“Great” is an excellent weasel word. My Random House Webster’s Dictionary lists 23 definitions and common usages for the word, which means that you can use it and, if questioned closely, have a wide range of plausible explanations as to what you meant.
We are nearing the end (thankfully) of the strangest, weirdest, most unlikely political campaign in my memory, perhaps in the history of the nation. Two candidates, each with so much baggage it would take a squadron of sky caps to tote it, are vying to see which is less unqualified than the other while slinging so much mud that one might wish they would just strip down, jump into the mire and wrestle for the office.
One candidate says that he will make America “great again” while the other claims that America has always been great but that she will make it “greater.” Since neither actually defines their terms as they mean them, I will proceed with the assumption that both are using “great” to mean prosperous, militarily strong, judicially fair, safe and secure, or some combination of these. And that their promise is to extend this greatness to each citizen of our country.
Based on that assumption I would ask, when has America ever been “great” to everyone? At no time in our history, or the history of the planet for that matter, has there been a time of universal greatness extended to each and every person, nor will there ever be.
Greatness is totally subjective, determined by individual experience and perspective. It makes for a catchy slogan but is completely without meaning. Rather than rhetoric about making America great or making America great again, I would rather hear about how they, the candidates will bring about true equality of opportunity and how they will get government out of the day to day lives of its citizens. If they wish to promise something positive, promise a government that is a matrix for individual success rather than some control freak nanny bent on being in charge of everything and everyone on the planet.
It’s time we stopped rewarding politicians with our vote in response to empty words, vague concepts and promises that are impossible to fulfill because they are beyond the scope of the office they seek.
Whenever you hear someone talk of making or recreating greatness ask them to describe their success indicators. “What exactly, sir or ma’am, do you mean by ‘great’ and how will I know that it has been achieved?”
Personally I don’t care if America was great, is great or will be great again. I care that I can go about my daily activities without worrying that some nutcase will strap on a bomb or take up a rifle and, in the name of his deity or as a result of poor toilet training or rejection by the girl in the 8th grade, bring my American dream to a sudden end. I want to drive on roads and bridges that are safe to travel, water that is fit to drink, air that is not toxic to breath and a place where I am free to be a jerk without the PC police trying to censor my thoughts and words.
Give me an America where there are decent paying jobs and no restrictions barring any qualified applicant from filling them. An America where the laws are fairly and equally applied to all and where criminals are separated from the non criminals and given a proper period of adult time-out. An America that provides everyone equal opportunity for a quality education without regard to any personal identifying characteristics.
Give me an America that has a strong, respected military, free from being used for social experimentation. An America with well trained police forces, respected by those they serve and protect.
Give me that sort of America and I will find within it my own definition of greatness.
In those words often attributed to Thomas Jefferson: “That government is best which governs least.”