I wore a MAGA hat around campus for three days: Here’s what happened

By Michael DeAngelo

While I didn’t get yelled at or assaulted, as others across the country have, for wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat, it was as uncomfortable as expected. After sporting it in every part of campus—to all of my classes, Alliot meals, extracurricular activities and P-Day festivities—I recognized the general St. Mike’s sentiment: negativity. Reactions elicited ranged from contemptuous glares, numbering in the thousands over 72 hours, to perturbed grumbling and confrontations.

Friendly acquaintances were no longer inclined to chat. Specific instances included: 2 women talking about how “disgusting” I was, 3 people stating I was making them feel “uncomfortable”, and someone discussing how an angry group of people wanted to “kick my ass”. My personal favorite was a woman simply uttering “Gross” to me, presumably referring to the headwear and not my delicate features.

However, the most notable aspect of my Trump experiment was the absence of dialogue as to why I was supporting the president. During multiple encounters, I was preemptively accused of being host to discriminatory beliefs without an opportunity for rebuttal. It was as if people already knew, which is a symptom of the underlying democratic problem: polarization.

Many at St. Mike’s skipped to revulsion because they judged my character based on my headwear. They assumed I was an intolerant person at least indifferent to racism, sexism and xenophobia. I could’ve been sporting the MAGA hat because I favored conservative policy in spite of Trump’s divisive personality, but apparently disgust was warranted as I was associated with the ugliest rhetoric of our president.

These knee-jerk reactions are a manifestation of the polarizing tide of identity politics sweeping through the U.S. Humans are relegated to rigid labels, entrenching an “us vs. them” mentality in societal discussions. A tragic aspect of this is neoteric cornerstones, like college campuses, have dropped the shield of tolerance to eagerly join the culture war.

Whereas in a tolerant community my motives for wearing the MAGA hat would’ve been examined in hopes of comprehension, instead I was isolated without conversation. Many in the St. Mike’s community furthered the polarization tearing apart American society by refusing to seek greater understanding with someone holding different beliefs, preferring to baselessly slap me with a negative label.

The rights of the minority, whoever they may be, and the unfiltered expression of ideas remain hallmarks of a healthy democracy.

Unfortunately our democracy’s well-being has faltered because identity-politic polarization has renounced tough interaction with differing ideas for echo chambers. Differences remain insurmountable while pressing problems requiring unified action are left unaddressed.

Therefore, the St. Mike’s community needs to embrace tolerance espoused in rhetoric but absent in action. Biases must be forsaken to allow differences to be discussed, so long as they’re respectful. Next time someone elicits powerful emotion, maybe by sporting a MAGA hat or Bernie Sanders shirt, rather than classifying them a “racist” or “socialist,” let us understand their reasoning before judging character. Through this tolerance, we’ll better understand not only our differences, but commonality. Only then will we prove the St. Mike’s community is above bigotry and stand together in a shared pursuit: a robust democracy for all.

 Michael DeAngelo ‘20 is a History major and Political Science/Philosophy double minor at Saint Michael’s College. He is a registered Independent voter and doesn’t support Donald Trump.