Is America Great Now?

By Emily Halgrimson

I lean left politically and come from a family of Democrats, but most of my extended family are conservatives. I grew up with my father’s ultra-liberal ideals based on the most profound teachings of Jesus, and my grandmother’s traditional conservative values based on her moderate Lutheran church’s weekly preaching and her Norwegian family values. That upbringing helps me understand the American people’s visceral attraction to and repulsion by both candidates as I watch the political circus of 2016.

My grandmother’s world is disappearing, and it saddens and scares her. At 19 she married my grandfather when he came of out of the Navy after WWII. She left her family and everything she knew in North Dakota when my grandfather, an electrical engineer, received a positive reply from a classified ad job posting for an engineering position in Cleveland. Eventually he landed a job with Amocams, a division of Amoco Oil, in the western suburbs of Chicago, where the story goes he was on the team that created the first printed circuit boards. He also worked on automating the oil pipelines in North Dakota. He was there when the pipelines were first operated remotely and they no longer needed men to drive hundreds of miles across the plains to manually crank the valves open or closed.

My grandmother, Corinne Halgrimson, visiting her childhood church in Leeds, North Dakota. 2014

Visiting my grandmother’s home today is a journey back in time to the best of the 1950s. My loving aunts are often there, and I am greeted by smiles and hugs and offers of homemade sweets and coffee. Everything is cared for and in its place. At 93 she still irons pillowcases and plans her home’s decorations for each holiday. The Steinway grand piano takes up half of the living room, and the chairs face each other in a way that allows visitors to feel comfortable and see each other well. Her week is planned around church, her quilting group, and the daily letter writing that she depends on now for connection, as her hearing is mostly gone. It’s peaceful, warm, simple and lovely. When I need a pick-me-up, I drive the hour from my home to visit this old-fashioned place that’s full of love.

In contrast, I am a modern Millennial. In my day-to-day world I often feel skeptical and bitter. Like many of those around me I no longer make an effort to wave at neighbors or slow down to let people cross the street.

I think, “Why get married when we can live together?” I have dogs instead of children, I don’t trust anything I hear on TV or in the papers, I work two jobs, resentfully pay for my own overpriced $10,000 deductible health insurance, and my friends pay down student loans for decades and balk at the idea of retirement savings. Many of us Millennials have given up on religion, politics or efforts at community based on anything but drinking. Our world can be very very cold. In this world, meaningless distractions are too accessible and real connections aren’t always worth the effort.

I wonder if Donald Trump’s supporters live in the cold world I often find myself in, but long for my grandmother’s world like I often do. Maybe they long for the goodness of those days so much they’re willing to forgive his many sins on the small chance that his promise to bring back the old way can somehow materialize.

Trump’s campaign resonates with the bitterness in me that’s angry about the changes that have taken place since my grandmother’s time, as well as the part of me that longs for social niceties and politeness, community and uniformity. He appeals to the part of me that says “screw you” to the establishment and those who seem to take and take, that visceral and deeply angry part of me. The Clinton campaign tugs at the hopeful side of me that believes my grandma’s world can still exist among diversity, and that there’s enough for all to go around. It is the side that longs to recreate an even better version of the past for my future children and my potential community.

This election is revealing the intense ideological divide between us, and maybe within us. If we look beyond the political antics and listen deeper, the debate Monday night may as well have been a struggle between the world views of me and my father, and my grandmother, each grasping for survival of their way of life.

Question: Is America great now?

Emily Halgrimson has worked at TMW for more than 8 years. She plans on voting for Hillary Clinton because to her it’s a vote for inclusiveness over hate, experience over fame, an acceptance of inevitable change, and hope for an even better era ahead for all.

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25 thoughts on “Is America Great Now?

  1. chuck snow

    obviously not at this time proof is the two people that are running for the presidency of America. Trump may be an egotistical buffoon and the thought of Hillary as president is only palatable because she looks good compared to Trump.
    How could a truly great nation ever allow potential leadership of their country to stoop to such a low level??

  2. SCWJR

    Your perception that your grandpa’s ultra liberal views stem from a fidelity to your brand of Protestantism is interesting. Also interesting to me is your perception that Hillary Clinton is a “conservative” candidate in the sense that her politics hearken back to a world that is fading away.

    I would answer your question but it seems that your world-view is idiosyncratic and the groundwork for any meaningful response to you would need to come before we discuss whether “America is great now”. All I can say is that, for the time being, America remains a comfortable place to live.

  3. Donnie

    America is on the tipping line between returning to great or spiraling to chaos. I don’t believe either one of these political candidates offers any help or hope. Those two major political parties should be ashamed of themselves for allowing these 2 dopes to advance this far. Obviously she is riding Bill’s coat tail and spending a lot of someone elses money to advance their ego’s. Trump would have probably won this election by a landslide if he would have just smiled and kept his mouth shut. He needs to remember the old saying. Be quite and be assumed a fool or open your mouth and remove all doubt. Every time he speaks it is a rambling adventure to no where. It is a crying shame those two worthless parties cannot be dismantled and we vote for candidates not political money machines.

  4. Gene McQuinn

    YES. .We have the best in the World in Health Care, We have the best in the World of working and living conditions, We have the BEST and MOST POWERFUL military. I served in the 82 nd Airborne. We have the strongest economy. We are first in a lot of other things I am very proud to be an American.

    1. Avg Joe Machine Worker Who Only Asks Not To Be Lied To and Given The Same Shot as Anyone Else

      RE: Gene McQuinn
      October 11, 2016 at 1:39 pm

      YES. .We have the best in the World in Health Care , We have the best in the World of working and living conditions , We have the BEST and MOST POWERFUL military I served in the 82 nd Airborne We have the strongest economy . We are first in a lot of other things . I am very proud to be an American. .


    2. Avg Joe Machine Worker Who Only Asks Not To Be Lied To and Given The Same Shot as Anyone Else

      RE: Gene McQuinn
      October 11, 2016 at 1:39 pm

      YES. .We have the best in the World in Health Care ::::::Really? Have you ever been exposed to the healthcare system in Singapore? I ask that because I disagree with that statement.::::::: , We have the best in the World of working and living conditions ::::::Austrialia’s work life balance is way better as long as you are not aboriginal which is not a far cry from the working and living conditions here in the US if you are a native and you don’t work for a casino. I think it’s Switzerland that has the best work/living conditions in the world right now followed by Sweden or Norway. How did they factor in to your assessment of US is the best no matter what.. which countries are you comparing the US to?::::::, We have the BEST and MOST POWERFUL military ::::::Yes… Here I agree with you. What do you propose we do with that military power? I say we are overspending for over protecting ourselves and would like to see a balance there.:::::: I served in the 82 nd Airborne ::::::for which I am eternally grateful and hope that I can repay your service by making the US a safer place for your children through maintaining that strength of military prowess yet bring it’s fighters back to US shores only. It’s the financial world that wins security for entire populaces.:::::: We have the strongest economy ::::::Under certain circumstances I suppose we do, but definitively, I don’t agree that we do because we are so overexposed to such large classes of labor being wiped out in the next 25 years. I think economically, there are other countries better off depending on how you measure it::::::. We are first in a lot of other things ::::::I’m curious what those are::::::. I am very proud to be an American. ::::::I am proud to be one and I would still be proud if we were not #1 in a few things…. I am proud that we can bash both Hillary and Trump verbally…well we can bash Hillary verbally so long as we are not worried about what her reaction is to us privately vs. publicly and what she really wants to do vs. says she will do… and we can bash Trump verbally so long as we are not a good looking woman who works in any capacity with him and has mouths to feed so has to put up with being groped if she fears offending someone of power over her and what ramifications that can have on her economic future::::::.

  5. Geno

    Great article! As a Christian I have a hard time voting for either of these.
    I am going to hold my nose and vote for Trump for several reasons.
    1st, the Supreme court.
    2nd, the only way to get people out of poverty is to have a job.
    Taxing corporations more is not going to create more jobs.
    We can’t pay the debt down unless people are working.
    3rd, I don’t believe in open borders
    4th, Pence as VP
    5th, I am Pro-Life
    6th, I am not voting for the best debater, I am voting for someone to get the job done.

    Geno DeVandry

  6. Lloyd Graff

    You can focus on the bad, but this is still an amazing place to live. Perhaps the more i teresting question is whether America is a better place today than in the 1950s. Life was simpler then, fewer options, less diversity, shorter lifespan. I like having more choices. Race is more complicated today with Black people quite integrated into American society. My neighbors are Black today. My parents would have never allowed that. To me America is a blessing TODAY. Trump and Clinton are a diversion from the greatness of my country.

    1. Fritz

      So long as the Democrats have us hating Trump, Hillary’s supporters will not force more accountability from her so her flaws will become magnified and manifest. So long as Trump has us hating Hillary, then Trump supporters will look past his severe problems and let him skate free for his violations of personal dignity and his manipulations of people will extend to more classes of humankind many fold.

      If the millions of supporters of each candidate were as vigilant against their Champion’s flaws as they were as vehement against their enemies weaknesses, then we would have two very good candidates. The best of Hillary is very Goldwaterish… which is to say that she was more Ronald Reagan than the Big Gipper was himself in some aspects at one point in her early political life (what happened there??) and the Best of Trump is a resounding success (but where did the best parts of him get gobbled up by the euphoria of leading a people?).

      It is each of US (you and me!!) that allow the flaws of our candidate, whoever it be, to go unchallenged internally within our own debate. For every public bash of the other candidate, each of us should take the real effort to pound our own candidate privately from within ten times over. But that is too much effort… it is so easy to just spew some rage at someone online or at a get-together. We blame the politicians, but it is us who empower their bad habits long-term because of our own blinders short-term.

      They are a reflection of us and we have the power to do something about it.

      There is a difference between being the best that you can be, and being blinded to your faults with the belief that you are the greatest by the mere virtue of being. Each day is a step… Do your best and help others to do their best and we’ll all make America better tomorrow.

  7. John

    The question is: What place is greater than America?

    My cousin who is in his late 60’s complains constantly about the state of our nation and the state that we live in. He complains about how he was raised, about his false teeth, in short he complains about (almost) everything

    It occurred to me to ask him last week “compared to what”? while he was complaining That drew a very long pause……………

    My answer is given my personal skills, abilities and preferences I believe I am better off living where I am at this moment than anyplace else I could be.

    1. Chuck

      To answer your question:

      The best/greatest ________ (fill the blank) is always relative and subjective, and thus, there is no point on trying to convince someone that thinks differently. Nor should you spend time doing so, it’s the best for you, and that is all that really counts.

      If you are happy, wherever you live , then that place is greater than everywhere else, and that is the best thing that you can have!

      Most of the people in the free world would say the same as you about their country, and that is a good thing. There is no perfect place but there si something to love about any place.

  8. Frank Gibbons

    Well said Lloyd America is a great place, but can be made better Hillary has not demonstrated any ability excepto to extort large sums of $$ from those wanting favor

  9. Sam

    America is still the greatest country on the earth. It is not as great as it once was. I think that is behind Trump’s “Make America Great Again”.

    I agree with Gino, will hold my nose vote for Trump and hope we have better choices 4 years from now.

  10. RandyB

    To be completely blunt, my business has been devastated by several things; bad trade policy and high corp taxes, as I have lost work to China,…due to both; the “Affordable” Care act has screwed the device reimbursements and wiped out several of my products; more and more regulation is making it way too difficult to stay in business. For me a Clinton presidency means more of the last 8 yrs. I personally didn’t care for many of the republican candidates because they are selfish, spineless cowards. For me it is the economy and border security and terrorism. She has been on the public teet most of her life. She has NO business experience ergo she know nothing about what us small business people are going through. Trump knows business and knows what we have been losing mfg jobs for the last couple decade. He will finally break the grip and power of the R’s and D’s that only look out for themselves. I am keeping the business open until after the election and then I will decide to keep going, (Trump), or shut it down and go on disability, (Clinton). This is sad, as I have always prided myself on contributing to society and being part of the solution. If she wins, I will just become part of the problem and take my gov handout like the other 50% of the country. As Margaret Thatcher said, “socialism works great until you run out of everyone else’s money”.

  11. Todd

    America is, in fact, still a great place to live. On the other hand, somehow Americans have chosen two of the weakest candidates for the highest office in our land. We have allowed the “big time wrestling” mentality of constant over the top insult, threats and theater to guide us as we interact with people we do not agree with. We have two candidates of proven character (very poor character). People of both political parties need to get a grip and start to think about others with different views less as enemies and more as fellow Americans so we can move forward.

    One thing Donald Trump has done that I did not think possible – he somehow made Hillary seem a little less astoundingly terrible – even to some Republicans.

  12. Charles D. Schultz

    What constitutes greatness? I thank God every day for the blessing of being an American but never kid myself that I am owed a damn thing because of my citizenship. If you expect America to be great you should be doing your part to achieve that goal. You don’t become great by putting others down. You don’t become great by vicariously attaching yourself to others’ achievements either.
    The America you may remember from the 1950/60/70s was never great for everyone. We can’t set the Wayback machine to the 19th century or any other time when “life was more simple.” If you want a Great America be prepared to sacrifice for it like our predecessors did.

  13. Brett

    HI Emily, Thank you for opening up about you and your family, Nice story,
    I truly think that this country is great. I too wish for the old days, and way of life.
    I choose to live my life looking at a glass half full rather than half empty. No one is entitled to anything. We all can live our dreams and build our life and businesses just the way we want it, no mater whose in office, it just takes hard work and the right attitude. I might be just proof of that.

  14. Russ Ethridge

    What a thought provoking piece. A comparison with the past, however, is usually flawed by the softened lens of the passage of time and the mind’s tendency to recall the pleasant over the unpleasant. Life then was often nasty, brutish, and short. Grandpa was bed-ridden after 20 years of hard labor because he couldn’t get a new hip or cataract surgery, and grandma couldn’t complain about domestic violence because, well …. because. The political and social discourse throughout most of history was equally coarse, if not more so. We just hear it now in real time over our TVs and mobile devices from wherever it is uttered all over the world. This isn’t a bad time to be a citizen, but it is an interesting one.

  15. Big Al

    I’m impressed. You people really get it! But remember to pray for all of us. We may need it for 4 years – whoever gets elected.

  16. Art Santana

    For someone that one day crossed the border with 20 bucks in his pocket as his lifetime savings and only the clothes on his back in search of the American dream; this is what I have to show for 35 years later: A great paying job; 6 degreed children, even one PHD; all doing better than dad. 4 wonderful grand children and an amazing American wife. My America is still great; one of my boys spent a tour in Iraq defending my America making dad very proud. We are just reaping the results of mass media (TV, printed, Social) becoming part of our daily lives. Now we are just living the biggest reality show ever. was that second debate a debate or an argument of who is worse? how did we get here?
    If you still have any sense of decency; you will not vote for either candidate. I will leave it blank, at least my conscience will be clear till the next time. But do not put down my America just because a very broken political system finally got what it was coming for a long time. God bless America indeed.

  17. Sophie

    Trump may not be great, but the alternative is Hillary. I can’t vote for Hillary because of her idol Saul Alinsky. Socialism never works for long with large groups of people. Check out history it never ends well. It leads to serfdom! There is always a previlaged class pulling the strings and taking the spoils.
    Go to the library and take out Saul Alinsky’s bible Rules for Radicals which is dedicated to LUCIFER. Remember this is her idol and early mentor.
    She tells lies to get out of the last lie. You know the old story white lies lead to whoppers to cover up the little lies. If you or I destroyed top secret emails after we were supeoned for them to be turned over to the FBI and then smashed our computers and used Bleachbit on anything remaining where would we be now??? Probably not running for President.
    Vote wisely!!!!!

  18. Maury

    Interesting, well written blog, Emily.

    George Will has said something to the effect that you can measure a country’s greatness by the number of people trying to get in vs. the number trying to get out. I think George has identified an important way to measure the appeal of a country. I think America is great. It’s largely up all of us to ensure that more Americans benefit from what our country offers.

  19. Peter

    ” Like many of those around me I no longer make an effort to wave at neighbors or slow down to let people cross the street.”

    Kindness starts with each one of us, try to make an effort and you will be surprised on how it is returned to you.


  20. Bryan

    Yes, America is great now. Still a lot of opportunities if you are willing to work. I work with people from all over the world. Our culture is a HUGE competitive advantage. Do not ever underestimate this. We get the job done without waiting for someone to tell us what to do.


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