Lately, I have seen a lot of talk about liberals and how we are ruining America, etc.  That’s probably a whole other post, what being a liberal means to me, but for right now, let’s talk about making America great.

I also see a lot of tripe from Donald Trump about how he wants to “make America great again.”  As a lifelong liberal, I tend to look past soundbites and catchphrases, and ask, exactly what does that mean?  As George Carlin said, “I do this real moron thing called thinking, and I’m not a very good American because I like to form my own opinions.”

I think about America’s history.  Based on Donald Trump’s words and behavior, I’m assuming he wants an America that is great for HIM, not necessarily anyone else.  At the time of America’s birth, women were not allowed to vote, and black people were enslaved and treated as less than human.  Life expectancy was very low, and child mortality and deaths of women during childbirth were common.  Domestic violence and child abuse  were encouraged and sanctioned, and human and civil rights for anyone other than white male landowners was virtually non-existent.

Not many years prior, accused witches were burned at the stake,tortured and killed.  Many of these women were herbal healers, a threat to male-based allopathic medicine, which was more invasive and often less effective.  Superstition and fear-based religion were the order of the day, and it was not a safe time to be a woman.  It still isn’t.

Fast forward to 1825, roughly 50 years later.  Not content to oppress Native Americans on the eastern seaboard, white immigrants began to appropriate more and more land.  In January, Congress began forced relocation of Oklahoma Natives in an event now referred to as the Trail of Tears.  This become a pattern, as what white people referred to as Manifest Destiny was rightly referred to by Natives as genocide.

By 1859, the railroads were in full swing from Atlantic to Pacific, and Oregon, my home state, was founded.  At one time I was proud of Oregon’s refusal to institute racism, but was horrified to learn the reason.  It was founded as a “white homeland,” and the reason folks didn’t want slavery is because they didn’t want black people here.  In 1844, when it was known as “Oregon Country,” a “lash law” was imposed that any black person, slave or free, who dared to live here would be lashed twice a year as punishment.  

During this same time frame, many Chinese and Irish immigrants came across the oceans in hopes of a new life.  They were, instead, met with extreme prejudice and hatred.  They were persecuted, denied work and housing, and lived in poverty, misery and suffering.

Native Americans had been relegated to reservations, and their children, like those of slaves, had been systematically ripped away to boarding schools, where they were “re-educated.”  This was a euphemism for being punished and tortured and reviled for not being white, forced to speak only English, have their hair cut off, and lose ties to their families and loved ones as small children, a direct manifestation of white supremacy sentiment.

Not just people of color were suffering.  Labor had long been unregulated, exploitative, and extremely dangerous.  Over the decades, several attempts had been made to unionize, which had been quashed.  The 1870’s were a particularly violent time for low-wage workers in slave conditions. 
Wealth inequality was well established by 1900.  Mass concentration of wealth through acquisitions, such as J.P. Morgan’s U.S. Steel Company in 1901, and the unbridled power of banking firms, led to a population of one percent owning more national wealth than the other 99 percent (sound familiar?  Now it’s 1/10th of 1%).

Life expectancy for whites was 48 years and nonwhites was 34. The work force included 1.75 million children under 15 and more than five million women, who sometimes worked for a penny an hour. 

In 1914, the infamous Ludlow Massacre resulted in the deaths of 1200 striking miners and their families, who were attacked and murdered in their tents, in Colorado.  The year prior, on Christmas Eve, 73 men, women, and children were killed when they were trampled to death at an upstairs party in a theater.  Someone falsely yelled, “Fire,” then blockaded the doors, trapping the people in the building.  The partygoers were striking mineworkers and their families, and the suspected instigators were anti-union thugs.  

There were many other incidents, which most of us never were told about in school, in our government-approved curriculum.  Remember, history is written by the victors.

The right to vote for women, in 1920, was hard-won, and the result of untold suffering and persecution.  It took a long concerted effort, and women were tortured and killed in the course of gaining their rights.  

Black men had been allowed to vote since 1870.  However, this was not any guarantee of being treated as humans, and lynchings and torture of people, for the “crime” of being black, continued for generations.

In 1927, work began to carve the faces of four wealthy white male landowners into what had been sacred Native American land in the Dakotas.  In 1939 Mount Rushmore, a visible reminder of subjugation and white domination over native peoples, was complete.

During the 1930’s, following bank crashes and other crises, America was thrust into the throes of the Great Depression, and it was a decade of grinding poverty and misery… unless you were part of the wealthy 1%.

In the 1940’s many American men were going off to war, and there was a new workforce: women.  Unfortunately, many women, who were skilled workers supporting families, were displaced and told to “go back to the kitchen” once World War II ended.  Japanese Americans were wrongfully interned into camps, even as some of their loved ones were serving overseas.  Many of them never regained their jobs, possessions, or homes.

Life continued to be miserable during this time for people of color, many of whom had loyally served their countries, only to come home to anything but a hero’s welcome.  While the NAACP won some victories in the Supreme Court, there was a horrible backlash against people of color in the south after race riots in New York and Detroit.

The post-war era in the forties marked the beginning of the Cold War with Russia and a kind of palpable fear in society that remains.  It also marked the beginning, in 1950, of the civil rights era.  The fifties brought us the Korean War, civil unrest, and the shame that was the McCarthy era. Too few people know that neither our pledge of allegiance nor our currency before the 50’s mentioned God.  The separation of church and state which was precious to the founding fathers was thrown out the window by fear-ridden and paranoid lawmakers, with a Bible in one hand and a flag in the other.  

The 50’s mark one of the most repressive, uptight eras in our society.  Diversity and individuality, as well as freedom of expression were frowned upon.  Racism, sexism and xenophobia were rampant as ever, and being gay was something nobody even dared to talk about.

The 60’s marked a time of great unrest but also great social growth.  Issues which had been taboo and “improper” in the 50’s were now open for discussion.  School segregation, women’s rights, “race relations,” lesbian and gay rights, poverty programs and other social constructs were topics of the day.  Protests against the Vietnam war, environmental abuse, and nuclear weapons happened all over the country.  Sexuality began to be embraced as part of being human, and women’s groups began to emerge where women shared their experiences.  Domestic violence began to be seen as a social ill, and less something to be tolerated.  However, there were no shelters or other places to get help.  It wasn’t until the end of the decade and early 70’s that there began to be resources for abuse survivors. Spousal rape was still legal.

The Freedom Riders, with their brave actions, forced the hand of elected officials to desegregate busing.  It’s worth mentioning the importance of allies in any civil rights movement.  Just like male allies helped women to get the vote, white Freedom Riders (and their worried parents) brought attention to the movement.  Any time we have privilege, and see someone else being hurt, we have an obligation to use our privilege to help that person or group, and the white Freedom Riders were a great example: not of being any more brave than the black riders, but as an example of realizing that we are all in this together and need to stick up for one another.  

The seventies saw the end of Vietnam and the effect (again) on corporate owned media on masses of people who demonized returning soldiers instead of the warmongers who made a huge profit from the deaths of so many.  It also saw the beginning of pushback against the progress made by the civil rights movement.  A counter-movement began, called the New Right, with a specific agenda:
Complete freedom to make money through businesses, including the freedom to exploit workers and pollute the environment.
2.              Eliminate public property, such as public parks and schools.
3.              Cut taxes for the richest Americans
4.              Cut public service funding, like education, housing, food stamps, etc.

Ronald Reagan’s administration, with the backing of the New Right, overturned many advances in civil rights which had taken decades to achieve.  He is also famous for his “trickle-down” theory of economics, which was based on the premise (well, let’s be honest, a lie) that creating tax breaks and incentives for very wealthy Americans would cause them to reinvest the money back into the economy and help everyone.  Predictably, they stashed it into investments for themselves and overseas bank accounts, while the rest of society continued to suffer and wealth inequality grew.

The New Right has dredged up old oppressive dialogue, which has resulted in hateful commentators such as Rush Limbaugh and Newt Gingrich, who blame and shame anyone who is poor or oppressed, and perpetuate the myth that if you are poor it’s because you are lazy.  They promote a dog-eat-dog philosophy which is derisive and divisive.  Rather than work to improve society in general, they are profiteers and charlatans with an inflated sense of superiority.  They fan the underlying fears of racial tensions and anti-immigrant sentiment, scapegoating those who aren’t white, wealthy, male, landowners.  They claim Christianity, while embracing none of its precepts or expectations of morality.  They use their wealth and corporate power to buy legislators, influence laws, and block accurate education, particularly in history.  They depend on the stupidity of the masses to support them in their hate.

Unless you are better educated than most, you may not have heard of the Ludlow Massacre, 1913 Massacre, and the Oregon Lash Law of 1844.  So who decided what you were taught in school, and why did the people in power not want you to know about those things?  What things are you unaware of now that are being deliberately omitted on the evening news? 

The reason for this lengthy, while hardly comprehensive, tale of our country’s history, is to point out that at no point has America been “great” for a majority of its people. It has, however, been consistently great for white, male, wealthy, heterosexual, Christian, able-bodied landowners, particularly bankers and businessmen.

Further, in exactly what way does Donald Trump plan to make America great “again?”  I doubt he promotes a return to the civil rights advances of the 60’s and the social constructs that leveled the playing field for the oppressed.  At what part of history has American been truly great, or is greatness something to which we can aspire, if united?  So far his words and actions serve only to divide people.  

So this brings us to the 2016 Presidential election, and we have some important choices to make, choices which will literally affect the entire world.  We can vote for candidates who are owned by the New Right and the 1%, who frankly don’t care about you and me, or we can pick someone on our side.

I highly recommend the following website, the Political Compass: http://politicalcompass.org/
There is a link to a quiz you can take to determine your political leanings, and there is also a link to view where the current Presidential candidates fall on the spectrum between left and right, as well as between authoritarian and libertarian philosophy.   

You may notice that all of the Republican candidates are in one cluster in the upper-right (authoritarian/right) quadrant of the graph.  Now notice the difference between the two remaining Democratic candidates.  Hillary Clinton, while more centrist and less authoritarian than the Republicans, remains in the same quadrant as them.  Bernie Sanders, however, is in the lower-left quadrant.  He is left-leaning and slightly more libertarian than authoritative, like Democrats used to be.  He has been fighting for civil rights for decades, while Clinton has aligned herself with the likes of Barry Goldwater and Henry Kissinger, both glaring human rights violators.

Though he is running as a Democrat, he has been an Independent in the Senate for many years.  To view his voting record, bills introduced and sponsored, and compare to his opponents, visit www.votesmart.org, a non-partisan site that compares issues and candidates.  

Yes, like Donald Trump, he is the non-establishment candidate.  But that is where any resemblance ends.  Unlike Trump, he is not a billionaire spewing hate and contempt for others.  His campaign is not being financed by a single Super-PAC, but by the American people, voters like you and me.  He has a long history of sticking up for the trod upon, the very people whom Donald Trump would exploit to make a fast buck.

If you think Donald Trump is on your side, or intends to make America great for anyone other than himself, think again. He is a rich, spoiled product of the New Right, and is rife with all the accompanying corruption and greed.  He plans to dial back civil rights, make the rich richer, and the poor poorer.  And God help you if you are a person or color, or an immigrant, or a Muslim.  Because while Trump doesn’t live by the precepts of the Bible, he loves to carry one around and bash people over the head with it.  He will pretend to be whatever the evangelicals want him to be so he can become more powerful.  If you vote for him, the joke is not only on you; it is on the world.  He has even bragged that he could stand on the corner and shoot people and not lose votes.  He treats the entire election process as a hilarious joke.  If he wins we all lose.

Liberals are trying to make America truly great for the first time.  We don’t want to go backwards to a fantasy that never was.  We want to create a nation that is “great” for everyone, regardless of race, socioeconomic status, creed, religion, skin color, gender, ability, etc.  Every victory has been hard fought and hard won, and we have suffered setbacks, but in Bernie Sanders we have an ally with a proven history of compassion and strength, who will not swerve from his ideals.  He, unlike any other candidate in decades, is not entrenched in scandal and corruption, and is truly on our side.  I hope you will join me, if you haven’t already, in voting for him in your state's primary, and again in November. 

Vote like the world depends on it, because at this point, it truly does.