From the Publisher: American Greatness

Let’s make America great again. 

That short statement means that once we had something that was great, we lost it and now it takes a Trump to bring it back.

I’ve lived on this planet long enough to have lived through many of those past somethings and, as I look back now, let me try to walk you through the history of America that Trump remembers but without his rose colored glasses.

One of my earliest memories was December 7th, 1941 at 2 p.m. I was four years old and having a Sunday lunch with my mother and father at our small local Chinese restaurant on Avenue P in Brooklyn. Something came over the radio and suddenly all the adults grew tense. The Chinese waiters were all hanging over the radio and, although I had no idea what had happened, I knew it upset all the adults, including my parents. Within days, daddies began to disappear from our apartment house to join the service. To a little boy, it was all very exciting and I can remember following the war on the maps in the newspaper, hanging models of fighters from the ceiling and never quite understanding what the gold stars hanging in the windows were about. Some remember WWII as the most exciting great time of their lives, but those Americans didn’t have a friend or family member dead on a beach or in the jungle somewhere.

In the aftermath we were triumphant, the daddies were back and going to school on the GI Bill and buying FHA, government-financed, “no down payment” homes and many were the first in their generation to go to college and own a home, all with the help of a grateful government and nation — and for them, those times were great. The taxes were high and the economy boomed and new industries grew up, and manufacturing was the bedrock of our economy and America was on the top of the world. Europe was virtually destroyed, as was much of Asia, and we helped build it all back up and we were successful and the country was rich. Then, in 10 or 15 years, those destroyed nations built themselves back up and began to prosper with silly things like the VW Bug. America began to see some real competition and things were still darned great but not quite as great as before. We worried about the Russians and the Iron Curtain and nuclear war, and taught our kids in school to dive under the table to be safe from atomic bombs and SAC kept bombers in the air on constant alert, which was not so great.

Kennedy was elected president in 1960 and, soon after, Russia started to move missiles into Cuba, 90 miles from Miami, and the Cold War turned hot. I remember a bunch of us talking about going up to a cabin in Lake Arrowhead to avoid the nuclear blast if it came.

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Then came the ’60s and Vietnam and the draft and rioting in the streets and guys thinking of going to Canada, and then Birmingham and Selma, and JFK was assassinated then Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King, and America seemed to be coming apart at the seams and things were not—so—great again. Vietnam finally ended, and then came Watergate and Nixon and Americans didn’t know whom to trust anymore. Reagan in 1980 brought in sunshine for a while, but he raised taxes when he had to and we still had a recession and the American middle class began its long slow decline. The 1%, which wasn’t yet the 1%, began to acquire more of the wealth, and corporations grew and they paid less of the taxes. The world went global and companies left and corporations left because there was always someplace cheaper to make whatever you’re making or to put your corporate office in a low tax country. Then came computers and robotics and artificial intelligence and our lives were supposed to get better, technology was going to raise all the boats, but the middle class kept shrinking, and man was often replaced by machines, which were cheaper and never took a vacation and certainly never joined unions and things were not so great.

So, when he talks about making America great again, I ask which America, and when and for whom? It certainly wasn’t great for people of color, who were so special they had their own restrooms, all to themselves. Nor was it to many immigrants, some legal, some not, working three jobs to make ends meet. It truly wasn’t so great earlier, except there were great jobs in the auto industry in and around Detroit and people went up north and for a while and the jobs were great — but not for long. Today, two workers can build cars that formerly required 10 workers to build technology changed everything. In the past, it was fun for me to go to the printing plant to see The Malibu Times come down the conveyor belt with men working all over the presses. Today, those men are gone and the newspaper printing plant looks like a big computer room with a couple of technicians and lots of automated equipment.

Whatever American greatness Trump’s talking about is really just a fantasy. He’ll make some improvements, he’ll get some factories back because CEOs are practical and they don’t want to be at war with a president. But in the long run, being great again is a myth because, although it was sometimes good, sometimes even very good, but great never happened — it only gets great in our nostalgic memories.

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The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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