Donald Trump’s campaign slogan is “Keep America Great,” building on 2016’s slogan “Make America Great Again.” This raises a few questions: When was America great? Great at what? Will it be great by 2020?
The United States wasn’t great at anything really before World War II.
It tried hard but didn’t excel at imperialism. Guam, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, i.e. were petty compared with what Britain had to offer. Nor did the US excel at genocide (The Indian Wars are a euphemism), but its efforts were impressive.
Only after World War II did the US achieve greatness. Its products, agricultural and industrial, were in demand around the globe – not astonishing considering that most of Europe and Asia was reduced to wasteland and rubble.
The US led in nuclear physics thanks to Europe’s swastika-propelled brain drain, e.g. Enrico Fermi and Edward Teller. It saved years of development by reaping foreign fruits. It was on top in rocket engineering, with German technology and technologists, e.g. Wernher von Braun; in jet propulsion and radar because the Brits gave away all their know-how, e.g. Frank Whittle’s engine and Randall and Boot’s cavity magnetron in jet airliner industry thanks to Britain’s pioneering work and “foul play” by the British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC).
What the US was pretty good at was deception and skullduggery. The Bell X-1 broke the sound barrier utilising know-how from an exchange programme. All the Miles M.52 data went to the US and the US returned the favour by giving Britain nothing. Canada’s top-notch interceptor CF-105 (Avro Arrow) was scrapped so the US could sell its mediocre missiles.
The US is great at propounding ideals like freedom, tolerance, and equality; yet within its borders it does little to practice what it preaches. Xenophobia, racism, nepotism, self-justice, censorship, and religious fanaticism are rampant.
The US was great at condemning Nazis and Japanese for war crimes, but didn’t join the International Criminal Court – along with other righteous countries like Russia, Libya, and China.
America is almost “numero uno” in ill-guided nationalism, fear-mongering, global bullying, and falling victim to bizarre theories – “the land of the spree and the home of the knave”.
One last word – actually 42.
US currency, paper or metal, has “In God We Trust” on it, Americans call their land “God’s own country” – which god? Is it Jahweh, Allah, Manitou, Ashur?
I think all Americans open-heartedly worship the same deity – it is the god “Mammon”.
Robert Mueller is a sub-editor in Khmer Times.