personal life is going. That is something Trump & Co has played on and magnified in order to convince the masses to stick by him, for he alone knows how to make their lives better. To me … greatness is more about giving than receiving, but methinks I am in a minority.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I have wrestled with this concept, as you know. I have concluded that greatness cannot be defined, but it is recognized when it appears. We know when a book, an heroic act, a person is great. But Cuomo is right — as are you. This country is not great and probably never was. But we have the potential to be great if we do not presume we already are and if we listen and respond to those who are wise and well-intentioned.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I agree … it seems impossible to define, at least with just a few sentences. But we DO recognize it when we see it. Something to ponder … but I’ve pondered it before, as have you, and still have no answers. If this nation is to ever become great, we better get started pretty quick, for it appears we are headed in the opposite direction, and unless we address environmental issues soon, we may face extinction before we ever reach that pinnacle of greatness.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Dear Jill,

    I love your list.

    We are the great experiment in democracy with a diverse population, but the USA is still a project in progress. Our country started off with its original sin of slavery and we still are suffering from this scourge.

    Because of President Trump, we are making our country worse; we are going backwards instead of making progress to where anyone who has a dream has the means and tools to go for it.

    Being a great country doesn’t mean that we don’t have things to work on but that we admit to them and face them and address them. We can’t do that with a president who makes up a crisis, who relies on conspiracy theories, fake news, lies.

    President Trump’s version of a great America existed for White folks where others were left behind. His definition of a great America differs from what most Americans consider great about this country.

    Hugs, Gronda

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Gronda! The list, as we both know, will never be completely fulfilled, for we are a diverse peoples with human flaws. But I’m with you … we are headed the wrong way! As I told Keith in an earlier comment, I feel like we made a U-turn and are going back the way we came. Until the 40% or so who support Trump’s ideology put people before things, it is going to be an uphill struggle to even strive toward greatness. Sigh.


      Liked by 2 people

  3. I also agree with what message Cuomo was trying to get across. But you, Jill, have got it down pat! Excellent list!
    And trump and his cult are definitely standing in the way and I’m afraid his cult will continue to do so, long after he is gone. These people are entrenched in their backward Neanderthal mindset.

    I might add….what would make America truly great, would be to be a country where a trump would never be elected or even be considered to run in a primary for any party. And where the people would never desire a person of this low caliber to even begin to represent them.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Why thank you!!! You make a very good point, that his followers will not drop the gauntlet once he is out of office. I think we are like-minded on this … I have often said that while he send my angst through the ceiling, the thing that most disturbs me is the fact that some 40% of this country still … after all the abominable things he has done … supports him and thinks he is wonderful. This is a sad statement of our society. Thanks again for your kind words!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I am not American. I am not even human. I used to be a child of the universe, but even that no longer works for me. The only descriptor I feel comfortable with is: I am a living being, and:
    until all living beings are shown respect and allowed go have dignity,
    until all living beings are free to live their lives from birth to natural death without anyone having to tell them how to live,
    until all living beings can walk this world free from interference from those who think they know better than another,
    until all living beings take responsibility for those less well off than they,
    until all living beings are free to believe as they will by choosing what it is they want to believe,
    and until all living beings can live together in peace and without ill will to others,
    only then will I call this world, and every living space upon it,

    Anything short of these conditions, and those others can add to this list, is simply not good enough. Period.
    There are some facets of life that need to be worked on, especially the fact most life needs life to live upon and survive, but science can overcome that facet if they haven’t already.
    Other problems too can all be solved. All it takes are understanding, and acceptance…

    Liked by 2 people

    • Ahhhh … you and I have had this conversation before, and you know that I think human nature makes it impossible for us to ever have the world you envision. But that doesn’t mean we can’t work toward making this a better place, teaching humans to be kinder, more caring. We cannot share the planet if it’s “every man for himself”. I think that the biggest hurdle to living in harmony, to understanding and acceptance, is greed, and if humans haven’t gotten over the desire for wealth in all these millennium, it is doubtful they ever will. No, not being a pessimist … only a realist.

      Liked by 1 person

      • If one is going to try to create something, there is no use trying if one believes it cannot be created. I not only believe my vision can be created, I know it will be created. Not because I say so, but because I believe it is the direction in which we as living beings are advancing, progressing, evolving. I look back, to see where we have been. I look at us now, to see how we have gotten here. Then I look into the future, based on those two things, and it says this is where we are going. Trump is but a horrible speck on the face of the road. Once he is gone the road will once again be open, and we will keep travelling as we were.
        And if I am wrong, at least I will have tried. Either way, I will die trying.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Jill, I think we have an enviable construct and do many good things, but we have always been a work in progress. Even though we could do much better, we are far more diverse than other countries and are a melting pot.

    Our electorate is absent for the most part with very poor voting turnouts. We are less informed than our democracy demands and are easily influenced. If we could be an engaged country, we would have chance to do better than we do.

    We certainly are not going to achieve greatness through isolation from the rest of the world. Keith

    Liked by 1 person

    • As you have said more than once, my friend, “You cannot shrink to greatness”. There are many very good things about this country, but it seems that these days they are more in theory than in reality. It seems to me that we have made a U-turn and are heading backward in terms of nearly everything, including education, racism, tolerance, income equality, and far too many others to mention at the moment. I think the U.S. is capable of greatness, but we seem unwilling to head in that direction under the current leadership.


      • Jill, reading some of the other comments, one of the key tenets of the more successful companies highlighted in the book “Built to Last” is the concept of “good enough never is.” In other words, the companies always looked to improve. Same should apply to America. Keith

        Liked by 1 person

        • True … it’s the concept of nothing is ever static, so if you are not moving forward, you are moving backward. Like a battery … when it isn’t actively charging, it is discharging. Right now, we are not moving forward, but are discharging.


  6. Your definition works for me. I would amend affordable college tuition to “free extended education” so that everybody has an opportunity to realize their potential. Cuomo stated what I have believed for many years. As a product of the 1960s, I did not see my country as particularly great. It (the government) lied then and continues to lie today.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Actually, that was how I initially worded it, but then re-thought it and went for the more realistic idea of ‘affordable’ instead of ‘free’. However, I really prefer free, and I suppose it’s no more unrealistic than some of my other ideas.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I would assess America’s greatness or lack thereof based on two criteria: 1) the content of its established principles, and 2) the people’s adherence to its established principles. I think America truly is great with respect for #1 and any objective understanding of the Founding Fathers, the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Constitution, and other contemporaneous works, would agree. I also think that the American people have largely failed with respect for #2 to which I offer our collective history as proof. When a nation claims to be one thing yet acts in a contradictory manner, then descriptors such as “fraudulent” and “hypocritical” are more fitting than “great.”

    Liked by 1 person

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