Has America ever been great and why?

Discussion in 'Politics & Current Events' started by narad, Jan 27, 2017.

  1. narad

    narad SS.org Regular

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    Kind of splintering off an off-topic discourse in another thread, and with all this talk of making America great again, I would ask: Has America ever been great? When was that? Why was that?

    My own take on this is that WWII left America in a great spot. Because little conflict took place on American soil, and because America really geared up manufacturing to aid in the war effort, American infrastructure was widespread and fresh, featuring many technological advances in mass production that weren't as prevalent elsewhere.

    Meanwhile, foreign infrastructure in developed nations was in shambles, turning would-be-producers into marketplaces for USA-made goods, and leaving little economic competition in the following decades.

    Other aspects of the war also helped, for instance the brain drain from scientists fleeing Europe, and even other scientists and technology acquired from defeated nations.

    This is all to say that in 1945 America seemed ready to thrive, and while I was not around during that time, I can appreciate a lot of what came out of America in the 50s/60s, in science, technology, culture, education, civil rights, quality of life, etc -- things that you're free to pursue when you're in a great spot economically. But how much of this was due to the often cited causes -- values, freedom, work ethic -- and how much of it was merely right place right time? And is that the era of American greatness?

    Naturally if the cause of greatness is largely circumstantial, why are Americans so obsessed with a return to greatness? And what would that even mean in terms of policy?

    (My own 2 cents is that it's probably time to admit that guys in India, China, etc., developing nations, are working a hell of a lot harder than Americans. And that information too has become globally accessible so that many people in undeveloped nations are also well-educated, if not formally, so it's also hard to say that Americans work smarter. And on the global field, if you can't work harder or smarter, what can you do really? I would argue it's time to appreciate that America has been in a fortunate position for most of the 20th century, but one should not expect to attain a 1950s general style of life and happiness as the rest of the world comes up to speed / focus on how to best move forward from the present rather than regain something that was lost.)

    *I just realized my location may be misleading, so just to throw this out there: I'm American, but have lived internationally for many years.
     
  2. bostjan

    bostjan MicroMetal Contributor

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    America was pretty great in 1491. :lol:

    The work ethic in the USA in 1945 was vastly different than it is now. Workers then lived through the Great Depression and WWII (not that they didn't elsewhere in the world, but, for the reasons you stated, workers in the USA still had jobs to go to), so these workers were ready to work hard to try to make a little progress. There wasn't too much sense of entitlement, and there was a lot of pride taken in workmanship that isn't as prevalent today.

    Today, kids who lived through the excess of the late 80's and through most of the 90's are in the workforce. From the standpoint of personal comfort, these young men and women never experienced anything like the Great Depression nor WWII. Furthermore, globalization has kicked America's ass. Why put your own blood, sweat, and tears into a product that can be made in China for 1/10th of the cost, when your boss doesn't really seem to care about the quality of the product?

    The USA experiences economic bumps from new inventions. The boom in the automotive industry, the boom in the aerospace industry, the boom in the computer industry, and the boom in the dot com industry all focused, early on, in the USA. China's disregard for intellectual property rights has had some negative effect on innovation. Why spend millions of dollars and 10-12 years developing a product which the Chinese will copy and undercut pricing on within the first four months to market? Working in R&D, I see this on a weekly basis. My team develops a new product, and withing a couple of months of filing the patent, there is one made in China that is the same thing.

    So, "Make America great again" is a slogan that might sound great to Americans, but without some further detail about what that means, it's just empty words.
     
  3. coreysMonster

    coreysMonster So long, Germany!

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    This idea of "American greatness" has a deep rooting in the American Dream and historical differences between America (a democratic republic since the 1700s) and Europe (made of Kingdoms and Empires till the early 20th century). It was the land where anybody could be anything they wanted, unburdened by aristocratic rule or theological demagoguery. I would say in that regard, America was pretty great for a pretty long time (politically, there was still all that pesky slave business).

    But in recent history, patriotism was pushed pretty hard during the Cold War. Economic, scientific, technological successes fueled this fire, for the reasons you mentioned. America had a GDP that was so massively above the rest of the world's that it was easy to push the idea that it was that way because America is so great, and not because everyone else was destroyed by war.

    People who want America to become great again seem to want two things: A return to a strong economy of high paid low-skilled labor (never gonna happen) and a sense of safety and security as the economic leader of the world, without having to worry about China or Japan / Germany taking over, which also isn't going to happen (without major conflict at least).
    Then, there's the social reasons: "PC" culture has risen in a globalist world where any man of any skin color or heritage has every right that an Anglo white man does, and can voice his dislike of being called a slur without fear of repurcussion. Whites as a demographic are no longer a solidary group. Church is no longer as important as it used to be. Communities aren't as homogenous. Society is changing, as it always is, and the people who fear change and are confronted with things that society kept away from them in the past (sexual minorities, people with alternate lifestyles, people from different cultures) now feel as if there is societal moral decay with this "surge" of things that they aren't used to - when of course, it's always been there, they just chose to ignore it, and society enabled them to do so.

    So in a way, to a lot of people, making America "great" again also means taking all of these different people and shoving them under the rug again. It means taking abortion back to alley ways and shady clinics. It means ostracizing people for being gay or Jewish or for liking sex in a certain way. Making America "great" again means making America "worse" for everybody except the Anglo middle class white man*, so that society won't make him have to confront the idea that other people are different.


    *I'm talking your stereotypical, "there goes the neighbourhood" WASP ignorant douche here
     
  4. TedEH

    TedEH Cromulent

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    The whole point, IMO, of using the word "greatness" is that it's meaningless, but sounds good. Since everyone is going to interpret greatness as something different, it allows the slogan to apply to anyone who wants it to apply to them.

    It's the very definition of telling people what they want to hear, since everyone is just going to substitute "greatness" for whatever quality they think it great. "Make America great again" basically boils down to "make America [whatever you want it to be]!" It appeals to anyone who has ever said "man, this place is going downhill" or "things aren't what they used to be"- specifically because it requires no context.

    Do I think America is great in some ways? Sure I do. But not in a "it used to be great, but it's not anymore, and someone needs to fix that" kind of way.
     
  5. vilk

    vilk Very Regular

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    Non-white women weren't even allowed to vote until 1965

    We can talk about 1945, but it was during that same year that we also rounded up Americans and put them in concentration camps for having a Japanese surname.

    In the 1970s, Nixon declared "drugs" to be 'public enemy #1', and we began the process of gaining our current status as highest ratio of prisoners of any nation on Earth.


    The phrase "Make America Great Again" is 100% an appeal only to white men and white traditionalist women.
     
  6. coreysMonster

    coreysMonster So long, Germany!

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    In this vein, it also makes people more easy to control, because it makes the status-quo easily defined as "great", because it's in America. Socialist healthcare? That's not American, so it's not great. State-sponsored tuition? That sounds like socialism, so it's not American, and thus not great. Forget about those other silly countries like Germany, Sweden or Norway, we're America, and America is great! What they do won't work for us because they're not as great as we are.

    It's such simple propaganda, but holy Christ it works so well in this country.
     
  7. CapnForsaggio

    CapnForsaggio Cap'n (general)

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    I'm sorry, but the entire NOTION of equality for all men (and women) of all races and religions is a uniquely American idea.

    You belittle the intellectual and moral advancements of giants.
     
  8. vilk

    vilk Very Regular

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    It was comparatively greater than most other nations at the time, but the phrase "Make America Great Again" juxtaposes it against the present, which is infinitely better than it used to be, all except for the old bull.... that we cling to from the past like prohibition and an ignorantly asinine resistance to a proper social health care system.
     
  9. coreysMonster

    coreysMonster So long, Germany!

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    Wat. America had slaves and racial segregation way longer than any European country. The idea that "all men are created equal" was at first only meant to abolish Aristocracies, not give all men equal rights.
     
  10. bostjan

    bostjan MicroMetal Contributor

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    Well, sadly, no. Women could vote in New Zealand more than 25 years before they could vote in the USA. The first US election was not much different from the elections of the ancient Greeks, whence the founding fathers took their democratic ideals.

    Also:
    For example, in South Africa, all men were allowed to vote in 1850. In the 1870's in the USA, the southern states were still fighting with the federal congress over black suffrage. Even in New York, a state well north of the Mason-Dixon Line, in 1860, a bill to allow blacks the right to vote was voted down.
     
  11. TedEH

    TedEH Cromulent

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    As a Canadian, I think you have no idea what you're talking about. We have a lot of shared culture with America, but I'm pretty sure we're ahead of you on things like this.

    Edit: And I'm sure you're going to dig up same random examples of how Canada is terrible in terms of race relations when viewed through the lens of cherry-picked articles and one-off events, but day-to-day, we have a lot less of these kinds of political strains - as far as I can tell.
     
  12. odibrom

    odibrom .

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    All in all, "Great" is such a subjective adjective that I'm not sure where to does it goes, besides leading to some propaganda kind of speech within the context of the actual president of USA campaign's slogan. Propaganda speech is not a truthful nor trustworthy one. Unfortunately, it is what we all got (we as being a global citizen, for USA politics affect us all).
     
  13. bostjan

    bostjan MicroMetal Contributor

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    Entertaining fact: Trump trademarked the phrase and threatened to sue anyone else who muttered it in any way that reflected against him. Ronald Reagan used exactly the same slogan in 1980.

    [​IMG]
     
  14. odibrom

    odibrom .

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    THAT GIF...
     
  15. UnderTheSign

    UnderTheSign SS.org Regular

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    A notion you never lived up to. Not worth much then, is it?
     
  16. Demiurge

    Demiurge Intrepid Jackass

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    I personally believe that greatness is better comprehended as an aspiration than an achievement. Not to sound too Motivational Poster-y about it, but when you try to be great, you have a better chance of doing good, but if you're attitude is, "this thing that happened in the past was great- I'll try to do that again", it's stagnation at best.

    In terms of political discourse, it seems that nearly every single, um, unfortunate social event began with some leader spinning a yarn to the people about some BS, idealized version of the past where everything was so much better. Of course, this 'past' was magically accessible again- and only at the mere cost of ceding control to this leader and allowing progress (including the people and institutions allegedly behind it) to be undone to reach that end. And here- it's either history repeating itself or a leader knowing exactly that such are the buttons to press.
     
  17. feraledge

    feraledge Black Walnut Pounding Bragger Contributor

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    This is hilarious. A notion is worth nothing if not enacted upon, but egalitarianism is literally in our genetic and biological make up, that's how nomadic hunter-gatherers lived and evolved. The State, its build up and its execution, build in inequality as a necessity to the centralization of power for the distribution of a controlled surplus production. That rights are fought for doesn't give any State the ability to claim the fabrication of the principle, it reflects that the illogical barriers that justify class/gender/sex/religious based hierarchies are incompatible with perceived reality.
    And there's nothing egalitarian about American society. It's proof of the chasm between equality of rights (which certainly aren't universal) and equality of access.
     
  18. PunkBillCarson

    PunkBillCarson SS.org Regular

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    It's been great enough for people to not want to leave but still bitch and moan about how not great it is.
     
  19. feraledge

    feraledge Black Walnut Pounding Bragger Contributor

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    Soundbites are rarely a reflection of reality.
    [​IMG]
     
  20. PunkBillCarson

    PunkBillCarson SS.org Regular

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    Point is, what do you consider great? Greatness to one person is hell for another. As for America, it's been pretty good to me and that's really all I care about.
     

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