The beauty of the “Make America Great Again” slogan is that it’s a call to action (“make”) along with words that are deliberately vague (“great” and “again”) that is aspirational and also invites the hearer to fill in the blanks with their own ideas. The brilliance “Make America Great Again” was discussed at length in Stumped.
Predictably, the left focused on the word “again” to conjure up the darkest buzzword-laden fantasies, but that wasn’t what the vast majority of Trump’s supporters thought, despite their omnipresent attempts to “psychologize” and “analyze” them.
Let me tell you what “Make America Great Again” has always meant to me.
I’m telling this story on this day specifically. Today is the 75th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. This “sudden and deliberate attack” killed thousands of American servicemen and rendered most of the Pacific fleet a smoldering ruin.
The line that always stood out most to me in President Roosevelt’s speech was not the famous “a day which will live in infamy,” but “the American people in their righteous might will win through to absolute victory!”
And so a generation of Americans, my paternal grandfather among them (and my maternal grandfather too – I wouldn’t want to reduce his glory either), answered the call to arms. Pearl Harbor was a katabasis, but out of it would emerge a generation that achieved a glory that would never die.
The quest for kleos need not only be an individual one. It also spans the generations. The World War II generation will never be forgotten and will be renowned for as long as our nation exists. It will always be called the “Greatest Generation.”
Can we say the same about the generations that followed? Can we say the same about what the pundits call “Millennials?” What will the generations yet to be hear about the current young generations of Americans? Do we want to be known as the descendants of great warriors who needed safe spaces and trigger warnings?
We can be so much more. We can achieve a glory like our grandfathers and great-grandfathers. It’ll be a glory of a different sort, but glory nonetheless. All we have to do is try.
For too long we haven’t been trying, as individuals, as a state, and as a nation.
That, to me, is what “Make America Great Again” always was.
It’s not about a WHEN, but a WHAT.
WHAT are we doing? WHAT is America doing?
America used to do great things.
America used to win world wars. America used to be the biggest manufacturing powerhouse in the world. America used to be the largest creditor nation. America used to have the greatest infrastructure and education system in the world. America used to put men on the moon.
Now we’ve been stuck in low-earth orbit for decades. The state of the space program is a good metaphor for the country as a whole. Aside from the tech boom, which isn’t as wide-ranging in that all-important category of people’s paychecks as is generally believed, the country has largely been stagnant.
What has America been doing?
Peter Thiel said it best here. Instead of going to Mars, we’ve spent trillions of dollars invading the Middle East. Instead of rebuilding our infrastructure and leading the way in the energy of tomorrow, we’ve pissed our money away on fighters that can’t fly in the rain. Instead of coming together to make new industries and innovate new ways of doing politics that go beyond basic bitch partisanship, we’re worried about who can use what bathroom. Instead of defeating our enemies like our grandfathers did, we’re worried about offending them. We’re at war with ourselves instead of competing in the world. Instead of solving problems, we’re shutting down our free speech and free thought.
“Make America Great Again” means doing great things again, not going back in time. It’s about attitude. It’s about mindset.
We can defeat the forces of Islamism.
We can rebuild our infrastructure to be without peer in the world once again.
We can create a manufacturing renaissance.
We can lead the next energy revolution (and help to solve the purported climate catastrophe upon us) – by building the next generation of thorium-based nuclear reactors and putting millions of people to work doing it.
We can go even further and crack nuclear fusion.
We can cure the diseases of the world.
We can go to Mars.
And we can do more than that.
All we have to do is have the courage to free ourselves from the stifling forces of orthodoxy and those established interests that want the status quo to continue, including by dividing us up with identity politics.
All we have to do is have the courage to think big, act boldly, and ignore the naysayers.
All we have to do is try.
That is what “Make America Great Again” means.
Donald Trump is just the start. It’s bigger than one man. It’s, like he says, a movement. It’s a generational call to action. It will last beyond his presidency. “Make America Great Again” is an ethos, a challenge.
This is our time to prove ourselves worthy of kleos, as a generation.
Kleos comes only after katabasis. For our grandfathers and great-grandfathers, it was Pearl Harbor.
For us, it’s decades of self-imposed stagnation and stifling filters in politics, economics, and culture.
We can break them where they need to be broken. We can do better. We can think big again.
We can be great again.