Why am I writing this post on the eve of the New Zealand general election you ask? What’s the MAGA hat got to do with us thousands of miles away from the United States?
Well, it’s because an acquaintance I follow on Instagram posted a pic of himself wearing a MAGA hat. As it happens, he and others here in Aotearoa, some right leaning people are using the acronym in a campaign against our Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. Here, the letters represent the phrase – Make Ardern Go Away.
I wrote about that MAGA hat and its associations with white supremacism, racism, homophobia, and violence earlier this year. A number of right-wing people in this country responded by saying they would buy one just to upset me and other liberals.
Indeed when I pointed out to the owner of the Instagram post the other day that the hat was created by a corrupt and morally bankrupt US President and has been taken up by dangerous elements in the US he replied: “It is to flush out my more left friends.” He added that he can’t stand Trump, but it left me feeling uncomfortable.
Why would anyone choose to buy and publicly wear something just to upset people? Particularly people they have more in common with when compared to Donald Trump and his sycophants.
Don’t get me wrong. I like a good joke. I understand that politics is a rough and tumble game, but there are some things, some values, that must be sacrosanct.
The MAGA hat is indelibly linked with totalitarian, aggressive and dangerous views and actions. It is being used to fuel a very unhealthy political movement.
Do the people here in New Zealand who wear it not see that? Or if they do see it, do they not care enough about what is happening in America and how that symbol is being used?
Most of the conservative and right leaning people I have personally encountered in my life have been decent. They believe in the rule of law, fiscal and personal responsibility and have a strong sense of society and patriotism. I have seen them display kindness and concern. Many of them have a pragmatic approach to life and are sometimes willing to compromise on their ideological principles to get things done. Almost all of them are polite but not afraid to speak their truth clearly and with confidence.
At times I have disagreed with some of the specifics of their beliefs or the ideas they have for achieving a better world, but I have respected their rights to those beliefs.
It puzzles me therefore why some of them would prefer to ‘wind-up’ liberals by wearing a MAGA hat rather than condemn the people who are ripping up the values they claim to believe in.
Let’s face it, the hat is one of the most potent symbols of Trumpism – an angry, confused and ultimately narcissistic strategy designed to enrich and empower a coward and bully. MAGA is a concept designed to lie to the people of America about Trump’s desires and appeal to lazy and ill-informed jingoistic patriotism.
It requires no thinking about complex issues. It requires absolutely no empathy or concern for others. In fact, what it directly appeals to is a sense of entitlement and privilege and an active dismissal and oppression of anyone who is not white, christian, or heterosexual.
That red hat with those four letters is a call to arms to anyone dumb enough to listen.
So, my response to those people who think it’s a big joke to sport one and to take aim at our Prime Minister is this:
Vote however you wish, but don’t think your witless use of a dangerous symbol of oppression has gone unnoticed. In wearing it, you show yourself to tacitly support the buffoon who created it and the fools who support him.
Don’t hide behind a weak excuse such as wanting to take down the leader of this country who has demonstrated ethics and ability well above Trump.
You have a right to vote for someone else, and I encourage you to exercise that right. But ditch the hat. Why appropriate someone else’s imagery because it amuses you or you think it’s clever.
It’s not clever.
Instead, why not stand in solidarity with liberal people who share many of your values and publicly oppose those who don’t.
As a liberal, I share your views on fiscal and self responsibility. I too believe in law and order and a civil society. Sure we have our differences, but they are minor compared to the views espoused by Trump and those who don his MAGA hat.
Finally, remember, just because Trump and his acolytes appear to be on the same side of the political spectrum as you are, it doesn’t make them your friend, and it doesn’t mean they share your values.