MAGA hat

by Jamison Koehler on October 12, 2020
Nonnie Moore painting

It is a photograph of an older relative wearing a red MAGA hat.  It is a man I have looked up to my entire life, and the photograph is posted on our family-only Facebook page.  

It is one of the most upsetting photographs I have ever seen.

***

You can claim all sorts of reasons to support Trump.

He isn’t Hillary Clinton?  So true.  And what about her emails?

He is not a politician?  Maybe not by profession, but never, ever have we had a president so completely driven by political self-interest.  It is not a “libtard” such as me saying this.  These are Trump’s own people, the people he chose to associate himself with, who say this:  Michael Cohen and John Bolton, for example.  

He will bring business acumen to our government?  Hardly.  Trump was a failed businessman and publicity-seeking con-artist before Mark Burnett re-invented him for The Apprentice.  His handling of the Covid-19 virus is proof that he and his people are utter amateurs.  

He will drain the swamp?  Are you kidding me?  Never before have we witnessed so much naked self-dealing and corruption.  How many members of his administration have resigned in disgrace? We have replaced the swamp with a cesspool.  

He will restore America’s reputation internationally?  Not at all.  We have embraced dictators and alienated our allies. People laugh at us when they are not pitying us.  

And don’t get me started on climate change, Obamacare, Iran, immigration, tax reform, DACA, and on and on.  I oppose virtually every decision this man has made as president.  

***

Wearing a MAGA hat goes beyond simple support.  It takes things to a different level.  It marks the transition from passive support to active endorsement.  It means you have drunk the Koolaid.  

I cringe whenever I see someone wearing that symbol of waning privilege.  

You have the older white men, smug with their insecurity and bigotry. And then you have the gawky, pimply white teenage boys visiting the nation’s Capitol on their spring school trip.    

The hats are brand new, and you know that the kids have just bought them at one of the kiosks on the mall.  Maybe it makes them feel edgy and cool.  But what message does their wearing it send to their black schoolmates?   

And what is the message anyway?  Make America Great Again.  As opposed to when?  When is this glorious time we are supposed to pine for?

Do we go back to before the civil war?  How about to the pre-Civil Rights era?  To the days before black people and women could vote?  To two world wars?  To the civil unrest of the 60s and 70s with the U.S. overextended in Vietnam?  To two wars in Iraq?  

And better than what?  Better than Clinton or Bush?  Or just better than when we had our first black president?  

Anyone who knows me can attest to the fact that I am as patriotic as the next person.  Or at least I used to be until I found out that, according to Nate Silver, 43% of our countrymen continue to support a narcissistic, petty and ignorant racist who sleeps with porn stars and brags about groping women.

But I have always loved this country more for its potential than for its past. Later has always been better than earlier.  We are still a work in progress, still figuring things out.  Or at least I thought so until we took this enormous step backward. 

***

A family member who finds out I am upset about the photo reaches out to me.  I gave him the hat, she tells me.  He likes it.  

The implication of her message is that I should chill out, not take everything so seriously. 

I take a deep breath.  I try to relax.  Maybe I myself am too intolerant.  Too sensitive.  Too political.  Too quick to take offense. But to me these are not light-hearted, joking moments.  As far as I am concerned, my relative might as well have been wearing a confederate flag.  The moment he put on that hat, he became for me one of those campaign-rally people waving signs, jeering at reporters, and laughing at Trump’s cruel taunts.

15 Comments on “MAGA hat

  1. I, the person wearing the MAGA hat in the photo, disagree. I am not one for pushing my views on anyone, not like many teachers at my high school. Jamison will recall wearing a “Mueller Time” tee shirt a few Thanksgivings ago with other family members. I did not protest. However nobody is as bad as our President is made out to be. So who is making him out to be that bad and why? There’s the news story, in my opinion. I voted Obama first go around, and then wrote in Ron Paul. I will vote Donald Trump this November but perhaps be relieved for my brother’s health if Biden and the Democrats actually win. It is not the political party that will save our democracy just as it isn’t Bill Gates, George Soros, or the Rothchilds who will destroy it. Nor will it be, to try to see things through my brother’s eyes, the 43% of our countrymen (including myself, apparently) supporting the president who will destroy it. Whatever the winning party does can be undone by the next Administration. So our fate depends on you and me and every other individual in our country who can think, act and speak freely. As my wife, who came here from Argentina at the age of four said, a people will only get the leader they deserve. It depends on how we communicate with each other, on our ability to stand up for not only our rights but the rights of others as well. The real spirit of America is at stake not in who wins the election but in how we deal with diversity and each other. We will lose if we allow ourselves to be made to fear diversity, fear each other and even fear the responsibility that comes with being a free nation under God with liberty and justice for all. King George laughed at the Colonies when they stood up for Independence. I do not pay much attention if European Nations laugh at us today. Their leaders will laugh more if we lose our freedoms. The freedoms of their people depend on us maintaining ours. If Democracy is undermined here, it will then be undermined everywhere because there will be nobody able to stop it. If we, the people, are strong, independent, and courageous we can endure any government, be worthy of our freedoms and create the future we want. As a side note, when stopping along the way to Boston to walk the Freedom Trail my wife spoke to a number of people to ask if it would be okay with them if she wore her hat. No one objected. They all smiled and said everyone should be able to express themselves freely or it’s just a hat. Often the conversation ended in Spanish with smiles and obvious affinity. Then, the few brief moments I donned the hat for a photo along the Freedom Trail before meeting up with our nephew for the photo in question (me with my MAGA hat and Peter with a homemade Biden sign) two couples approached me to thank me. Maybe there is more tolerance and love among us as a people than the media makes there out to be. But to bring this all to a close, I agree with my brother on fundamentals. He is a patriot. He wants to make right the wrongs from our past. He does see what we can become as a nation and is willing to not just speak out for it but work for it. I am sorry, dear brother, for the disillusionment my photo may have caused you. But you are the one who loves a good argument and who would not tolerate the cowardice I would betray in not speaking my views clearly and honestly. I only hope that somehow I can still earn and deserve the respect you have always given me.

  2. I grew up on Long island New York . Donald Trump was a joke always in the tabloids with his failed businesses, affairs and his foul mouth. New Yorkers despised him bc they knew his lack of character. My dad a life long republican, WW II vet and small businessman despised Trump. Thought him a crass and a big phony.
    Trump had unprotected sex with a porn star 5 days after his 3rd wife gave birth to his 5th child. Then of course lied about it, paid off the woman and then lied on his taxes about the payment.
    He’s the only president who hasn’t released his tax returns bc he has something illegal to hide and he knows it. He has no moral compass whatsoever. Who cares what he says or what he promises? He has no credibility.
    As a nurse and with a husband who is an ER doctor, his outrageous reckless behavior and outright lies regarding Covid are unconscionable. My husband is exposed to Covid on a regular basis. Trump showed complete disregard to our healthcare workers who have to deal with the consequences of his big fat lying ignorant mouth. He is completely amoral and has denigrated the honor of U.S. presidency.
    He is clinging to the presidency to avoid jail. Justice will prevail and Trump will not.

  3. Three cheers for Jamison Koehler who not only has the gumption to speak out freely but also has the courage to post on his own blog his brother’s opposing views! Impressive!

  4. 🙁 I guess we all have limits of our decency. I hope we see things get better.

  5. Anyone who votes for Donald trump must agree with his policies: separating children from their parents at the border and then not keeping any records that would identify who the children belong to, lying about the family separation policy and blaming Obama for creating the detention facilities (that were used for single men and for short stays for unaccompanied minors); reversing regulations that protect our air, water and environment in favor of big business and profits, promoting coal and other damaging energy sources, lying to miners and others about bringing back coal, decreasing their black lung benefits, opening protected lands and resources to fracking, mining and other damaging exploration all in the name of profits and climate science denial; lying about bringing back manufacturing and blaming immigrants and global trade for manufacturing loss rather than acknowledging that automation is the reason for a decrease in manufacturing; lying to the american people about the dangerousness of Covid-19 and using it as a means to decrease the number of democratic votes – as long as it was harming blue states it was an effective means of decreasing blue votes – Kushner said it out loud; mismanaging the government’s role in coordinating the stockpile of PPE so that all states could avail themselves of supplies as the need arose, selling off our PPE to China and Russia, rather than supply our own states, leaving states to fight each other for PPE supplies, badmouthing governors who disagreed with him, formenting hate in states whose governors implemented policies to keep their citizens safe; Refusing to wear a mask and downplaying the disease and the need to wear a mask, lying about what the experts were telling him and instead promoting quack claims about non-existent cures including drinking or injecting bleach and the poisonous oleander supplement hawked by the my pillow nutbag; promoting white supremacy, violence and hate by refusing to criticize neo-nazis, groups like the proud boys, militias and others; stacking the court with unqualified judges who were chosen only because of their extreme conservative views; Assaulting more than 20 women throughout the course of his adult life and bragging about it, cheating on his spouses repeatedly; cheating on his taxes; violating the emoluments clause repeatedly by receiving money from foreign governments to whom he has provided favorable treatment; charging our secret service hundreds of thousands of dollars to accompany him and his spawn to his resorts for activities – some of which are related to his self-promotion; lying about giving active duty service members a raise, even though they get annual raises; taking money from housing and other services for military members so that he could build a wall that was supposedly going to be paid for by Mexico (he’s built 46 miles); besmirching the reputations of everyone who has ever worked in his administration; fighting to kill the ACA and its pre-existing conditions requirement and lying about having a better health care plan where no such plan exists; planning to destroy the social security system and lying about it; accepting Russian help to win the 2016 election and doing it again and lying about it; refusing to take any significant action to protect election security but instead attempting to hobble and dismantle the post office to interfere with mail in voting in the middle of a pandemic that has killed over 200,000 people; encouraging militias and armed persons to “monitor the polling places” for signs of fraud; dragging the office of the president into the mud by his disrespectful and deceitful words and actions.

    This list is only a fraction of trump’s destruction of our democracy.

    There is no lower human being than trump and those who have and continue to enable him.

    If you support trump you are no better than he is.

  6. Reading Ray’s comment in response to his brother’s article just makes me think, “this world could use a lot more people like Ray”. The tolerance, the admiration and the love in his response is so evident, and all without apologizing for his beliefs.
    I support freedom of speech and I respect both sides’ right to express their views. We, the people, need to stand together, even when (perhaps especially when) we are divided by our beliefs.

  7. Ms. Westcott:

    Thank you for your comment.

    As you can imagine, there is no one who loves Ray more than I do. He is my older brother and I love and admire him very much. It also brings me great pleasure to see that my brother is in a community in which he is so valued and cherished. Thank you for coming to his defense.

    But that is not what this post was about.

    There has been a lot of discussion about this blog entry here but even more so on social media. And it is noteworthy that Trump supporters rush to defend Ray and his beliefs. But not one of them has said a word in defense of Trump.

    I gave a long list of why I believe Trump is a truly horrible president. Others have done the same. In a comment directly above yours, for example,”Mrs. Bluebell” gave an exhaustive list of reasons for her beliefs. I assume you read my entry and her comment before weighing in. And yet you do not dispute what she, I and others have said. Nor do you offer any arguments that support Trump. It is all about feelings and the unfairness of criticizing Ray for his beliefs.

    Platitudes about supporting free speech mean nothing to me. Is this harsh? Yes. But the stakes are enormous.

    It is also hard to see how anyone who supports free speech could support Trump. After all, this is the man who attacks anyone in the media who doesn’t agree with him as the “enemy of the people,” who seeks to imprison his political opponents, who refuses to promise to abide by the results of the election, and on and on. These are the actions of a tyrant, not a champion of the First Amendment.

    The problem I have with arguing with anyone who supports Trump is that I never hear anything beyond platitudes and generalities. If you don’t give me specifics, I may suspect you do not have any.

    Ray talks about meeting with strangers in Boston who did not object to his wearing the hat. He seems to suggest I should adopt a similar posture of tolerance. This is disingenuous. For one thing, the political persuasion of these people was not clear. For all we know, they are fierce Trump supporters. For another, if I were one of the strangers he encountered, I too would say do whatever you want. After all, who cares what a bunch of strangers think? It is different when these beliefs are coming from someone you care about. Maybe we hold those we love to a higher standard.

    Ray also suggests that sometimes a hat is just a hat. All I can say here is this: A confederate flag is just a flag. A swastika is just a swastika.

  8. Dearest Mr. Jamison,
    I know there is much love in your heart. But I feel that if you want to convince people or enlighten them in any way it does not work if you do it by trying to destroy what they believe. It will not work on free minds that choose to think for themselves. And that is the spirit of America! We gained our freedom from England and in that we were united in our concept of freedom. Then we began to bicker amongst ourselves . We should work on that as a nation. There is also the possibility that if we are kept divided as a country we will never be as strong as we could be. But who would benefit from having the United States become weak followers instead of world leaders? One great leader once said, “A House divided against itself cannot stand”. This is true in many ways. We fight ourselves and in doing do we become weaker. We must learn to communicate with each other with tolerance and with love. I for one strive to do that. I respect your views. I celebrate the fact that we are free enough to discuss them and challenge each other. That is America! I don’t feel we should try to force our opinions on others. That’s not freedom! I understand if you do not post this. My wish is to unite us more in a much truer agreement. We are a free nation. A nation of free thinkers! And so we will remain!

  9. Monica:

    Thank you for your comments. I agree with everything you said. One hundred percent.

    But I have trouble squaring what you have said with your support for Trump. Trump has not done anything to bring us together. Just look at what he says on twitter. Every other tweet is something that is targeted at the Democrats. I am a Democrat, and I hardly recognize myself or the leaders of my party from what he says. He talks about America as if America only includes the red states.

    Trump’s problem is that he is so thin-skinned. He cannot hear criticism without punching back. A true leader wouldn’t whine about how unfair everything is. He would not congratulate himself all the time. He would take responsibility. In other words, he would act like an adult.

    The American people, I believe, are very forgiving. They want to believe in their leadership. They want to give people the benefit of the doubt. We saw how support for Trump grew every time he was able to suppress his inner child and act like a human being. The problem is that he was never able to sustain that. He quickly reverted to name-calling. I mean, come on. Really? Pocahantas. Lying Ted. Liddle Marco. Crazy Nancy. And on and on. You wouldn’t tolerate if one of your children acted like that. Why do you do it when it is the president of the United States? And how is that attempting to bring us together?

  10. Hello Jamie,
    I really liked your last message and I do agree with so much of what you said. To make general statements that are hurtful is wrong no matter which party makes them, Republicans or Democrats. If you could not recognize yourself by his words then he has not really grasped the true spirit of all Democrats. I do not defend his manner of communicating. He could stand some improvement. But Jamie consider this: despite his unfortunate communication skills, he may not be the one dividing our country.

  11. Thank you for your response.

    It’s true, I didn’t come to Trump’s defense. I have my reasons to vote the way I vote, and you have yours. You appear to have your mind firmly made up as to your political beliefs and I respect that. I feel no need to try to change your mind. You may believe that I lack specific reasons to feel the way I do. Though untrue, I don’t think listing them here would be productive.

    I wasn’t going to comment at all, except for the fact that I was so moved by Ray’s response, I was compelled to express my wish to have more people like him in this world. That is all.

  12. Ms. Westcott:

    On that we are in complete agreement!

  13. I am quite perplexed. A prior post, possibly (?) in support of Trump, said “‘A House divided against itself cannot stand.’ This is true in many ways. We fight ourselves and in doing so we become weaker.”

    Isn’t that Trump’s mission – divide, create controversy, call people names, constantly belittle them – (example early on – Senator John McCain.)

    We need to become unified and Trump will not have that. He seems to take pride in polarizing us into good v. bad. The bad guys are wimps who wear masks and fear COVID. His “good” guys want to MAGA and take back the country from those brown folks.

    Thanks, Stephen Miller, you have his ear and have caused us to fear a civil war when, after the election on January 20, Trump’s “Brown Shirts” and “Proud Boys,” after standing back and standing by, will step up to the plate and surround the White House with their AK-47’s pointed out at the crowds.

    Will it all will get worse between Nov 3 and Jan 20 as he, and his faithful MAGAs, pour gasoline on the fires, blaming Biden and the Democrats for their having to take the country back?

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