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Donald Trump’s slogan “Make America Great Again” speaks to me. Not in the sense that I am nostalgic for a past of institutionalized oppression for women and minorities, or that I endorse forcing Mexico to pay for the building of a wall to keep out “freeloaders,” but in the sense that it admits that America is not as great as we wish to believe.
I love coming home from a trip overseas. I step out of the plane and smell freedom, bald eagles, apple pie, football, police brutality, overpriced healthcare, economic inequality, Islamophobia, rampant gun violence and out-of-touch leadership. The American dream, a catchphrase used to garner support for any cause, seems further from reality than ever. It seems like the only people using the phrase are those the dream has worked out for and who are trying to convince others that, if they support some cause or political action, the dream can help them too. But it is not universal anymore. To tell someone to simply pull themselves up by their bootstraps is essentially irrelevant at the current moment because some people’s bootstraps are by default stronger than others’. Without an equal starting point for every citizen in this country, the “dream” on which we claim to have built this nation is quite useless now. And so while all men (and women) are created equal, we are not treated accordingly.
This is not a nation of equals.
To those who claim that America is: then why, pray tell, does the U.S. rank 10th in highest economic inequality for the developed world? Because that doesn’t sound “just” to me. Arguably, a lack of money is also a lack of freedom. So when money is disproportionately concentrated in the hands of a few and sparse in the hands of many, so is freedom.
Educational opportunity is not consistent across the country. Due to economic inequalities and several other factors, many bright young minds are being disregarded. America’s educational ranking is in fact sliding downward because we are unable to provide every student the same quality of resources and educational instruction. School funding, economic instability within the family, child hunger, racial assumptions about intellectual ability, and language barriers keep students from achieving their fullest intellectual potentials. When the means of fully embracing the opportunity of education are not evenly distributed, there is a lack of equality. The cost of a higher education limits access to college to those who can afford it. Once, again: this is not equality.
Healthcare is a luxury for most Americans. It is estimated that on average, Americans pay around $1,300 out of pocket before their insurance even kicks in. And that is only for those who can afford health insurance. The United States also spends more than any other developed country on healthcare, but is the only one without universal health care coverage. While spending is high, the results don’t seem to match up. Life expectancy also tends to fall in accordance with income due to a lack of access to health care and the necessary medicines to stay healthy. When I lived in Taiwan, my insurance was about $10 a month, my medication cost the same. My grandmother can afford to pay for knee surgery there, despite being both retired and from a working-class background. Yet in the United States, the poor are denied the same care as those with fancy health insurance policies.
Why is it that despite what we are constantly told is true, there is a general sentiment that something about America isn’t working for us? The pledge of allegiance we said every day in school growing up feels distant and alien. Americans need not apply…
Which one though? Republican candidates (namely Ted Cruz) seem to believe that religious liberty is important for all American citizens. That is,0 as long as the religion we are talking about is Christianity. When it comes to Muslims, these candidates have something else to say: the religion is wrong, untrue, and because of that, these people shall not be treated as equal citizens. This idea that America is a Christian nation harkens back to an antiquated time that is not in tune with current realities. Those who are religious are for a reason, and their religions are held just as dearly to them as Christianity is held so dearly to others. If these candidates want to use the platform of religious liberty to gain a position of leadership, then they ought to be inclusive with their definition of religion.
Religious fervor in this country is hard to swallow because it is being shoveled down everyone’s throats. Religion is private, but we tend to communicate it socially and politically. It has the overwhelming power to influence policy and education, somewhere it does not belong. If America wants to tout religion and God as foundational to the morals of our country, then we must be tolerant of all interpretations of God.
Yeah right. Just switch between CNN and Fox News and you’ll see a clear divide. There are so few issues Americans can reach a consensus on that it often seems there are none. Either guns are a fundamental liberty or they are the downfall of our society, and mental illness is the cause of it or is caused by gun violence. The abortion debate appears to be split between women’s rights and religiously motivated family ideals—the value of a woman’s autonomy over her body or the value of a potential life. And while there are moderate blends of these polar views, we are urged to pick a side. It’s like in elementary school: no matter what team we’re divided on to for dodgeball, we are taught to hate the other team no matter what, despite commonality. There is no eye-to-eye in our country and if you are reasonable or moderate in your views, then you must be wishy-washy. You must be a fraud with no backbone.
With liberty and justice for all…
One would expect that if there is an entire department devoted to “justice,” then it would indeed achieve just that. But more and more I am hearing frustrated citizens call it the criminal “injustice” system. Disproportionately, the poor and minorities are incarcerated more frequently and harshly than are wealthy and white criminals, even though racial and class groups tend to commit crimes at the same rate. Justice is not, as they say, blind. Justice sees color. This in turn produces an ideology about the worth of people of differing social status. This is neither liberty nor justice.
Leadership at the current moment is utterly horrific. When the candidates trying to win over the hearts of the American people cannot stick to their word, use petty attacks against one another, and call for a revoking of basic human privileges for huge groups of people, we have a problem. How can we put our faith in a person with the maturity of a 5-year-old, or one who will change their position on an issue to match the popular opinion, or another candidate who hypocritically demonizes one group for the same ideologies they themselves believe in?
When people say that the American dream is dead, they are not wrong. As much as we can shout about how great of a country we are, wave around our stars and stripes, that won’t take away from the ways in which we have fallen short. Ignoring problems, saying that they don’t exist and compensating through egocentric self-aggrandizing is not a remedy. If anything, it makes the U.S. look foolish.
Either we need to make changes to fit what America originally stood for, or we need to alter what America stands for to align with what it is. And I don’t like either option.