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. Dictionary.com 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?