The United States of America is the Greatest Country in Recorded History, with a capital G. Supreme greatness demands qualitative and quantitative excellency. Neither Russia's vast landmass nor China's massive population confers true greatness upon either nation. Nor is Qatar considered to be a Great country simply because it has the world's greatest GDP per capita. America is surely the greatest military power, the greatest economic powerhouse, the greatest Civilization on the planet, for now. Will it always be so? Is our Greatness even now on the decline?
Whatever you think of the slogan, the Message to "make America Great again" resonates with tens of millions of Americans. From my vantage point, this is primarily a reaction to the decline of certain intangible aspects of American power, things like American eminence, American culture, American willpower, as well as America's shared sense of national purpose, pride, and patriotism. For history shows that national Greatness consists not so much in territory or in wealth, but rather in what may be called the Spirit of a nation - that animating force within a country which gives it life, energy, and power. Above all, it is the American Spirit which has been degraded and diminished. Making America Great again is therefore an act of spiritual restoration.
The American Spirit has good reason to feel worn and wounded. Our most precious national treasure, the American citizen, is being shot to death by gangs in Chicago; is being poisoned to death by the opioid drug catastrophe in Long Island; is being assaulted by Narco-Smugglers in the Sierra Vista; is being sacrificed in the wastelands of Iraq and Afghanistan. Less than one-half of one percent of Americans bear the brunt of our wars and our "foreign entanglements." The hard, grim, indisputable facts: 30,000 American casualties and $2 Trillion later, and we've gained nothing in the "war on terror," and lost everything. Our Institutions are corroding and our Infrastructure is decaying. Americans are divided: between Main Street and Wall Street, Democrat and Republican, City and Town, Elite and Deplorable, Liberal and Conservative, Nationalist and Globalist, Black and White, Religious and Atheist, and so on and so forth. We are a debtor nation, $20 Trillion in the hole - and what have we got to show for our astounding level of indebtedness? Civil society, as embodied in religious association and communal fraternization, is in free fall. For millions upon millions of Americans, the American Dream is not so much a goal, as it is a Candyland fantasy.
Donald Trump says: "America doesn't win anymore." Worse still, it seems to me these days that America doesn't even try anymore. Once upon a time, we were The Indispensable Nation, The Arsenal of Democracy, the Leader of the Free World. Have we lost our national ambition, that American Exceptionalism which made us truly Great? A lesson from history: "Rome's decline and fall was not an event, but a process spread over 300 years. A Great Civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself from within. The essential causes of Rome's decline lay in her people, her morals, her class struggle, her failing trade, her bureaucratic despotism, her stifling taxes, her consuming wars." - Will Durant, 1944.
Sound familiar? Reversing these negative trends will take time; will require effort; will demand national sacrifice. But it will require more than anything American unity and a genuine willingness to understand and support one another as fellow Americans. We cannot simply write off the other half of the country as deplorable or socialist. Reminiscing on a much darker moment in the history of the American Republic, General George Washington noted that, "Perseverance and Spirit have done wonders in all Ages." Whoever we elect to be our President, the great task remaining before us is clear: to revitalize and renew America's Spiritual force, as expressed in our customs, our manners, our institutions, our ceremonies, our laws, our oaths, our contracts, our associations, our freedoms, our foreign policy, our shared history, and our national culture. In that sense, I fondly hope that we can, and will make America Great again, with a capital G.