Donald Trump’s campaign slogan is “Make America great again”. Apparently, he thinks the country is not in good shape and needs to be as great as it once was. As of this writing, I’ve seen no explanation from Trump detailing the ways in which the country is doing poorly, when the US was last great, nor what exactly it would take to return the country to the glorious heights he longs for. But then Trump isn’t one to explain the logic of his opinions (if there is any logic to them in the first place). I recently found myself thinking “Self, if Trump wants to make this country great again, he clearly envisions some point in the past as an era when the United States was great. Soooooo, when exactly was the United States great?” After the jump, I explore some possibilities.
the period from 1877 through 1965, when “separate, but equal” Jim Crow Laws were in effect, which treated African-Americans as second class citizens and allowed white people to commit unspeakable acts of violence and cruelty against blacks with impunity?
1915, when D.W. Griffith’s horrifically racist KKK-as-heroes propaganda piece ‘The Birth of a Nation‘ debuted, to widespread acclaim among white USAmericans?
pre-1920, when women did not have the right to vote?
1920, when Prohibition went into effect, and the US government heavily restricted or banned the manufacture, sale, distribution, or importation of alcoholic beverages, thus infringing upon the rights of civilians?
the period from 1929 through the late 1930s, aka the Great Depression which was the worst economic collapse in the history of the modern industrial world?
1932, when the United States government began the 40-year, non-consensual Syphilis testing of 600 African-American men?
pre-1938, when children could legally toil away in hazardous manufacturing and mining jobs for little pay and long hours (until the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938)?
1942, when President Roosevelt-in what looks to be a bout of Hitler envy-signed an executive order forcing Japanese-Americans to relocate to concentration camps?
1950-1956, the period when fear-mongering over Communism led to unfair allegations of treason against thousands of USAmerican citizens who saw their lives and careers ruined in the witch-hunts led by Joseph McCarthy.
pre-1954, when racial segregation of public schools was the norm across the country (until Brown vs. Board of Education made racist white parents around the country clutch their pearls and call for their fainting chairs at the thought of little Johnny and Suzie having to ::gasp:: share a school with one of them colored kids)?
1956, when the United States government produced a list of several Cold War-era nuclear targets, in which they targeted populated areas (bc the US government didn’t get its fill of slaughtering civilians by dropping atomic weapons on Nagasaki and Hiroshima)?
1963, when members of the Ku Klux Klan set off a bomb that rocked the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, killing 4 girls and injuring 14 others?
pre-1964, before the Civil Rights Act passed, prohibiting discrimination based on race and sex and guaranteeing-at least on paper-the rights of women and People of Color to enter the workforce without facing discrimination based on race or sex?
pre-1965, during the time before the Supreme Court’s Griswold vs Connecticut ruling that saw the right to privacy extend to the right to utilize contraception, thus granting women a great amount of control over their reproductive anatomy?
pre-1967, before the Loving vs Virginia ruling that ended the personal liberty infringing prohibition on interracial marriage?
pre-1969, before the Stonewall Uprising that saw the frustrations of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people reach a fever pitch after decades of being treated as moral deviants, hounded by state authorities, and threatened with fines and imprisonment for simply existing?
pre-1973, when women had no right to exert control over their bodies and decide for themselves whether they wanted to continue a pregnancy or legally terminate it (until the landmark Roe v. Wade decision)?
pre-1979, when marriage constituted permanent consent to sex and a husband could legally rape his wife (until a series of court battles changed laws across the country)?
1985, when the mayor of Philadelphia approved the bombing of an African-American neighborhood by militarized police forces in the infamous MOVE bombing?
These notable events and eras highlight one salient point that is missing from Donald Trump’s rhetoric about the greatness of yesteryear: for a lot of people in this country-mostly those who are not among the privileged classes-turning the clock back would mean reversing a lot of the progressive changes that have reduced suffering, oppression, and discrimination and improved the quality of life for the countless USAmericans who are not white, heterosexual, cisgender men. But who am I kidding? Trump-and the GOP in general-have a narrow view of what makes a country great. And that view is not informed by the struggles of people who are not them. They literally care only for themselves. And that is one of the many reasons the Republican Party is the Grand Old Party of Assholes.