The fabled “American greatness” we hear so much about was constructed in the aftermath of World War II, when every major world power had been bombed flat and had lost significant pieces of its population and economy to war, starvation and disease. While the rest of the world rebuilt, the United States and Canada remained immune to all but the effects of traumatized men and women coming home from the war… or, in over a million cases, not coming home at all.
As a counterbalance to that, the United States saw unprecedented economic prosperity for over 20 years, highlighted by a media machine dedicated to glorious mythology about ourselves. To top it off, we had sky-high taxes from which to rebuild our nation, a brand-new technological infrastructure (courtesy of the Great Depression and the New Deal), a global marketplace that had to “buy American” (or else), plus one of the largest industrial production machines in human history – once geared to war, then geared to the mass manufacture of luxury goods.
This didn’t keep the U.S from being torn into pieces by its legacy of slavery, racism and genocide, or by being rent along divisions of class, culture, generation, and war-trauma, much less keep us from jumping into two more wars (plus a number of “police actions”) and some really heinous medical experiments. But it did make the U.S big, fat, loud and happy…
…until the rest of the world caught up with us in the early 1970s, and was fully tired of our shit by then.
The mythic image of America we have been trying to recapture is a product of those times and circumstances. It cannot be “rebuilt” because those circumstances have changed and were partly delusion to begin with.
We started to experience a new revitalization of American greatness in the 1990s, when the end of the Cold War and the economic boom of the early Information Age, plus a social conscience born from the Civil rights Era and the capable (if flawed) leadership of President Clinton began the promise of an even more stable age for the United States. The birth of no-compromise open political warfare, right-wing hate media, and the voracious corporatism that Clinton himself played a role in, however, flipped us, by the end of that decade, from an America we could have been (and that Barack Obama attempted to resurrect… in the face of unrelenting racist hatred) into the reality-twisting divided mess we have become.
I think we had our moment, twice, and we blew it both times.
We’re certainly nowhere near it now, and I don’t see it returning anytime soon, if ever.
And that’s not the fault of immigrants, or Mooz-lims, or libotards, Black Lives Matter, Russian hackers, or even Trump himself.
This one’s on us, kids.
We done fucked ourselves, but good.