Yes, You Can Wear a MAGA Hat and Still ‘Love Thy Neighbor’

by Christopher Paslay

Zack Ford, a writer for Think Progress, says you can’t wear a MAGA hat and still be a loving person.  I respectfully disagree.

Zack Ford, an LGBT advocate who covers the Trump administration for Think Progress, is having trouble feeling the MAGA love.  Recently, Zack broke off a friendship with an old high school acquaintance because the woman posted a picture of herself on Facebook wearing a MAGA hat while holding her daughter in her lap.  Although Zack and this woman, who is an evangelical Christian who believes in traditional marriage, had respectful disagreements in the past, seeing the woman “proudly wearing a MAGA hat in public – and with her daughter no less,” was too much for this man to take.  

According to Zack’s newsletter, Fording the River Styx:

It’s not just a hat. It’s a symbol of all of the oppression and injustice the Trump administration is responsible for. It’s an endorsement of caging kids, banning Muslims, firing trans people, and dozens of other ways Trump has undermined our democracy – up to and including the fascist military display that graced the National Mall last night. More than anything, “MAGA” represents the idea that some human lives are worth more than others.

Now, that’s a lot of stuff to project onto a hat.  Especially when these projections are not totally accurate representations of reality. Trump doesn’t endorse caging kids or separating families, but has signed an executive order to keep illegal immigrant families together during the detention process (the law that prohibits minors from being held in adult detention centers has been on the books for decades, which is why Trump has been fighting so hard to pass legislation that will keep children and families safe by ensuring immigrants and refugees come through legal ports of entry).  

Trump never banned Muslims, either.  The countries on his travel ban were the exact same countries on President Obama’s list, which included two non-Muslim nations and excluded Indonesia, which has over 225 million Muslims, more than any other country in the world.  In 2018 the Supreme Court agreed with the legality of the ban, and upheld Trump’s executive order.  As for the statement of a “fascist military display that graced the National Mall” on Independence Day, Zack should watch Trump’s full “Salute to America” on YouTube, which is actually pretty cool.  I don’t consider celebrating the history behind the birth of our great nation, as well as honoring the brave men and women who died for our freedom, “fascist.”  I consider it patriotic, but that’s just me.

Zack Ford (Twitter)

Still, if Zack wants to portray these events in a bitter, resentful and negative light, that’s his prerogative. His life experiences shape the seeds of his perceptions, and he has every right to water these seeds.  As the French novelist Anaïs Nin said, “We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.”  So touché, Zack.  Project all of this stuff onto the MAGA hat, and get yourself worked into a tizzy.     

But back to Zack’s inability to tolerate his friend’s MAGA hat:

I explained all of this to my old friend. To those inclined to reject the humanity of any particular group, a MAGA hat is a symbol of affirmation – license and encouragement to continue holding those beliefs. To members of those many rejected groups, it’s a threat – a warning that such prejudice is welcome in that person’s vicinity (and may come from them directly). It’s unacceptable to me to be subjected to that symbol from someone with whom I hypothetically have mutual trust.

So Zack gave the woman an ultimatum: he’d end their friendship, unless she apologized for wearing the MAGA hat and promised to never post it on his social media feed again.  At this point Zack’s friend defended herself, saying she was equally offended by the Pride flag, which Zack said in turn was a “false equivalency,” because the MAGA hat was a symbol of “exclusion,” and the Pride flag was a symbol of “inclusion.”  Not that a single group of people has ever been prevented from voting for Trump or supporting his MAGA agenda.  In fact, the number of blacks and Hispanics backing Trump is steadily rising, as minority unemployment levels are the lowest in American history.  The same goes for American Muslims and legal immigrants: many are glad Trump is keeping them safe from terrorists and reserving jobs for actual citizens.  As for the “inclusiveness” of the Pride flag, I don’t think those who support traditional marriage – like Christian baker Jack Phillips or Chick-fil-A – are invited to the rainbow party.  

Anyway, back to Zack’s disdain for the MAGA hat:

We have free speech, but we don’t have freedom from accountability for that speech. Anyone reading this is free to wear a MAGA hat, but you can’t both wear a MAGA hat and claim to “love thy neighbor.” You can’t both wear a MAGA hat and claim to respect me or millions of other Americans. You can’t both wear a MAGA hat and believe that you’re not reinforcing hate and oppression against others. We’re way too far past such naivete at this point, and I certainly want no part in helping you to convince yourself otherwise.

That’s the best part of Zack’s letter: We’re way too far past such naivete at this point, and I certainly want no part in helping you to convince yourself otherwise.  Loose translation: Zack’s right, and everyone who disagrees with him is wrong.  Period.  End of discussion.  He doesn’t really want to have a dialogue, anyway.  He wants a monologue, a lecture, where he does all the talking and those in MAGA hats do all the listening.  Where he not only gets to define who he is and what his beliefs are, but where he also gets to define MAGA people and their beliefs, too.  See, folks like Zack want total control of the conversation.  And right now, Zack’s telling everyone that Trump’s a racist pig, and so are his supporters, and so is that stupid, maddening MAGA hat.

So don’t wear it.  Ever.

The nerve of this guy, really. But I’m not here to hate.  I’m not here to project anger and division and bitterness onto the world like Zack, I’m here to love.  If you’re reading this, Zack, allow me to apologize on behalf of the 63 million people who voted for Trump, including your old high school friend. We’re sorry, brother.  We really are.  We’re sorry you’re so infuriated by a hat, and that when you see this hat, you have the kind of meltdown that warrants the breaking up of a friendship that goes all the way back to high school (yes, the woman chose the hat over her friendship with Zack).  We’re sorry you project so much contempt and antipathy onto this hat, so much anguish and pain.    

But there is another way.  It’s the way of Gandhi, and the Buddha, and Jesus, and Martin Luther King.  You could open yourself to MAGA people like us, and actually listen to what we have to say.  And when I say listen, I mean really listen, as in seeking first to understand, and then be understood.  As in not projecting all your own baggage onto others, or onto a hat, or onto anything else.  As in not making broad generalizations about tens of millions of people, or stereotyping every MAGA hat wearer as some hateful bigot, despite the fact some may exist. I mean this with all due respect, because I don’t know you from Adam, and all I have is this letter you posted on your blog.  But know this: we’re probably the same, you and I.  We both love our neighbors and want to help make the world a better place.           

Trump people are good people, at least most of us are.  We’re not “reinforcing hate and oppression against others,” like you insist.  And there is more than one interpretation of that red hat, believe it or not.  To me, MAGA is about loving America, and freedom, and God, and the Constitution.  It’s about doing everything we can to improve the country for ALL people of ALL backgrounds, no matter their race, religion, gender, or sexuality.          

But if you want to see the MAGA hat as hateful and oppressive, that’s your right, and I respect that.  Just know there are millions of Americans, myself and your old high school friend included, who see the MAGA hat much, much differently, and you should respect that, too.                  

God bless you, Zack. May you find peace in the world and may your life go well.

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