Why the decision to wear MAGA hats mattersRoundup
tags: racism, political history, Trump, MAGA
Matthew A. Sears is an associate professor of classics and ancient history at the University of New Brunswick.
Do symbols like the red “Make America Great Again” hat matter?
This has been the question at the core of the media circus surrounding the encounter in Washington, D.C., between students of Covington (Ky.) Catholic High School and indigenous activist Nathan Phillips. Just as swiftly as the chanting and smirking boys were condemned on social media and in major media outlets, a longer video of the encounter caused many pundits to recant their initial condemnation and to apologize for treating the boys unfairly. Most outlets are now running with the lead that the students were unfairly stereotyped because of their race (white), their socioeconomic status (wealthy) and their hats (MAGA).
These polarizing tensions around political symbols are not new. In his story of the Peloponnesian War, the Athenian historian Thucydides provided his readers with an indelible image of what happens when societies descend into civil strife between two irreconcilable groups. It’s not exactly clear whether Thucydides thinks we can do anything about this tendency of human nature, but he does think we can understand how and why such civil strife erupts. And he teaches that symbolism matters: The choice to wear MAGA hats says something about the politics and agendas of the people who wear them and should be considered when judging their actions.