“Make America Great Again”
That’s the new slogan for a movement that is as old as the United States itself. It sounds good; it sounds patriotic; it sounds like something worthwhile. On the surface that is.
It seemingly harkens back to a time when America was a better place. Perhaps a place where everyone got along and we all had respect for one another. Maybe even a place when peace and understanding ruled the land, a place of equality and harmony.
We all know that place never existed. America has had discrimination and hatred for random groups of people since the Pilgrims stepped foot onto this continent. The arguments change and the victims are different, but the core argument is the same.
“They are a threat to our natural way of life, and they threaten our safety and security!”
1654: Peter Stuyvesant, a leader in an early colony, wanted to expel all the Jewish settlers because they were a threat saying “We pray that the deceitful race – such hateful enemies and blasphemers of the name of Christ – be not allowed to further infect and trouble this new colony.”
1733: The colony of Georgia was founded with an explicit law that forbade Catholics from living there.
The 1850’s: The Know-Nothing Party was established to push for restrictions on immigration of Catholics. It also worked to prevent any Catholics from being elected to public office.
1861: The American Civil War begins, with a major component of the war being slavery. More importantly the potential emancipation of black slaves in the United States.
1865: The KKK was founded at the end of the Civil War to “to shield the sanctity of the home and the chastity of womanhood; to maintain white supremacy; to teach and faithfully inculcate a high spiritual philosophy through an exalted ritualism; and by a practical devotedness to conserve, protect and maintain the distinctive institutions, rights, privileges, principles and ideals of a pure Americanism.” Lynchings of black Americans became an all too common component of the KKK.
1882: The Chinese Exclusion Act banned most Chinese immigration, and restricted the working rights of Chinese Americans heavily. It was backlash from the mining industry and the amount of jobs that were being filled by Chinese immigrants.
1492-current: The Native American culture has been attacked, murdered and discriminated. It is estimated that there were approximately 10 million Native Americans living in what is now the United States when Europeans first arrived in the 15th Century. By 1900 the number was less than 300,000. Native Americans didn’t receive any measure of equality until 1968, with the passage of the Indians Civil Rights bill.
1869-1920: Women’s Suffrage Movement: Women’s right to vote was a long muddy struggle. It seems so obvious now that women should be equal in every way. But 1911 California State Senator J.B. Sanford wrote “Suffrage is not a right. It is a privilege that may or may not be granted. Politics is no place for a woman consequently the privilege should not be granted to her.”
1936: Father Charles Coughlin rose in popularity, partially due to his anti-Semitic views. Through his radio show and magazine his millions of followers were exposed to his antisemitic beliefs and conspiracy theories.
1942: FDR signed an executive order that led to the internment of 120,000 Japanese Americans. After Pearl Harbor, all Japanese Americans were considered threats and potential allies to the Japanese Empire.
1950’s-1968, and beyond: The American Civil Rights Movement. From Brown vs. Board of Education in 1954 until the Civil Rights Act of 1968, there was an enormous amount of turmoil and violence. Many who sought for equality for African Americans were beaten, intimidated, and murdered. Unfortunately, the hatred and discrimination didn’t end with the Civil Rights Act.
1924-today: Gay Rights Movement. It seems almost surreal to believe that in 2016 we haven’t settled this argument. That we still debate whether or not gay Americans have equal rights to the rest of the country. Whether it involve marriage, adoption, or where they go to the bathroom.
2015-2016: Mexican and Muslim immigrants. The latest scary monster hiding under the American bed is immigrants from Mexico and also those from Muslim countries. We have a presidential candidate who is calling for loyalty tests and declaring entire groups of people rapists and murderers.
So tell me Mr. and Mrs. Trump supporter, exactly which era of American greatness do you want to go back to? Because for me, what I see is an America that keeps working to get better, and moving past stupid ideas and atrocious mistakes. I don’t see one that has ever had it right for a moment in time then suddenly lost it.
I see a country that has stood for an ideal, and when we didn’t live up to that ideal it left a black mark. When we didn’t follow the path of honor, dignity, caring, and compassion it left blood stains. I also see a country that has been able to fight to overcome its mistakes, however slowly or stubbornly. A nation that at its heart still has a glowing ember that says “Fight for everyone stand for everyone accept and respect everybody!”
I don’t live in a perfect country because that place never existed. The truth is I most likely will never see that place. But the country I live in today is more accepting and offers more equality than the one I was born in, at least until this year.
But I am tired of living in a country that is always looking for someone to hate, someone to blame for its problems. I am weary of a nation that is seemingly always looking outward for what causes our pains, instead of looking internally for the solutions. It’s time we stop listening to snake oil salesman and conmen that play on our fears and prejudices to garner power, position, and fortune.
Weekly conference calls with like-minded people who want to stop a candidate who is racist, sexist, bigoted, incites violence and is demonstrating no competence for the job at hand.
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Photo: Getty Images