Maybe this is how America becomes great again

Donald Trump may end up being one of the best things that’s ever happened to the United States of America.

Please note, I didn’t say he’d end up as one of the best presidents ever. I believe he’s possibly the least qualified and most poorly prepared person to ever hold that office — although in 230-plus years, we’re bound to have had a few who were in his league.

No, I’m not going to rant or recite a long list of bad moves I think he’s made. You can get that from lots of other sources. I’d rather project what may happen if he continues as he has begun.

I can, for instance, cite examples of people I know personally, who have completed the requirements for citizenship just since Trump was elected. One friend came here as a refugee and despite working to support four children, studied and passed the test — a test I’m sure many lifelong U.S. citizens would struggle with.

The other, a Hispanic woman, had lived here “without papers” for years, finding a niche, working and getting by. But the threat of being deported caused her to take action, and now she’s a citizen.

I suspect this scenario is playing out quietly all over this country. While demonstrators march and political passions are stirred over “sanctuary cities” bills, border walls and proposed travel bans, many who have been living in the shadows are taking the steps necessary to stay here. These new citizens will continue to work and raise their families in this country.

I suspect they will vote, too.

In fact, I predict that in the wake of Trump’s election, a great number of citizens who have ignored politics all their lives will become voters. Some of those currently in power are working to deny the vote to as many as possible, but I don’t think they will succeed.

The United States has long had a poor voter turnout compared to most other countries. Trump’s election may change that. I hope Americans finally realize we cannot afford ignorance and apathy when it comes to politics.

Didn’t we used to teach kids it was their civic duty to be informed and go to the polls to elect our leaders? That those who enjoy the blessings of this country have a responsibility to take part in the political process? If that definition of “citizenship” makes a comeback — if 70, 80 or 90 percent of American citizens voted — elections would start to look very different.

I’ll also predict that many of the laws we’ve come to take for granted will be strengthened by the assault they’re currently under. I think Americans want the environment protected. I think we want curbs on pollution, clean energy and reasonable restraints on corporate greed. I think we want the poor and the elderly among us to have access to decent health care.

I won’t be surprised if in the next few years it becomes law that presidential candidates must release their tax returns. And if a future Congress wants to put reasonable restraints on the president’s lavish travel expenses, I’m okay with that, too. Those who campaign on cutting the federal budget should first balance the budget for their office.

Our current president has made attacking the media a sport. I predict the people of the United States will at some point come to agree with Thomas Jefferson, who said, “Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers, or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”

It may be a few years away, but I think Americans’ respect for the free press will revive. The press must earn it, but I believe they will — by continuing to do their job. Telling people the truth doesn’t make you popular in the short term, but they eventually appreciate you for it.

I believe most Americans want healthy school lunches, and they want public funding to stay in public schools. I believe most Americans want leaders who will work with each other, not just constantly attack each other while nothing gets done.

I think Americans want straight answers at press conferences and real leadership from our leaders. I think Americans want to respect their government, not listen to so-called “leaders” who tear it down without having the faintest idea what they’re talking about. I think we want to respect our neighbors, too — and to once again be respected by them as an ally who keeps its promises and holds up the light of freedom in a dark world.

Rather than running around beating our chests about how great America is, I think most Americans would prefer to prove that by our actions.

The United States of America is built on ideals that are bigger than any one person. Attack those ideals long enough, and hard enough, and Americans will return to them, stronger than ever. We’ve learned that lesson, over and over, throughout our history.

So Donald Trump may actually play a key role in “making America great again” — though perhaps not exactly in the way he may have imagined.

It starts with all of us learning what made America great in the first place.

 

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