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Opinion

The ‘Make America Great Again’ mystery: What does ‘again’ mean?

Donald Trump stands among supporters holding a red ball cap with the words “Make America Great Again” on it.
President Trump hands a “Make America Great Again” hat back to a supporter in Reno, Nev., on Aug. 23, 2017.
(Alex Brandon / Associated Press)

To the editor: Andrew J. Bacevich bemoans Americans’ disparate views on our country’s history. He posits that “only by recovering a sense of what unites us as a people, much as the myth-history of World War II once did,” can polarization dissipate.

Granted, our country seemed as united as ever during the prosperous first two decades after World War II. That is the era President Trump’s “Make America Great Again” slogan reliably evokes among his loyal supporters.

But Trump slyly has avoided specifying when America was great, nor has he said what made it great. There’s no need for him to do so — not where the president’s cynical dog-whistles recall those halcyon mid-20th century days when blacks were kept in the back of the bus, gays were kept in the closet, and women were kept pregnant and in the kitchen.

Some demagogues strive to rewrite history. Others glaze it over or ignore it altogether. Either way, the more historical truths are distorted or ignored, the more imperiled our future becomes.

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Sandra Perez, Santa Maria, Calif.

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To the editor: Bacevich is right. We no longer share a unified sense of the past.

“Manifest Destiny” was once the unifying view of our past, but divisions over that began in the 1970s. Then, some historians viewed our history mostly positively, and others saw it negatively, almost as a catalog of crimes against man and nature. These two divergent views of the past have culminated in today’s social divergence.

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Bacevich strays into partisanship when he puts much of the blame on Trump. But, as the saying goes, it takes two to tango, and you have a choice whether to hate someone. A large segment of our country has chosen to hate the president; people on that side condemn themselves to political impotency by seeing the president’s actions only as extension of his persona.

Hence, they became the president’s dance partner. I agree with Bacevich — that “dance” is unlikely to stop in 2020.

Jack Kaczorowski, Los Angeles


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