Amer­i­can Life

Un­sere Kolum­nistin fragt sich, wie man sich später wohl an Don­ald Trumps be­liebten Wahlkampf­s­lo­gan erin­nern wird.

Spotlight - - CONTENTS -

Gin­ger Kuen­zel on a great na­tion

Make Amer­ica Great Again.” It’s a slo­gan that be­gan to ap­pear on T-shirts and hats when Don­ald Trump was run­ning for pres­i­dent. Ap­par­ently, he and his sup­port­ers did not think that Amer­ica was great at that point in our his­tory. It’s a de­bat­able topic.

I was born in the 1950s and grew up in a coun­try that pro­vided me with ev­ery op­por­tu­nity imag­in­able. My African-amer­i­can con­tem­po­raries, how­ever, did not have the same op­por­tu­ni­ties. I can re­mem­ber the days when schools were seg­re­gated, and blacks were not al­lowed to sit at the same lunch counter as whites. There were still laws on the books that made it il­le­gal for a white per­son to marry a non-white. And there were even lynch­ings in the South. All this hap­pened dur­ing my life­time. Not to men­tion our long his­tory of treat­ing Na­tive Amer­i­cans ter­ri­bly. Yes, there is surely a lot about Amer­ica that is great, but there has also been a lot that was not so great.

The 1960s were an­other dark chap­ter in our his­tory — and not just for blacks. The Viet­nam War was rag­ing; there were race ri­ots in many US cities; and Pres­i­dent John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Sen­a­tor Bobby Kennedy were as­sas­si­nated. In the spring of 1970, it all came to a head when mem­bers of the Na­tional Guard shot and killed four stu­dents on the cam­pus of Kent State Univer­sity in Ohio as they were protest­ing against the war. Our govern­ment was killing young US cit­i­zens for ex­er­cis­ing their right of free speech. Amer­ica, “the great”?

Al­though I am proud to be an Amer­i­can, I am also not so naive as to be­lieve we have no faults. Our coun­try is ex­tremely di­vided to­day. But that’s noth­ing new. In the 19th cen­tury, the Amer­i­can Civil War pit­ted friends and fam­ily mem­bers against each other. And 100 years later, in the 1960s, the bat­tle lines were drawn again. To­day, we have ag­gres­sive white su­prem­a­cists, bul­lies of all ages, and peo­ple who want to close our bor­ders to im­mi­grants. They are afraid of peo­ple who look dif­fer­ent from them­selves. They sup­port the pres­i­dent’s call for a wall to keep the “un­de­sir­able el­e­ments” out. Other coun­tries built walls in the re­cent past — but they were to keep peo­ple in, not out. Is this per­haps the un­der­ly­ing rea­son for Trump’s wall as well? Will we be­come a coun­try that cit­i­zens want to leave in­stead of one that peo­ple are anx­ious to move into?

I moved from the US to Ger­many in the early 1970s be­cause I didn’t agree with the di­rec­tion in which our coun­try was mov­ing. Thank­fully, I had the free­dom to do so. But I kept my cit­i­zen­ship and moved back to the US 20 years later. To­day, I dis­agree more strongly than ever with the di­rec­tion our coun­try is headed. But I’m not leav­ing this time. I’m stay­ing and work­ing to change things for the bet­ter. It’s the one thing that Trump and I hap­pen to agree on: Mak­ing Amer­ica great again. It’s just that his def­i­ni­tion of “great” dif­fers so much from mine.

GIN­GER KUEN­ZEL

is a free­lance writer who lived in Mu­nich for 20 years. She now calls a small town in up­state New York home.

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