Recent attacks against individuals wearing "Make America Great Again" hats have failed to make it to the national news media cycle, giving the impression that attacks from President Donald Trump's supporters are the only ones worth noting.
You don't have a right to harass Trump supporters
By Gil Smart
Days before a Martin County, Florida, bus aide allegedly ripped a "Make America Great" hat off a 14-year-old student, an 18-year-old student in Edmond, Oklahoma, was charged with assault and battery after he allegedly demanded a classmate remove a similar MAGA hat, then knocked the hat off the younger kid's head when he didn't comply.
The same day that the Oklahoma incident occurred, Feb. 25, an 81-year-old man was allegedly assaulted by a much younger man outside a ShopRite in Franklin, New Jersey, in a physical altercation over a hat.
Take a wild guess what the hat said.
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President Donald Trump — in his foes' telling — is a uniquely malevolent figure in our collective history. Some think him racist, misogynist, a profaner of all things good and decent and tolerant. He, and by extension his supporters, make some people feel "unsafe."
For some people, that becomes justification to lash out.
In Martin County, 14-year-old Gunnar Johansson boarded a bus the morning of March 5 wearing his MAGA hat. Students could wear a hat that day if they had made a donation to the March of Dimes.
A bus aide, who has not been publicly identified, was having none of it.
Surveillance video captures her saying, "Boy, if you don't take that hat off on this bus ... take it off."
"Why?" Gunnar asks. She provides no reason; instead, she demands: "Take the hat off, now."
Gunnar instead walks to his seat. The video, obscured so it doesn't identify other kids, doesn't capture the aide tearing the hat off his head, but someone is heard saying "You can't do that," and the aide responds, "Turn around."
"Am I in trouble for that?" Johansson asks. "Yes you are," the aide responds.
Now, it's the aide who's in trouble.
Gunnar'sparents called the Martin County Sheriff's Office and deputies interviewed the aide, who said she was "totally offended" — but added, "I totally regret doing this."
That's not good enough.
Should there be sufficient evidence to charge the aide, those charges should be filed.
It's not freedom of speech or the fact that Gunnar is a child, though that's part of it. The bigger issue is this: We don't assault one another in this country because of our political views.
You don't like Trump? Good for you. There's a lot not to like. But however malicious you might think the man and his presidency is, however "unsafe" he makes you feel, it does not give you the right to make others unsafe.
The "narrative" is that Trump's supporters are uniquely violent. Last month, for example, a Trump fan allegedly attacked a BBC cameraman at a rally in El Paso, Texas. The story ran in most major news outlets.
Stories like the ones in Florida, in Oklahoma, in New Jersey? They're far more likely to be treated as local stories. They're likely picked up by Fox News and other conservative outlets, but I don't see major outlets picking up these stories with the same enthusiasm as the BBC cameraman attack.
The narrative is reinforced: It's Trump's supporters who are violent. And some are. But when things like the Martin County bus incident occur, it's brushed off. It's just some hothead; it's not emblematic of anything.
I think it is.
And I think, whomever you support politically, we all need to rein it in. Because if you think the other side is so bad that what that bus aide did is OK — rest assured, there are those on the "other side" who'll gladly return the favor next time around.
Gil Smart is a columnist at TCPalm, where this column first appeared. You can follow him on Twitter: @TCPalmGilSmart.
What others are saying
Lester Fabian Brathwaite, NewNowNext.com: "MAGA is not an identity. MAGA is not an ethnicity. MAGA is simply an ideological choice, and a poor one at that. MAGA supporters are not marginalized by the dominant majority because MAGA (i.e. Donald Trump and the GOP) is the dominant majority. Despite the loss of the popular vote, MAGA runs the country, it runs the Senate, it runs the Supreme Court. ... Historically, because the world has been their safe space, MAGA people don’t require one and they should never have one."
Kathleen Parker, The Washington Post: "During the two years of the Trump presidency, Make America Great Again has morphed in the public mind from a rah-rah rally chant to a nearly Ku Klux Klan-grade threat of white supremacy. This is obviously unfair to the millions who support, say, a conservative Supreme Court but never racism or nativism, but this is where we are. The value of MAGA as a positive slogan is spent, except among a relatively small cadre of Trump loyalists who might as well be exchanging a secret handshake. As a symbol of rebellion, on the other hand, you might want to invest. It should come as no surprise that some kids love the hat because grownups are so upset about it."
David Whitley, Orlando Sentinel: "Maybe I'm wrong, but I don't think all 62,984,828 people who voted for Trump are guilty of the racist, sexist or homophobic charges. A few might just like lower taxes. Expressing any support, however, is now like putting a 'Kick Me' sign on your back, or at least a 'Stare at Me' sign. Man, it felt good to get home and take that (MAGA hat) darned thing off. When it comes to 2020, I can't even read my own mind when it comes to Trump. As for the rest of America, I'm guessing a lot of people might be eager to finally fight the Resistance."
What our readers are saying
Well, frankly, parents should be more careful of what their kids wear. To some, the "Make America Great Again" hat is similar to a Confederate flag.
— Charlotte Harris
I don't feel children should wear political clothing to school, as it tends to reflect more the views of the parents than a well-formulated opinion from the child.
— Linwood Skip Fuller
I thought President Donald Trump made violence against those who disagree with you OK when he said demonstrators should be beaten up and "carried out in stretchers."
— Charles Klein
I foresee a time in the not-too-distant future when wearing a MAGA or Trump hat will be analogous to wearing white robes and a hood. For those who argue against this position, you are the problem, Trump is just a symptom.
— Jo Fuller
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