With the death of Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia, who viewed the 229-year-old U.S. Constitution as a sacred and unchangeable text, and with Donald Trump still riding high in the polls as we head into the South Carolina Republican primary and Nevada caucus, it’s a good time to ask just how great the American past was.

Trump’s campaign slogan, of course, is “Make America Great, Again.” But the appeal of such a slogan goes far beyond Trump supporters. There does seem to be a broader nostalgia out there for...well, what exactly? That’s where things get tricky.

Let’s begin with the obvious. It’s been only 100 years now since half of the American population -- women -- was even allowed to walk into a voting booth. It remains a hot topic of debate whether or not women have achieved anything close to a more general kind of equality.

We also know African Americans essentially lived under a state of apartheid until the late 1960s, at least in the South.

But for the nostalgists out there, such concepts seem like something drab, boring facts out of a high school social studies class. And such trivia doesn’t change the fact that (as a Trump supporter would say) we are a nation teetering on the brink of some kind of anarchy.

Or, more likely, we’ve already fallen off of an anarchical cliff. What with our nation awash in greedy, lazy and violent immigrants. With our “sacred” Constitution under attack by un-patriotic despots and out institutions run by feckless, politically correct “p***ies.”

For the fun of it, let’s stick with a century ago. Just how “great” was America in 1916?

Irish Americans should know better than anyone else the kind of activities immigrants were up to back then. It was in 1916 that no small amount of guns and money were collected and shipped from New York and other major American cities so that foreigners -- the Irish -- could launch a war against a country many considered an American ally -- Great Britain.

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As we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Easter Rising in April, it positively boggles the mind to even consider what would happen today if an immigrant group engaged in similar activity. What would Trump -- who has already dismissed the Pope as “political,” which is nearly as observant as calling the pontiff “religious” -- say if Muslims or Mexicans were collecting guns and cash to launch a rebellion today?

It was also in 1916 that New Yorkers awoke to a terrifying explosion in the harbor on Black Tom island. The explosion killed seven people, caused millions of dollars in damage and was almost certainly caused by German immigrant agents out to intimidate America and make sure it stayed neutral during World War I.

In fact, the subsequent investigation into the Black Tom island explosion revealed all sorts of violent activities amongst America’s Irish, German and other immigrant communities.

Look no further than Tyrone native Joseph McGarrity, who settled in Philadelphia and was a key figure in the so-called “Hindu-German conspiracy,” which involved the shipment of arms from New York to San Diego to India, again to be used against Britain. The only trouble was that this was also a clear violation of America’s neutrality. (It came to light in 1915.)

And it certainly wasn’t only the Irish. New York’s immigrant communities were crawling with anarchists and communists of all stripes, many of whom were dedicated to violence in order to achieve their goals.

There was a bombing (also in 1915) at the U.S. Capitol building hatched by a German immigrant, who also attempted to take the life of millionaire J.P. Morgan on Long Island. Now that’s what I call class warfare!

Is this when America was great?

Actually, I would say yes.

Because then -- as now -- America is much too strong to be brought low by such turmoil and unrest.

It’s kind of funny how these patriots who want to make America great “again” know so little about its past, and are unable to see how great it still is now.

* Contacts Sidewalks tdeignan0@blogspot.com.

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