Make America Great

making america great
What does it mean to “Make America Great Again?” Some people suggest it is actually code for “Make America White Again.” But, when was the United States white?


Was there ever a time when America possessed and presented the characteristics of a “great nation?” If so, when was that time?

We may turn to the so-called founding documents of this nation as evidence of a “great” society; but upon full examination and honest assessment a true and clear realization is that the words written on paper do not match the actual behavior and conduct as applied to all residents, including “citizens” of the fledging nation.

The Declaration of Independence for its entire splendor fails to achieve its ideals because of its exclusion of women, indigenous peoples, enslaved Africans, and indentured servants. All of whom were residents who participated in the formation of this nation.

Even as newcomers arrived across the Atlantic Ocean from Ireland, Italy, and Poland; along with Catholics and Jews, the hostilities they encountered over-powered any notion of hospitality. Harsh conditions, hard labor, and imprisonment were too often their reception. And what about the plight of Native Americans who suffered immeasurably?

Peoples whose land was overrun by conquerors and those individuals drunk with delusion of divine destiny found themselves too often trapped under the despair of a paradise lost. There was no safe haven from the wrath of greed and conquest. No noble cause to provide food and shelter to a starving and dying colony was sufficient enough to preserve the ancient cultures and traditions of Native Americans who rescued the weary pilgrims.

The shame and tragedies visited upon indigenous peoples and the loads of human cargo forced into that Peculiar Institution of slavery could not halt the determined fascination of erecting a new “City on the Hill” that bore no resemblance to the biblical image of peaceful governance.

“Make America Great Again” produces far more questions than answers for people who now live with great fear about their fate in a country that sings, “God Bless America.”

“Make America Great Again” produces far more questions than answers for people who now live with great fear about their fate in a country that sings, “God Bless America.” Perhaps that too is code for those who expressed a sincere sense of privilege and assumed a position perceived superior to others of long term residency or recent arrival.

Is “great” determined by the stockpile of weapons of mass destruction? Blatant lies about Iraq having amassed such firepower resulted in a protracted war that appears to have no end in sight. Could America’s vast collection of nuclear warheads place this country on a trajectory toward its own destruction that could further eliminate any designation of “greatness?”

Is “great” defined by the number of brilliant students who become employees of corporations that treasure profits over people and mass incarceration over quality education for the masses? Does being great mean it is acceptable to deny affordable health care to all people while elected government officials enjoy the benefits of full health coverage with pensions? Is it great to have a nation that is unequally divided between the extremely wealthy and the overwhelming number of impoverished working class striving daily to eke out a living under the burden of unbearable debt?

Perhaps the real challenge toward making America “great” comes in recalibrating our moral compass and reassigning our priorities. Perhaps greatness is achieved when those who reside among the lower one-third on the economic scale are afforded extraordinary opportunities to rise and excel in obtaining the collective advantages of quality education, true affordable healthcare, decent housing, and the admirable ability to work and earn one’s way with fair and livable wages without worry about costs that outstrip their income.

Perhaps there is a parallel between “great” and “good” that contrasts the real outcome of “great” but “evil.” America’s history is replete with episodes of stupidity aligned with denied opportunity in the face of violence and madness. As the nation defines and determines what it means to be “great,” perhaps we will discover true greatness is measured by the way a society attends to and treats the needs of people who have a long record of presence on these lands as well as those who came here more recently.

Perhaps greatness is directly tied to admitting our mistakes and apologizing for the untold years when socially accepted conditions left trails of broken lives with unhealed scars and deep wounds from injustice and maltreatment. We will not dismiss the agonizing cries of those persons who suffered the misery of abuse, discrimination, and acts against humanity.

Perhaps there is yet a chance for America to be a truly great country when the truth is told, all lies are exposed, and We the People decide which path we will follow into the futue.

Let it be our greatest desire to elevate our course and expand the reach of our goals to be a nation that is inclusive “of the people, by the people, and for the people” in whole and not exclusively for a select few.

Reverend Dr. Art Cribbs

About Art Cribbs

The Rev. Dr. Art Cribbs is the executive director of Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity, a statewide faith-based organization, that advocates for workers and immigrant rights, quality education, and health care.