Make America Great Again

Apr 10, 2019
By: Jerry A. Goodson
In: Politics

Why does the MAGA hat offend so many people?  Well...

I came across a very interesting answer posed on Quora, "Why does the MAGA hat offend so many people?"  The answer was proffered by Tim Wise, whose tagline lists him as an "author/educator," has a political science degree, and is a former Congressional aide and Federal employee.  

Read Tim Wise's answer to Why does the MAGA hat offend so many people? on Quora

I'll be addressing parts of Tim's answer, which will be indented and in italics.

The answer is rather simple, but the fact that so many folks don’t get why actually speaks to the radically different worlds that folks live in even as we share a country.

The answer really isn't that simple.  For those offended, it would seem rather straight forward.  While I disagree with the viewpoint Tim presented, I do have to acknowledge it was accurate.  He did an excellent job of explaining why people are offended.

To say Make America Great Again implies that a) once upon a time — unspecified as to when — America was great; but then b) something happened that made it not so. But this begs the question, exactly when was America great, and for whom?

America (as in the United States of America) is a very prosperous country.  Due to that prosperity, our society is driven more by social issues than on economic issues.  There are many analogies and comparisons that can be (and has been) made on the disparity between Republicans and Democrats, conservatives and liberals, and other stereotypical polarized labeled groups... each "side" generating pejorative rhetoric about the other.  That proverbial polarized gap is in no danger of getting any narrower in the path we're on.

Now for lots of Trump supporters that may seem like a crazy question, but let me tell you who it’s not crazy for: it’s not crazy for black people, or people of color generally. Because there was never a time when America was “greater” for them. It’s not a crazy question for LGBTQ folks, because there was never a time when America was greater for them.  Same thing for religious minorities, and really even women as women. After all, it wasn’t until the Equal Credit Opportunity Act (passed in the early 70s) that most women could even get credit from banks in their own names without a husband or father to vouch for them.

These statements are true only as far as the external social sense.  Our society didn't favor racial minorities or the sexually eccentric and socially deviant.  

 In other words, these folks want to know, understandably, what time period MAGA folks are talking about. Certainly to believe — as many of them admit when asked this question — that the 1950s America was the time in question is inherently offensive to people of color. We were a formal system of apartheid and fully institutionalized white supremacy at that time. No greatness there.

Only there was!  Even for the racial minorities, the sexually eccentric, the socially deviant, women, and every other suppressed peoples... the 1950s were when we were, economically, GREAT!  In spite of the social hurdles and atrocities, we all felt a common pride to be an American.  Single-parent homes were the exception, not the rule.  Step-parents were the exception, not the rule.  Eating dinner every evening, as a family, was the norm.  "Made in the USA" was the norm.  Our economy didn't require both parents to work just to make ends meet (which didn't require women to be able to get credit in their own name).  With the Great Depression fresh on everyone's mind, families were a lot more frugal in their spending.  The social and family bonds were a lot stronger, back then.  

Is this what Donald Trump was striving for in his "Make America Great Again" campaign?  Most certainly not.  I just simply refuted the statement there was "no greatness there."

Are we talking about the Reagan years? Well, for most folks in those years, income stagnated, that was the period when the hollowing out of American manufacturing really took off, the war on drugs resulted in mass incarceration of non-violent offenders, and tax cuts for the wealthy failed to trickle down but began the steep climb of inequality that has continued since. So that wasn’t great either.

The Reagan Era, economically, was a recovery period.  These statements aren't entirely historically accurate regarding American manufacturing, and the author shifted his focus from social issues to economic issues in his reasoning.  While we were nowhere near where we are today, socially, many societal improvements had been made by the 1980s compared to the 1950s in regards to civil rights and racial equality.  We still had a long way to go, and we have since come a long way.  However, economically, we were better off in the 1950s than we were in the 1980s.  

Basically the problem with MAGA hats is the way they (and the slogan itself) essentially erase the lived experiences of millions of people for whom those “good old days” were horrible.

It's not such a basic problem, but rather a manufactured one.  In short, the offense is an admission of narrow-mindedness of believing something is what it isn't.  It's a result of a shift in attitude of Americans, as a society, of "what's in it for me," as opposed to the 1950s attitude of "we're all in this together."  We've become a country of "us vs. them," and that societal attitude is what made it so easy to distort the idea of making America great again.  It's impossible for the "offended" to accept that having a desire for economic prosperity for our country applies to them, equally, regardless of the color of their skin, their sexual preferences or practices, their religion, their political affiliation, etc.  

Offense to "Make America Great Again" is a testament to the narrow-mindedness in not (either by refusal or inability) comprehending Donald Trump is about succeeding, financially.  He had no social agenda when he ran for president, he only had an economic agenda.  

Nostalgia for periods of time in which millions of people were treated every day like second class citizens, is by definition offensive, and it takes a profound amount of privilege and historical ignorance not to understand that.

Privilege?  I had the privilege of experiencing eating dinner at my grandparent's table... dinner that my grandmother cooked.  She did so every evening.  She didn't work, my grandfather did.  The family discussions emboldened a certain family bond that's pretty much non-existent today.  I had the privilege of reading out of her encyclopedia set she bought from some door-to-door salesman.  I had the privilege of reading and learning about 1950s Civics.  I had the privilege of learning a good work ethic.  I had the privilege of discipline when I did wrong.  I had the privilege of not just learning how to read, but reading comprehension.  I had the privilege of being deployed to third-world countries where I got to see, first hand, what it was like for people who couldn't care less about the social issues we fight over, but rather when they were going to get to eat next.

The "nostalgia" isn't for our social darkness of periods past, but rather our economic strength.  There's nothing offensive about that, and it takes a profound amount of self-centeredness and civics ignorance not to understand that.

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