“Make America Great… Again?”
It is the rally call of one of the most radically polarizing individuals in modern political history – certainly the most radical in the history of the United States of America. Donald J. Trump has ridden a wave of social conservatism to nearly unprecedented levels through strongly anti immigration, pro isolationist dialogue. He has convinced millions of people that walls need to be built, immigration, and trade curbed to protect the great “American” identity. (As of today, October 31, 2016 – only 8 days until the election, he has a real shot at becoming the next President of the United States.) His rhetoric of extremist right wing conservatism isn’t unique, and it certainly is not new. Over the past decades we have seen a surge in countries taking steps to curb immigration and create policy that is designed to “protect” their national identity.
What most people know and understand is limited to their own personal experience, we look around our world and see the angst of our neighbours. The unemployment, the embattled inner cities, the crime, and then they are shocked by world events that are splayed across their screens by news and social media that shows what a dismal and horrible world exists just beyond their borders. People around the world are looking to the future and instead of seeing an optimistic image filled with global prosperity, they are transfixed by the picture painted for them of a rotting carcass covered with a frenzied mass of writhing Muslims, Chinese, Mexican, or frankly anyone that isn’t “us” intent on devouring what little of our identity remains. We need someone to blame for all the things in our lives that are not going well, and these politicos are serving up the perfect dish.
We hear from political leaders, candidates, media, and everyone else that the great globalisation of the world is a sin of such extreme levels that we need to look inward and shore up what little remains of our distinctive culture before it vanishes.
Never have so many millions, no billions, of people around the world fallen so heavily on a sword forged of mistrust and falsehoods. Not since perhaps the horrific days of Adolf Hitler has this sort of blame “them” attitude flourished to such an extreme level.
And yet… isn’t economic globalisation, conquest, immigration and empire, exactly what “Made America Great” in the first place?
Any Globally dominant nation has a dramatic impact on the cultural evolution of people. The great empires of our distant past, like the Ottoman or Roman Empires, created drastic change for much of the worlds population. In later years, the great European expansion through the colonization of most of the planet virtually wiped out whole cultures and civilizations in the unmitigated search for wealth and power.
The United States may not have colonized the planet through direct military conquest, but make no mistake, the influence of the United States on the world has been no less than those empires that have come before them, in fact they have changed our planet more dramatically than any before them.
Hollywood dominates the entertainment world and regularly reinforces the dominance, power, and superiority of the United States over all things, including the Galaxy and the Universe (Series like Star Trek give us the world united and headquartered in the United States). When our planet is invaded by aliens, threatened by meteors it is the United States that comes to the rescue and for the most part all other nations are crippled by either ineptitude or simply lack of resources. The cultural norms that are part and parcel of being American are distributed to millions of people daily through a consistent barrage of film, TV and online media.
The United States gave us the Internet, which is now arguably the harbinger of almost all change on the planet. People are flooded 24 hours a day with information designed to change and influence their lives. One of the fastest growing movements in the developing world is to ensure stable access to the Internet and social media. In impoverished nations, you see people with smart phones who live in shanty towns and can barely survive on the income they earn, but they have the Internet. If only Facebook could nourish our bodies as well as we have been convinced it can nourish our souls.
The global economic power and the unfettered search for wealth has driven the “American Dream" for well over a century. Brands like Coca Cola, McDonald’s, Walmart, Starbucks, Nike, and many others continue to rapidly expand into new markets spreading the word of commercialism like wildfire. Walk down almost any street in the world and signs of rampant American commercialism can be found. Small local business has suffered under the yoke of the unending tidal wave of pop cans, coffee cups, and cheap goods that are essential to the strength and pervasive influence of American culture on the rest of the world. Yet it is this very search for extreme wealth that has created what people who fall at Trumps (who has also benefited from massively) feet and hang on his every word are fighting against. Cheaper labour, lower cost of raw materials, and the ability to exercise greater influence and control have long been the harbingers of globalization. Modern trade agreements are all designed to foster greater access to inexpensive human and natural resources, this is not a new phenomenon born of the modern economy – it all started centuries before the Walmart’s of the world even existed.
The United States, like many of the countries in the America’s were founded through colonization and immigration. People seeking new opportunities and to escape the imperialistic societies that dominated the European landscape. The “New World” offered hope, freedom, and opportunity to better one’s position in life without the staunch class system that loomed ever presently over most people. The millions of people who uprooted themselves to embark on this journey not only populated the continents of North and South America, they decimated indigenous culture and language.
Military dominance has kept much of the world in check against any insurgence that threatens the continued expansion and influence of the United States on the global landscape. Wars fought over access to natural resources that feed the unending appetite of industry, and in defense of “American” ideals and values have been commonplace since the last world war. Rather than being the world’s peacekeeper, they are the self labelled “police force” who asserts their dominion through armed conflict and wide sweeping economic sanctions to weaken and eventually destroy any who oppose the continued growth, expansion, and protection of American interests.
American Interests… is an interesting term when you consider the total ramifications of those two words. If you look beyond the political and military landscape, the interests of the United states reach every corner of the globe, under every rock and in every molecule of every person alive now and well into the future.
It is not all bad though. Cultural reform around the world that has been driven through this domination has freed many from oppression. Personal freedom and the opportunity that education, improved living conditions, and access to health care have largely been pursued out of the desire to experience the American way of life. We live in a world where people communicate across continents in seconds, and where victims of persecution have found allies and refuge. The advent of the Internet and social media have provided a voice to millions of people to stand up against inequality. The LGBT community is one of many that have utilized traditional forms of protest combined with mass media and new technology to attain freedom not just in the Americas but to further these same rights for others around the world.
The industrialization of some third world countries has created greater access to education, food, and a higher standard of living. There continue to be challenges with environmental impact, and maintaining cultural heritage, but as the world moves forward there are also solutions to many of the problems that seem to plague countries who are struggling with modernization. Much of the innovation that is feeding the solutions are coming from the very country that for many people are to blame for the trouble.
There are many who are fighting to preserve their way of life and their cultural beliefs. For many of them they see American dominance as a threat and they are taking strong measures to fight it. It certainly does not justify the acts of terror that have occurred, nor do I hope to elicit any sort of sympathy for persons who engage in an act of terror. I do not, under any circumstances, condone the violence and brutality of these people. I believe that all human beings are equal and that we each deserve the opportunity to live life to its fullest without fear.
My point is this. Donald J. Trump and many others are claiming that the United States has lost its way, that it is no longer “great”. That immigration, trade and economic globalisation have been chipping away at the cores of their society. What most of them, including Trump, don’t seem to understand is that the very things that he is claiming have destroyed America… are the very things that built the country in the first place. That the global economy was born in the United States, that immigration filled their cities and defined their culture, and that trade with other countries has been the backbone of their economic dominance since the first pilgrim landed on their shores.
I do not always agree with everything the United States does, and I do not always support the position that they take on the world stage. I do however think that what they have done is lay the foundation f a path to something that most people only read about in science fiction… the eventual creation of a world that is one. The introduction of new technology, the Internet, social media, and the globalisation of economies and even to a small extent of government through the creation of the United Nations have changed our world for the better. Most of this innovation has occurred in the minds of Americans who have sought to make our planet a better place, and yes, to make a lot of money doing it. Today however they are a country where too many believe that the words of a megalomaniac who tell them that they are no longer “great” are true. That they need to close their doors to the world lest they crumble into an abyss of nothingness.
I am not a religious man, but God help us if he does succeed in taking the White House on November 08, 2016. Our world will be changed in ways unimaginable and in that change thrust into a new, scarier, and more unknown future.
If people truly want to Make America Great Again, they will remember what made it great in the first place.