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Your Friend’s MAGA Hat Is Not Your Enemy

OMG: Marianne Williamson is right about something.
July 9, 2019
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(1) Friendship

ThinkProgress writer Zack Ford has an essay over at his Substack about the ending of a friendship. I don’t want to prejudice you, so I’ll just quote it at length before we talk about it:

As I was browsing Facebook last night, I saw a picture of an old high school friend celebrating the Fourth of July with her daughter on her lap. She was wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat.Now, this friend and her family are evangelical Christians, and I’ve definitely disagreed with them on many things. But we’ve had respectful conversations about many topics in the past, even on the very personal issue of their anti-gay beliefs, and I believed that there was still mutual respect despite these significant disagreements. I’ve even stayed in their home in the past. But seeing her proudly wearing a MAGA hat in public — and with her daughter no less — violated this accord deeply.

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.

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.

I gave my friend an ultimatum. I told her I wouldn’t unfriend her so long as she apologized for wearing the hat and promised me I wouldn’t have to see it in my feed again. When she claimed I was trying to police her beliefs, I corrected her, pointing out that my conditions only regarded the hat, not her position on any particular issue. When she claimed that she’s equally offended by the Pride flag, I corrected her again, explaining that objecting to a symbol of inclusion is in no way comparable to objecting to a symbol of exclusion and that she was making a false equivalency. When she said, “If I can’t have an opinion about something then I guess I don’t really live in a free country,” I knew there was no longer enough common ground for us to have a relationship.

This is no way to live.

Look, the MAGA hat has become a political statement. I think that much is clear. And it’s a statement different than wearing an “I Like Ike” button. In fact, it’s freighted with so much meaning that, in isolation, it’s impossible to say, exactly, it’s saying.

When one of the torch bearers in Charlottesville wears a MAGA hat, it’s pretty obvious they’re talking about white nationalism. When the Covington kid at March for Life wears the MAGA hat then he’s either talking about abortion or owning the libs or maybe just being transgressive and punk af, as teenage kids are wont to do.

When someone you’ve known since you were a kid—someone who you’re close enough with to have stayed at their house and played with their children—wears a MAGA hat in a random picture they post to Facebook it could mean just about anything.

In this case, I’d be willing to bet $5 it meant nothing.

But to insist that it means exactly what you think it means is irrational and unhealthy and not good for anyone.

The one thing most of us agree on is that America is a mess right now. People who supported Trump said that it was “American carnage” just 36 months ago. People who oppose Trump said that it was Trump.

Our political moment is unique because everyone, on all sides, seems to think that they’re losing and are trapped on Flight 93, all the time. Even when their side is, objectively, winning.

We don’t get out of this hole by calling out our friends and issuing ultimatums about “unfriending” them.

We do it with charity and love.

God help me, but Marianne Williamson isn’t wrong about that.

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2. Unpopular Opinions

I do not like the U.S. women’s soccer team.

I like the Mia Hamm incarnation. I’ve like other versions of the team.

But this squad? No thanks. Hard pass.

Allow me to give you the thumbnail sketch of why:

Women’s soccer in the United States is the dominant version of that sport in the world. We have the biggest pool of players (because literally everyone plays soccer at age 5). We have the best infrastructure. We’re the richest country. We have arranged an entire legal regime to support women’s sports at the collegiate level.

The U.S. women’s soccer program has won half of all the women’s World Cups. They’ve won four of the six Olympic gold medals since soccer became an event.

At this year’s World Cup, the U.S. women’s team was the two-time defending champs. In their first match they blew out Thailand 13-0 and celebrated every goal like it was the winning shot in the final.

Let me put it to you this way: If women’s soccer was a 1980s-style teen movie, the U.S. program would be the rich pretty-boy villain, always bullying the poor kids and the misfits and the audience would hate them.

They’re Cobra Kai.