Magazine article The Christian Century

Make Today Great Again

Magazine article The Christian Century

Make Today Great Again

Article excerpt

I never cease to be amazed by calls for America to return to a previous era of greatness. Although historians have yet to locate such an idyllic chapter in our nation's history, their conclusions haven't stopped large segments of the population from glorifying the past. Selective memory holds attractive appeal. Warm sentimentality, however oblivious to real experience, feels good. A campaign slogan like "Make America Great Again" (emphasis mine) can prove exceedingly effective.

For a sense of the backward-looking and trapped-in-nostalgia behaviors of our political parties, check out Anthony Robinson's review of Yuval Levin's The Fractured Republic (p. 36 in this issue). Or, for a different take on the good ol' days, try reading your newspaper's letters to the editor. Here's one I came across recently:

   The battle between good and evil is raging out
   of control in America. We are doomed so long
   as our country insists on trashing the Ten
   Commandments and failing to return to Jesus.
   We will never return to the greatness of our
   past until we return to God and put prayer
   back in our schools. It's time for America's
   sin-sick soul to wake up.

Notice the author's reliance on the word return. One wonders what past era he might have in mind. Was it America's legacy of enslaving African peoples, only to lynch numbers of them later? Was it the 18th century and its primitive medicine, or the 19th century and its marginal sanitation? Perhaps his cherished past exists somewhere in the past 100 years, when women still lacked the right to vote, laborers had frighteningly few rights, the needs of the disabled went largely ignored, Agent Orange wreaked havoc, and the waterboarding of terror suspects became acceptable to some top brass. …

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