COLUMN • MONEY MATTERS
By TOM MORGAN • Hometown Oneonta & The Freeman’s Journal
Was America ever great?
Former Attorney General Eric Holder poses the question. “Exactly when did you think America was great?”
He competes with Governor Cuomo. Cuomo told us “We’re not going to make America great again. It was never that great.”
Let us look at that question. But first, let us admit these politicians are simply trying to dilute the impact of “Make America Great Again.” Because Donald Trump wields it at the moment. (Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton did in campaigns past.)
Holder tells us Trump’s supporters yearn for the 1800s. When African-Americans and women could not own property or vote. That seems a stretch to me. But, hey, you can say anything in politics.
Cuomo says MAGA ignores the pain people endured in our past. He points to the eras of slavery, discrimination, segregation and sexism. He is right. These were painful times for millions.
All great questions have at least two sides. Was America great when it allowed slavery? Of course not. Was it great when it ended it? And then engaged in civil war over the issue? Yes.
Was America great when it allowed decades of vicious discrimination against African-Americans. Of course not. Was it great when it tackled the discrimination head on? When it did battle to end segregation? When it forged civil rights legislation? Yes, that seems like a period of greatness for the country.
Was America up to great things when Washington attacked the devastation of the Great Depression? When government threw measure after measure against this monster? Yes, I think it was a great and noble effort.
Was the country great when it created our Social Security system? It seems so to me.
Was America great when it welcomed millions of immigrants over many years? When it spent millions to help them assimilate?
Was America great when it sent its young men and women to Europe to help conquer the Nazis? To free the French, Dutch, Belgians? To rescue the British from Hitler’s threats? We did not have to do this. That we did was in many ways great. I believe.
Was America great to create the G.I. Bill? To reward its soldiers and their families? Was it great to help rescue post-war Europeans from despair with the Marshall Plan?
Was it a great epoch in our history to leave soldiers in Europe after WWII? To forcefully change the dynamics of that continent that had waged war for a few hundred years? To protect Europeans from invasion by the ravenous USSR?
Was America great to lead the way in forming the U.N.? And NATO? Was it great to try to keep Cuba from poisoning the Caribbean and Latin America with more communism? Many feel it was. Count me among them.
Was America great to occupy Japan after the war? Was it great to write Japan’s constitution? Was it great to persuade, muscle and maneuver the Japanese down peaceful and productive paths?
Was America great to sacrifice more young men in the Korean War? In order to keep evil communists from conquering South Koreans? Millions of prosperous and free South Koreans would say this was greatness on America’s part. Millions of North Koreans would probably agree. If their dictator allowed them to speak, that is.
Was it great of America to wage the Cold War against the oppression of international communism? I hate to imagine how many people would live under the despicable rule of communists today. Had America not been willing to fight them on various fronts.
Was it great of America to help Israel from its founding to today? Given the world’s history of butchering Jews, I would say yes. This is a morally great effort.
Was America ever great? Is the proverbial glass half-empty or half-full? What lenses are best to peer through, to view this country’s history? To which end of the telescope should we press our eye to evaluate America?
Dale Carnegie wrote, “Two men looked out from prison bars. One saw the mud, the other saw stars.”
They are both out there. We can be aware of both but favor the stars. Or we can focus most of our attention on the mud.
It is your choice. Me? I’ve always loved stars.
From Tom…as in Morgan.
Tom Morgan, a retired Oneonta investment counselor who writes the national syndicate Money Matters column, lives in Franklin.