Saturday, January 26, 2019

A Thought Experiment

As of now, I will no longer tolerate any clothing featuring the hammer and sickle. The hammer and sickle is the symbol of a totalitarian ideology that has murdered millions since its conception. The very sight of this iconography triggers me to such a degree that I feel perfectly justified abusing total strangers who've made the choice to wear it on their bodies. I don't care about their reasons. I don't care about their excuses. I don't even care how old they are. If anyone displays that Commie crap in my presence, he deserves whatever he gets.

Be assured: the above is not my true position. But think about it: what would happen if, upon seeing the hammer and sickle, I actually did scream like a banshee and refuse to serve the person wearing it? What if I punched him -- or offered money or gifts to anyone who would do it in my place? What if I searched up his personal information and sent him harassing emails? What if I tracked down the guy's employer and demanded he be fired?

Wouldn't I be declared insane?

Obviously, what I've just done here is reverse the logic of the current MAGA Hat Hysteria.

All over the internet, the usual suspects have declared the MAGA hat the symbol of white supremacy and fascism in Current Year and have pointed to its presence to justify bad behavior of every sort -- including, most recently (and most despicably), cruelty to minors. But as I tweeted the other day, this is absolute lunacy. And I say this as someone who didn't vote for Trump!

At least in the case of the Communist ideology, I can point to historically documented atrocities committed in its name. The Holodomor, Stalin's purges, the Great Leap Forward, the Cultural Revolution, the Khmer Rouge -- these provide ample reason for me to despise the hammer and sickle and what it represents.

But which atrocities, exactly, can we lay at Trump's feet?

Kids being separated from their parents at the border? That's terrible, but Trump didn't invent it.

Trans folks being barred from military service? Well, I hate to break it to you all, but no one is entitled to serve in the military. Basically, anyone with a chronic, costly medical condition is going to be turned away from the recruitment office; indeed, I know someone who washed out after boot camp simply because his physical fitness wasn't quite up to snuff. Why? Because the purpose of the military is to kill people and break things in defense of our nation, not to be a career development center.

The "Muslim ban"? Nope: Trump didn't bar travel from, say, majority-Muslim Indonesia. He barred travel from a few specific countries in war zones where vetting could not be assured.

Essentially, the only thing Trump is definitively guilty of is saying insensitive things. I really wish he wouldn't. I really wish he would make his case with more delicacy and more intellectual rigor. But being a boor doesn't quite rise to the level of perpetrating the Holocaust.

Drill down to the actual policy. Shrinking the regulatory state? A standard conservative position. Cutting taxes? Ditto. Controlling the border? Thoroughly mainstream. Economic nationalism? Eh -- as a neoliberal by instinct, I have reservations here, but I'm waiting to see how it turns out. And in any case, I don't think Trump has articulated any ideas regarding trade that haven't already been promulgated by others across the political spectrum.

Again, the only thing that's truly "new" about Trump is that he doesn't care a fig for the mores of Washington and is openly confrontational with the press. Some of that bellicosity is wince-worthy, but some is needed.

Trump should be critiqued, yes. I know plenty of right-leaning and left-leaning people who are capable of doing so intelligently and with emotional continence, and they have convinced me that our president is most definitely flawed. But if Trump were actually the unholy terror of the left's imagination, Acosta would be in jail. Period. Full stop. End of discussion.

What does the MAGA hat really stand for? As I argued above, the case for its inherent racism and fascism is gossamer thin at best. So perhaps people need to do some actual freakin' journalism and ask the people who wear MAGA gear why they've embraced the slogan.

Hell, I'll even help you out a little. Here are some reasons I've heard:
  • I hate being told what I can and cannot wear, think, or say. (Extremely common!)
  • I want to be conservative without being treated like a criminal.
  • I want to practice my orthodox Christianity without being relegated to the status of second-class citizen.
  • I believe Trump cares about the working class.
  • I believe the government's first job is to ensure the security and prosperity of the American people.
Now maybe you think some of these are misguided. But you can't argue honestly that they are racist. None of these desires and concerns are limited strictly to white people -- and if these desires and concerns were taken seriously and addressed, the benefits wouldn't be limited either.

But leave aside all of that. If I'm expected to restrain my reaction to the hammer and sickle, then that rule should be universal. Clothing doesn't justify persecution and violence, no matter what it is and no matter who is wearing it. 


  1. You: "I know plenty of...left-leaning people who are capable of doing so intelligently and with emotional continence."

    Name one.

    1. They're mostly people I have personal relationships with, but if you want public figures...

      Many of the people associated with Quillette and Heterodox Academy are left-leaning without embracing id-pol or otherwise being insane.

  2. Are you going to vote for him in 2020?

  3. The thing is, I do not think I have ever seen a Che shirt or a hammer and sickle shirt around where I live. Possibly because I live near a major US military base.

    But yeah, I think I probably would go off on somebody like that.

  4. If we could just get rid of the d*mn Che T-shirts I would be happy. The greatest mass murdered in the Western Hemisphere.

  5. Trump's bellicosity with the press seems largely to be in service of doing a rope-a-dope against people who've made it clear, they want to be his enemies. It works, and it's somewhat entertaining to see them falling for it time & again, while he more quietly does other, useful things. I can't really fault him much for that, especially as he seems to hit the right tone with others who better deserve it.

  6. Would you compare wearing a MAGA to day to wearing a Che t-shirt in the late 60's? Edgy, provoking, sticking a stick in the eye of the Establishment?

  7. Let's not mix categories, here. A reasonable equivalent of a MAGA hat is a "Co-Exist" bumper sticker; that of a hammer & sickle, a swastika.