Outside of the U.S., people are usually not particularly fond of hearing anything along the lines of “America is great.” I get that, especially living in Germany, since the phrase is ringing with nationalism. But please put the negative politics aside for a moment (although these Trump years have made it unavoidable) in order to understand why I believe America is great, and it’s not because it’s a perfect nation. Far from it.
What does “Make America Great Again” even mean? As Trump began to propagandize this phrase, did anyone challenge it by asking what makes America great? “Greatness” for Trump seems to be going back to a time of tribal and ruthless competition. I don’t deny the dark sins of American history. America has had it’s share of mistakes and crimes like every other country, from slavery, racism, meddling with foreign governments, the list goes on. But in this time of division, fear, and hate, I believe it is now more important than ever as Americans, to question ourselves as to what makes America great in order rediscover and realign with the core values and principles that this nation set forth from the very beginning.
America isn’t an easy place to live. Especially as an immigrant, my family didn’t get to begin at the same starting line as others who were already more established. The overly romanticized slogan, “From rags to riches,” of the American dream was never realized by my family and probably for most of other immigrants as well. Hardships and struggles are a staple diet of all immigrants, but what motivated us to work hard and keep going was the opportunities that laid at the end of the tough road. When you take these individual voices and stories in America and weave it to the overall economic, social, and political fabric of America, greatness of America is animated. It is the continued will to overcome these hard struggles that distinguishes America from any other country. “America is an anomaly in the world, ” as Jon Stewart from the Daily Show brilliantly explained. “America is not natural. Natural is tribal. We’re fighting against thousands of years of human behavior and history to create something that’s no one–that’s what’s exceptional about America.”
America’s identity lies constitutionally as a “Multi-ethnic democracy” but the road to “form a more perfect union” has never been easy. When I look at America as a process–when it first started to where it is now and where it might go–I am amazed and impressed of the achievements that prevailed after every struggle. Oh how far we’ve gone to pioneer the freedom and progress that we Americans enjoy today. “Greatness” in my view is derived from the whole American experiment of multi-ethnic democracy, from which gave birth to great heroes like Martin Luther King Jr. who relentlessly fought for racial equality, or Susan B. Anthony who paved the way for women’s suffrage. Unlike other countries, Bret Stephens from the New York Times reminds us, especially during times of division, that “the American tradition rests on pillars of self-questioning, self-actualization and disagreement. This, too, is historically unprecedented.”
America has had highs and lows and will always continue to struggle. The election of Trump shows America going off its track again but it’s America’s strength in diversity of not just race but ideas and thoughts that will always re-balance our nation back on the right tracks. The recent 2018 mid-elections are a testament of that. In response to the alt-right who rallied for a return to the traditional, Christian-based society of white dominance, we the people elected the most racially diverse and most female group of representatives to the House ever before in American history. Take that ya haterz!
And to all the haterz outside of America. I understand if you have distrust and hate for the American government–probably because they’ve interfered with your country’s politics. But don’t belittle us Americans as stupid or crazy in light of what’s been happening and deemed us as being screwed. When I watch or read German news, America usually makes the big headlines, but not in a good way. If I was a German, I too, would see Americans as crazy gun lovers who want to pray the gay away, build a wall against immigrants, suppress minority votes. But I urge you to look at the country beyond the tragic news you consumed and see the hope that is embodied in those who have suffered and the movements that have come forth: the Stoneman Douglas High School student survivors, Black Lives Matter, Barack Obama, #MeToo movement, Obergefell v. Hodges, Xiuhtezcatl Martinez, Professor Christine Blasey Ford. To be defiant and to speak out against injustice at the risk of one’s own life–that’s part of what makes America great.
I am optimistic about America–it will continue to be more diverse and we will continue to struggle together to learn how to live peacefully together.