Because of a website hack that lost the original, I get to repost this article – and it seemed worth it, given the positives I heard and the intensity of current events surrounding the man who made the phrase, “Make America great again” into a “thing.” Here’s the original post:
I have a quixotic belief in finding common ground. I insist that there is a way to work together. The phrase “Make America great again” has become a caricature, but I believe there is merit in the idea. That said, let’s talk about what it means, and what it doesn’t.
Science is not the enemy
I have a new favorite quote, one carved on the outside of the wall surrounding the Einstein statue. I don’t remember ever seeing it before.
The right to search for truth implies also a duty; one must not conceal any part of what one has recognized to be true.”
I was in DC this week, presenting to a committee at the National Academy of Sciences. It felt a remarkable honor, driven home by seeing the pictures and reading the names of some of the people who’ve stood where I did. I found myself wondering, how did science become the enemy?
America has produced some of the most remarkable advances in technology, things unimaginable to the founders. We’ve nurtured and trained some of the world’s greatest minds. We can’t afford to abandon that. Yes, let’s make America great again by remembering how we got here.
Awe is not the enemy
There is something truly awesome – in the literal sense – about being in DC. I always love being here.
I am wholly unable to stand at the foot of the Lincoln statue without tearing up a little as I look up. Turning around, I can’t help but be struck dumb by the beauty of Lincoln’s view of the reflecting pool and the Washington monument.
I dare you to visit the National Archives and look at the original constitution and not be moved. Being awed now and then is good for us. A little more awe, and maybe we will in fact make America great again.
We are not the enemy
And then there is the White House, which I confess felt very different this trip.
Each time I come to DC, I notice that I feel a little more removed, a little less welcomed. Every time there are more barricades. Each time I feel a little less like this city and its history belongs to me, as one of the people.
The barricade outside the White House fence is just one example of all the small ways in which the people seem ever more held at bay. Last time I was here you could stand on the sidewalk right outside the fence. No more. The symbolism isn’t lost on me, and I feel sad. Isolation, barriers, and walls are not how we make America great again.
My wish to make America great again
May we gain the wisdom to recognize that the trappings of power are but a shell that surrounds our real strength. That strength is not our military might, and it’s not our wealth. It’s the great experiment of a constitutional democratic republic. The best of our country – which heaven knows we haven’t always been – revolves around courage, honor, vision, cooperation, sacrifice, and yes, a welcoming heart. Our history wasn’t always pretty, and we don’t always live up to our noble ideals. But underneath it all there is something worth preserving, worth defending, even at the cost of the ultimate sacrifice.
I admit it: I fear for our country’s soul.
Those who are intent to “dismantle the administrative state,” as Steve Bannon put it, frighten me. And I worry deeply for those who will be hurt most in the process of that dismantling. May those we elected remember that this is a country of the people, by the people, and for the people.
All the people. Not just those with whom we agree. And sure as hell not just those who can afford it.
This is my government, our government. I will not let anyone take that away. Not from me, not from you. I sure as hell won’t let anyone take that away from our children. They deserve our best. We might not agree on the path forward, but surely we can agree about this.
You want to make America great again? Then declare war on ignorance, and fear, and xenophobia. Welcome facts, and dissent. Resist small mindedness. Find your voice and make it heard.
Dr. Les Kertay