It is no measure of health to be well-adjusted to a profoundly sick society. — Jiddu Krishnamurti
In the eight months since Donald Trump was sworn in as president, there has been little evidence that his slogan “make America great again” has benefited anyone in the country, besides his own family and friends. Instead, his ongoing divisive rhetoric and rebuttals against “fake news” have further widened the chasm of antipathy across the nation.
Die-hard Trump constituents, quietly brooding over continued hardships, have ramped up their unqualified support, despite, or perhaps because of, the negative portrayal of his efforts. Ideological foes, resisting him at every turn, are convinced he will carry the country to hell in a hand basket.
Meanwhile, all Americans are being anesthetized by the epic and unending wars in Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Afghanistan, terrified by the unpredictable gamesmanship of North Korea, and confounded by the existential threat of nuclear confrontation with Russia.
While these horrendous events are being staged largely in the “Muslim world” and thus deserving of scant coverage in the media, the gut-wrenching topics that directly affect the quality of American lives remain in a death-defying suspension, especially the issues on which the election was pinned. Health care reform — one of the most polarizing election slogans — heads down a perilous vortex, the infrastructure stagnates, the environment asphyxiates, and the promise of job creation remains a cruel hoax for the countless believers who had yearned for the dignity and respect that comes from making a living wage and self-sufficiency.
Xenophobia is the only diet into which Trump’s disaffected followers can sink their teeth. Those who had felt marginalized and voted for Trump, expecting to improve their lives, are primed and programmed to scapegoat immigrants and Muslim refugees, well before (if ever) the “great” jobs materialize. Meanwhile, those who had denounced Trump as a charlatan burn with rage over his inability to act as the leader of the “free world” and stand up against Russian interference in our elections (a charge predictably denied by Russian President Vladimir Putin).
The issues of racism, xenophobia and jingoism raise questions about the intent of “make America great again.” If these extremist views reflect a dark side of America, how do they compare with other vastly divergent views on American exceptionalism?
In his article in The Atlantic (Feb. 2, 2017), How Trump wants to Make America Exceptional Again, author Peter Beinart closely examines Trump’s vision of America, compared with other recent leaders.
Mitt Romney said, “It is our belief in the universality of these (God-given) unalienable rights that leads us to our exceptional role on the world stage, that of a great champion of human dignity and freedom.” Newt Gingrich said it is America’s unfettered capitalism. And former President Barack Obama said it was for its ever-expanding circle of inclusion.
Meanwhile, Trump and travel ban architect Stephen Miller are defining a new and constricted American exceptionalism. It is undeniably deviant in focus and jing