Paul: Is America Great or Not? Yes.

Ever since President Trump promised to “Make America Great Again,” debate has raged over America’s purported greatness. One side, headlined by self-proclaimed "nationalists" claims that America is immeasurably great, and is entirely above reproach. The other, generally maintained by leftists, alleges that America was never great.

Both of these statements are heinous lies, and both are being told for specific reasons.

Any political statement about America’s greatness is vague by design. Politicians use them to appeal broadly and let the audience fill in the blanks for themselves. The definition of greatness is never clearly established, whether it should refer to virtue, grandiosity, or something else entirely.  Those who wish to believe in “America the Great” may think of a reason, or skip that step and just accept that it is. Likewise, those who prefer to think of America as an evil empire or mediocre country are equally free to think of their own reason, if they are any more inclined to bother.

At best, this vague appeal is intellectually lazy and emotionally cheap. At worst, it is the prelude to sinister propaganda.

Both of these lies remain immensely popular among their respective target audiences. Both are widely believed, ardently defended, and difficult to entirely dispel. This is because they, like all effective falsehoods, incorporate just enough truth to skate by undetected at a glance.

Regardless of what exactly “great” means, America has done some act or exhibited some quality that fits the descriptor. One could point to the rights set down in the Declaration of Independence, or the careful separation of powers enumerated in the Constitution, and call those great. Likewise, one could recall the triumph against tyranny during World War II, the unparalleled growth of the American economy through free commerce, or the persistent promise of freedom and opportunity safeguarded by Lady Liberty. These among many others shine as examples of American virtue, power, wealth, and promise of all these in the future. In other words, these monuments carved of stone and memorials engraved upon our minds bear testament to American greatness.

But equally compelling are some of the indictments against America. Nearly all of the first century of the country’s existence is stained by the establishment of slavery, which was outlawed several decades earlier in the British Empire. After this, one could reference the grand scale persecution of Native Americans, or the tendency of each wave of immigrants to endure xenophobic hatred only to turn and repay the same to subsequent waves of immigrants. One could remember the long list of undeclared wars, started on false pretenses, prosecuted for imperialist gains (most notably Vietnam). Our government once kept Japanese-Americans in prison camps. Our country has denied the rights of women and African-Americans. American history contains no shortage of crimes, and includes several genuine sources of shame.

America owns a checkered history, but so do most countries. Far more of the world’s suffering today has resulted from actions taken by the European Powers, Nazis, Communists, and various other malefactors than from America. Surely, America must be counted as a force for good when measured against Imperial Japan, or the Soviet Union. But should America be measured against the merits of her competitors, or against her ideals?

The ideals that America has come to embody may be traced to a variety of sources. Some are present in America’s founding documents, while others can be found etched into the marble of the Lincoln memorial or engraved at the feet of the Statue of Liberty. These ideals: freedom, justice, peace, prosperity, individualism, opportunity, and others; were once held uniquely by the United States. Many of them are now valued equally by free and enterprising peoples across the globe, whether discovered independently or adopted in imitation of the United States.

The United States government has failed to uphold these ideals numerous times over the country’s history, but has also often succeeded in securing greater liberty for more Americans progressively over time. To deny that America is great, or to deny that America is flawed, is to ignore most of America’s history.

Amrrica is perhaps less unique than it once was, but this is a testament to the unshakable appeal of America’s core virtues. When one reflects on the dichotomy of America’s merits and failings, the appropriate response is neither despair nor grandstanding: it is aspiration for the future.
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About Nat Paul

To learn more about the author, check out the "About Us" page. Behind Enemy Lines Radio is a national Award-Winning radio show / podcast broadcasting live out of the belly of the Democratic beast - "The People's Republic of" New York City that airs on multiple radio stations as part of the Talk America Radio Network. It is also an "Insider" column on Newsmax featuring show hosts Gene Berardelli and Russell Gallo. The show is also available on multiple networks across the internet, with more being added regularly.

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