Tuesday, June 26, 2018

What A Great America Looked Like

Every day that passes, we move farther from greatness as a nation.

We are still strong.  And we are proud.  We are plenty proud.

But greatness requires more than strength and pride.  A brute is strong and proud.  A bully is strong and proud.  An abusive husband is strong and proud.

Greatness of soul requires more.  And a great national spirit requires more.

Looking back into our short history as a constitutional republic, picking that moment when we were greatest is a challenge.  History is messy.  Things are never perfect, not ever.  Anyone who tells you otherwise is selling you something.

But there are points where we shone, while still struggling with our human flaws.

Though it has clearly faded from the memory of our immediacy-addled culture, America during and immediately after the Second World War is arguably the height of our national greatness.

Seeing a world where human liberty was threatened by the demonic power of Nazism, America roused herself.  We heaved out of our depression, and turned our energy and our industriousness over to the defense of other democratic states.  We gave supplies and support to England during the Blitz.  We poured out our blood and treasure to stem the tide of totalitarian regimes.

And we won.

Most importantly, we won the peace.  Instead of making the same catastrophic mistake that was made at Versailles, our terms of peace were both absolute and generous.  We helped rebuild the nations we had destroyed.  Through the farsightedness of the Marshall Plan, America poured our time and treasure into healing the peoples and rebuilding the economies of the former Axis powers.  That generosity of spirit became coupled with a growing jet-age fascination with other cultures, and Americans celebrated travel and encounter with other peoples as a value.

We were not without flaw during those times.  But we were, at that point in history, a great nation.  The "Greatest Generation," it was called, and I think that's justified.  They did what was needed to be great.

The deepest, saddest irony of our current administration, which trumpets greatness in a dissonant brass?  It does completely the opposite things.  In morality, ethics, and political aims, it is diametrically opposed to the Greatest Generation.

"America First," which is the ethic of our president?  That was the slogan and the political orientation of the people who would have kept American troops at home rather than fighting the Axis.  If our current president had been in power when Nazi Germany rose, he would have kept us out of that war.  To the cries of Churchill, he would have scoffed.  That's your problem.  America for Americans!  Why would we lend you ships and supplies?  What's in it for us?  So unfair!

And those Nazis have such snappy uniforms and wonderful parades!  They're so strong and proud!  Why, I almost can't stop myself from saluting!

Had he been elected after the war, what would our current president have done?  To the broken, ruined people of Germany and Japan and Italy, he would have sneered.  "Fighting you cost us money!  You owe us!  You treated us very unfairly!"  The Marshall Plan would not have ever happened, if we were as we have now become.

I mean, he's consistent.  We know him.  It's just what he does.

So what does American greatness look like?  After the pouring out of the labors, blood, and treasure of the Greatest Generation, America was at the height of her greatness.

And the shortsighted, foolish selfishness of our leadership now is systematically tearing apart the world they built.

It is doing the exact opposite of all that they did.

We can expect our greatness to fade.

Because you can't be great if "being great" is nothing but an empty political slogan.

You have to know what it means, what it looks like, and how it is achieved.