I wanted to wait for the festivities to pass so not to disturb your picnics and BBQs. After all, we all deserve a little peace and quiet from the 24-hour news cycle of the U.S. Presidential campaign which is in full force.
I had intended to write this on— and for— the Fourth of July.
But we’ll have to settle for the fifth of July.
It’s OK. We Greeks say a holiday lasts several days after it is celebrated so technically, I’m within the chronological grace period to write this and share my Fourth of July greetings to everyone— especially to Donald Trump, who I’m particularly perturbed with these days.
He wants to “Make America Great Again.”
That makes me angry. Not because I’m this patriotic red neck that believes the United States of America is the greatest country on the planet… No, I don’t beat my chest and chant “USA! USA! USA” at every opportunity I get. And no, I don’t play the “greatest country in the world” game, either. Because the “world’s greatest country” for me, is something totally subjective and can’t be categorized or included in any top 10 list.
On the contrary, I’m able to look at my country— the same way I hold up a mirror to myself when I need some introspection, and admit my faults and try to make them better. I’m also able to learn about and understand the other side that opposes my beliefs.
Donald, my dear. America may not be perfect, but it never stopped being great.
Even when we were starting misguided wars, or discriminating against our own citizens of color… Even when the police were brutalizing members of the LGBT community in the 1960s and ignoring the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s, allowing millions to die.
Even with our gun violence and inner city poverty.
Even when misguided politicians in the 1920s enacted immigration limits— by law— that targeted and prevented Greeks and other “undesirable” immigrants from entering the country for more than 40 years— simply because of what their ethnic background was.
Even when we threw our own Japanese American citizens into internment camps when we were afraid of their slanted eyes.
Yes, any nation of 350 million people will have its problems, and will have its checkered history, but…
America. Never. Stopped. Being. Great.
For one simple fact.
America has, since its founding, been the single place on earth where anyone from any country, religion, shape, color, sexual orientation or background can land, become fully embedded in its society, embrace Americanism and begin succeeding.
No matter what our problems might be— problems that exist in every free society— America remains the number one destination on earth for the dreamers and for those willing to persevere and succeed.
Again, I reiterate, even for these people, it’s not utopia and it’s not easy. But America remains great because this opportunity exists for anyone who believes strongly in their dream.
This dream applied for my grandfather who landed on these shores without an education. Yes, he was discriminated against. He was called a filthy Greek. He was worked and exploited by the powerful copper mine bosses in Utah.
Yes, he felt unwanted, unwelcome and at times, unconnected with what “America” stood for. But he fought, and persevered and was resilient in his belief of what this nation stood for.
And you know what, Donald? He didn’t let the Donalds of the past century get to him. Because his vision of America was much more powerful than yours.
His vision of America was an inclusive one— not a divisive one. His vision of America included the simple fact that no politician could deny him those simple words written in the Declaration of Independence that we celebrated yesterday resonate for anyone and everyone willing to embrace the ideals of this nation:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
A hundred years ago the Donald Trumps of that generation targeted the Greeks, the Chinese, the blacks and others they thought were “a threat” to American ideals.
Today it’s the same racist, nativist, divisive politics that use fear as a main weapon. Today, that fear is that America is going to hell. That America is a horrible place. That America isn’t great.
No, Donald… America remains great. America’s greatness is why a person like you can become a billionaire in this country— with or without your daddy’s money.
So, Happy belated Fourth of July everyone and don’t let anyone tell you that America stopped being great. Because it didn’t.