Donald Trump Wants To Make America Great Again. When Was It Ever So?

8 months ago Ricardo Hylton 1

Ever since his orange-red toupee peeked out from a grubby Manhattan manhole in 2015, Donald Trump’s unbroken refrain has been “let’s make America great again.” It has really grinded my gears but also proved to be an intellectual challenge. This invisible alien is an amateur American history sleuth, and whilst that country has undeniably achieved things, I struggle to pinpoint an era of greatness.

So let’s throw a dart at the face of history and see if anything sticks. When was America great?


Was America Great

In the 1600s when the original ‘patriots’ and ‘pilgrim fathers’ sailed from Europe on their grand boats, killed the Native Indians and stole their land with trickery and treacherous violence?



Was America Great

In 1773 when they held a Tea Party in Boston to protest England’s undemocratic taxation; dressed as Mohawk Indians, and pursued a thriving slave industry at the same time? The United States is essentially a country founded by slave owners who wanted to be free.

Was America Great

In the devious plotting and aftermath of the Mexican-American war when they stole modern day California, Texas, New Mexico, Oklahoma, etc. from their southern neighbors; land they now claim is American soil and people trying to get there are illegal aliens?

Oh, but California was bought, I hear you whisper. Well, America “purchased” California and the rest of Aztlán from Mexico the way the U.S. “purchased” Georgia from the Cherokee Indians. Mexicans see the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo for what it is: a purchase done down the barrel of the Mexican-American War.

And it wasn’t just them: Abraham Lincoln opposed it while a congressman, and Ulysses S. Grant described it years later as “one of the most unjust ever waged by a stronger against a weaker nation. It was an instance of a republic following the bad example of European monarchies, in not considering justice in their desire to acquire additional territory.”

Even if we play the so called Manifest Destiny game, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was still thievery: It didn’t respect the land rights of the conquered Mexicans, therefore allowing a bunch of state sponsored henchmen to murder and pillage and rob Mexicans of their lands under the threat of marrying their daughters. Perhaps not so great, then.


Was America Great

During the 17th and 18th centuries when hundreds of thousands of Africans were captured, brought over and sold into slavery to work on cotton and tobacco plantations? Slavery was a key component of America’s booming industrial economy Was this when America was great, Mr Trump?


Was America Great

In 1860-61 when eleven pro-slavery southern states seceded from the Union and formed the racist Confederate States of America under the leadership of Jefferson Davis, triggering a cataclysmic Civil War?


Was America Great

When this Civil War, fought primarily over states’ rights, has been passed down into history dishonestly and spuriously as a war fought by Abraham Lincoln because he cared about ‘niggers’ and their freedom?

Was America Great

In1865 when slavery “ended” and each and every former slave was promised 40 acres and a mule through reconstruction? Perhaps. Remember though that they never did receive any acres. Nor did they get the goddamed mules!

What they received instead were the Klu Klux Klan, segregation, harassment, mockery, daily discrimination, joblessness, hunger, non-existent schools, the inability to vote, backbreaking poverty, lynching, black codes (laws designed to limit the freedom and rights of the former slaves) and a lot of god.


Was America Great

In 1898 when it meddled in Spain’s and Cuba’s affairs (this would become a trend)? Was it great when it used this meddling to annex and colonise Puerto Rico, Guam, the Philippines, Hawaii and Cuba.


Was America Great

In 1941 when it sat on its great army and watched the destruction wrought by Hitler, awaiting the most opportune time to join the war, which was somehow deemed to be after Japanese warplanes attack US fleet at Pearl Harbour in Hawaii,


Was America Great

When the young, elderly and sick of Nagasaki and Hiroshima became victims of nuclear bombs? The mass murdering (because that’s exactly what it was) of millions of Japanese citizens was unnecessary! The war was drawing to a close but it would not be the last time Trump’s great America used it power indiscriminately.

President Truman justified his decision by pointing to the unprovoked Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour and the murder of American prisoners. A few days after the bombing he wrote: “When you have to deal with a beast you have to treat him as a beast.”

It would seem, however, that the development of the bomb cost billions of dollars, and American leaders wanted to justify the expense. They wanted to demonstrate to the Japanese that they faced overwhelmingly superior forces. They also wanted their new rivals, the Soviet Union, to see their powerful new weapon in action. A sign of greatness? Me no think so!


Was America Great

After World War II when it had years of prosperity and sustained economic growth; masterminded lend-lease and the Marshall Plan; developed computer technology; disbursed consumer goods to much of the society.

The economy overall grew by 37% during the 1950s. Inflation, which had wreaked havoc on the economy immediately after World War II, was minimal, in part because of Eisenhower’s persistent efforts to balance the federal budget.

The post–World War II economic expansion witnessed stability and prosperity for many Americans. The U.S. economy grew dramatically; expanding at a rate of 3.5% per annum between 1945 and 1970.

Between 1946 and 1960, the United States witnessed a significant expansion in the consumption of goods and services. Gross national product rose by 36% and personal consumption expenditures by 42%.

Many socioeconomic changes, including higher and more secure wages, access to paid vacation, Social Security and private pension plans, and more educational opportunities, shaped the life of many working-class families that transitioned to the middle-class standard of living.

Many city dwellers chose a suburban life style centred on children and housewives, with the male breadwinner commuting to work. Suburbia housed a third of the nation’s population by 1960. Surely, this was when America was great, right?

Mind, this was the era of Jim Crow America; the era of racial segregation; the era of police water hoses and dogs and the era that oversaw the deaths of Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Lamar Smith, Emmett Till, Reverend George Lee, John Earl Reese, Willie Edwards, Mack Charles Parker, Herbert Lee, Medger Evers, Virgil Lamar Ware, the Birmingham Baptist Church Girls and so many more.

So Trump’s “Great America” was certainly great for a segment of the population: the white segment of a certain class.


Was America Great

When in a desperate bid to win the Cold War with Russia, it intervened and decimated the lives of numerous Ghanaians, Iranians, Jamaicans, Chileans, Argentinians, Guatemalans, Indonesians, Syrians, Grenadians, Cubans, Lebanese, Dominicans, Guyanese, Panamanians, Salvadorans, Cambodians, Laotians, Vietnamese, etc.

Was America Great

After the civil rights act was passed and segregation was outlawed throughout the 1960s. Perhaps.

Remember though, that racism, misogyny, homophobia and other overt forms discrimination began to act like slimy serpents. They moved from the open and slipped beneath the green grass to act underhandedly. They became more subtle, and for some, even more insidious.

Better the devil that shows you his fork, right?


Was America Great

Mr Trump, when it pursued an unjust, homicidal war in Vietnam?


Was America Great

During Watergate, the Monica Lewinsky affair or the Iran-Contra scandal which revealed that proceeds from secret US arms sales to Iran were used illegally to fund Contra rebels in Nicaragua.


Was America Great

In 1989 when US troops invaded Panama, ousted its democratically elected government and arrested its leader, one-time CIA informant, General Manuel Noriega, on drug-trafficking charges.


Was America Great

In the 1980s and 1990s when successive governments pursued a policy of economic deregulation and giving tax benefits to the wealthy that resulted in some of the highest levels of inequality and disparities in wealth this world has ever seen.


Was America Great

In 2003 when after lies, lies and more lies, it launched a murderous missile and bomb assault on Iraq and its people. This led to a decade of sectarian violence, economic collapse, political instability, a stream of refugees, further destabilising the region and the renewed rise of terrorism across the western world. They did secure the Iraqi oilfields as quickly as they could, so I guess that should count for something.


Was America Great

In 2005  when hundreds of people were killed in Hurricane Katrina, the most destructive storm to hit the US in decades. Much of the city of New Orleans was submerged by floodwaters and the sitting president took his merry time to respond. Those people were mostly black by the way. So much for the civil rights act.

Was America Great

In 2008 when it elected, for the first time, a descendant of slaves? Barack Obama’s election seemed to usher in a post racial polity, an era when black and white and brown would live together, hands locked in peaceful harmony. Perhaps.

But keep in mind that since then we have seen hundreds of unarmed black people shot dead by the police, a long held bastion of state racism. We have seen the rise of the Tea Party, a thinly veiled racist wing of the Republican Party. We have seen said Republican Party block, harass, and impede every policy Mr Obama has put forward. We have also seen a man who claimed for years that Mr Obama was not an American citizen and a Muslim upstart, voted in by the great American public to claim the throne as his heir to the White House.


The World According To The Donald

So when was America Great? The answer, Trump explained, was during periods of military and industrial expansion at the onset of the 20th century and again in the years after World War II.

“If you look back, it really was, there was a period of time when we were developing at the turn of the century which was a pretty wild time for this country and pretty wild in terms of building that machine, that machine was really based on entrepreneurship,” he told the Times in 2016.

Trump also pointed to the “late ‘40s and ‘50s,” a time when, he said, “we were not pushed around, we were respected by everybody, we had just won a war, and we were pretty much doing what we had to do.”

When it was put to him on Fox news in February 2016 that Vladimir Putin was ‘a killer’, he retorted: “there are a lot of killers. What, you think our country’s so innocent?’

It was a rare moment of honesty from The Donald. because he is a man, as we argued here, who is often allergic to the truth. Schadenfreude if you will. For an American president to suggest that his own country is as murderous as Russia is unprecedented and supremely interesting. Is he right?

Some have gotten their minds in a twist about the Donald. Not Me.

‘Oh No, Donald Trump is the boogieman,’ they boo hoo. ‘The world is about the end,’ certain liberal segments of the media decry. His Muslim Ban. The Wall. The Women he assaulted. The Obama Birther Crisis. Russia. I laugh at it all.


Donald Trump is America Pre Civil War.

Donald Trump is America Pre Civil Rights Act.


Donald Trump says racist things whilst much of America thinks it.

Donald Trump Bans Muslims whilst much of the America he represents (and who voted him into office) thinks it.


Donald Trump is not a new incarnation.

Donald Trump is not an exception.

Donald Trump is America.


And if he is making America great again, it means he is lifting up the snake of prejudice that lies in the slippery American grass and waving it around for the world to see.