Whether or not you believe in making America great again, it's pretty clear right now that things, they ain't so great.

From a sputtering economy to burgeoning racial unrest, from a spiking pandemic (if you believe in that sort of thing) to a worsening climate (ditto), from our present-day divisiveness to our uncertain future, one can only wonder: how did it come to this?

The mess we're in now didn't start this year. And, believe it or not, it didn't start four years ago. No, today we're reaping a harvest of problems that have been swept under the rug for decades, if not centuries. And that rug is falling apart.

It took a long time to build up this country. Yet our efforts to tear it apart seem to be moving at a much faster pace. So how, you may wonder, does one destroy America? Here, then, is a primer on how to dismantle a nation in 12 easy steps:

• Create the greatest country the world has ever known, but compromise on one key issue: slavery. And then allow the injustice that springs from that decision to continue to haunt the nation for the next two-and-half centuries.

• Create a country built on tired, poor huddled masses yearning to breathe free, a system which works pretty well for the first 100 or so years, then spend the next 100 or so trying to figure out how to close the barn door a bit, and, finally, the last four unable to find a compromise between opening it up completely to let everyone in and building a wall across it to keep everyone out.

• Defeat Germany and Japan in World War II. Then rebuild their countries. Keep South Korea from being overrun by the North. Then rebuild their country. Bolster up South Vietnam with billions in arms, material and cash. Then lose the entire investment. Invade Iraq. Then rebuild their country. Invade Afghanistan. Then spend the next 19 years rebuilding and policing their country. All this over the course of 75 years, while our own infrastructure slowly falls apart.

• Allow more and more of the nation's wealth to trickle into the pockets of fewer and fewer people. Then establish laws to make sure it stays there. Put more and more of a tax burden on the middle class, forcing it to blame either the entitled rich or entitlements to the poor for its ever-diminishing slice of the American pie.

• Cut pay and benefits of workers in the private sector to a minimum, all while compensating CEOs at a rate nearly 300 times higher than the wage of an average employee – even when that company is losing money, downsizing or going bankrupt.

• Create fabulous pay and benefits for workers in the public sector, along with mathematically unsustainable pension packages that will enable them to retire years earlier than their private-sector counterparts. Have circuit and state supreme court judges (who draw pensions from those same plans) uphold them as constitutionally inviolate.

• Raise children to take great pride in their own uniqueness, but neglect to teach them humility. Shelter them from competition while praising them for mere participation. Above all, provide them with instant gratification for all their wants and needs. And then wonder why they turn on you when they become adults.

• Ignore or ridicule any scientific explanation of how the increase in temperature, pollution and population is affecting the environment. Downplay this current pandemic thing as nothing more than the common flu. Dismiss mask wearing and social distancing as unpatriotic and stupid.

• Create a culture of divisiveness that highlights only the differences between men and women, old and young, right and left, black and white, straight and gay and any other category that can be exploited. Dismiss the concept of "one nation, one people" as another relic of our failed past.

• Judge those who came before us by today's standards without fully understanding their challenges. Rewrite the past without reading history. Preserve myths that are blatantly false. Condemn those who shouldn't be condemned; defend those who shouldn't be defended.

• Allow political activity to be dominated by fringe elements from the far right and far left, and force the rest of the country to choose between one or the other. Label all Republicans as fascists and all Democrats as communists. Discourage any interaction between the two camps. Dismiss compromise as weakness.

• Finally, utilize the greatest advances in history – technologies raising science, medicine and communication to unimaginable heights – merely to spread lies, rumors and cat videos via cell phone.

And it's those damn cat videos that will finally do us in.

• Bill Wimbiscus is a former reporter and editor at The Herald-News.

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