It was freezing cold even though I was wearing my LL Bean long johns, two layers of clothing including a sweater, my fur-lined winter coat that covered me up beyond my waist, a stocking cap and gloves. It still wasn’t officially winter, but I was dressed for it, and was standing on an icy-covered sidewalk in front of the Milford Town Hall (the designated meeting place) along with over fifty other Liberals and/or Democrats holding “Jail to the Chief”, “Impeach & Remove”, “Impeach # 45” signs. It was Impeachment Eve, Tuesday December 17, about 6:30pm. Hundreds of other groups nationwide were commemorating the same event; we were in unison with them. I commented that it was an important date to attend regardless of weather conditions because the following day (of impeachment) would be historic, comparable to November 22, 1963, the day JFK was assassinated, while he too was in preparation for another political campaign.
But in the midst of the sea of signs and wintry coats, all of us bundled up to the gills, I saw a red “MAGA” cap. I took a double take. It was not an illusion. Yes, it was a bright fire red “Make America Great Again” cap sported by a young man perhaps in his early twenties. Besides the cap, he was wearing just a light blue sweatshirt with the black outline of a tow truck, jeans and tan bedroom slippers with a little mane of fake fur sticking out, as if he was standing outside on his way to pick up a carton of cigarettes or a coffee from the convenience store across the street which we were staring at while holding our signs. No winter coat. No scarf. No gloves.
Never having met anyone face to face wearing the cap, and trying to distract myself from my numb frozen extremities, the novelty piqued my interest. I struck up a conversation with him. First, I asked if he were a Trump supporter, and what he was doing standing with us in the snow and ice on the sidewalk while we chanted and demonstrated against his president. Nonchalantly, as if he didn’t have a care in the world, he said he just wanted to be outside and be present. I asked him how he felt about Trump and he said he found “nothing wrong with him. Why do you ask? He’s really lowered the unemployment rate. Especially amongst the blacks.” It was my turn to be relaxed. I asked him how he felt about the impeachment. He said he didn’t care. Considering my interest in media, communications and publicity, I asked him what news he followed. He said he doesn’t follow the news, and said with a straight face that he didn’t know what I was talking about. At that point, I wondered if he was goofing on me, so I asked him what news channel or newspaper he follows, whether he watches Fox, and he said he didn’t follow the news and knew nothing about the subject I was alluding to. I was starting to get perturbed; but then realized I was trying to talk with a ninny. And at that point he said he just “likes to talk with others (like me) in order to get them angry”. But he maintained immediately after saying this, “you showed me respect and I appreciate that”. I took that as a complement and wished him a good day.
My encounter with the MAGA man got me thinking about the slogan “Make America Great Again” popularized by Donald J. Trump. Ever interested in the history and evolution of ideas, I looked up the origins of it. Ronald Reagan, known as “the Great Communicator” promised to “make America great again” during his 1980 presidential campaign, and even sold merchandise with the slogan on it as well according to a NBC News report in 2016. But the phrase was not strictly used by Republicans as it also found its way into Bill Clinton’s campaign : “I believe that together we can make America great again” though it’s fair to say his intentions were certainly not to ban ethnic and religious groups to the United States nor to divide Americans from each other through white supremacist rhetoric and political actions which are Trumpy’s ways of acting on his beliefs.
Not to my surprise, the phrase was popular in GOP’s circles often in attacks on Obama’s “socialist” policies, and “paralleled the spread of conspiracy theories about his citizenship and supposed jihadi sympathies” according to an article by human rights lawyer, author and assistant professor Mugambi Jouet Mother Jones (Jan/Feb 2017). Jouet maintains the phrase became central to the Republican establishment during the Obama presidency and spoke to America’s “exceptionalism”. Trump originally used the slogan “Make America #1 Again” in the book of the same name (“Time to Get Tough: Making America #1 Again”, originally published in 2011, and re-issued in 2015 in concert with his presidential campaign. Jouet maintains the slogan “Make America Great Again” “retained the nativist overtones and racial dog whistles of the original “Make America #1 Again”.
[Whenever I hear the guttural sound “MAGA”, I immediately associate it with “maggot”, as in the larvae of a fly that forages on rotted food or decomposed road kill. It’s a disgusting sound like being sick with a cough and cold ailment or disease that I also associate with those who sport the MAGA cap.]
So my MAGA friend faded away, and I returned to full participation in our demonstration.
Serenading and cheering us on was Santa Claus himself, along with Mrs. Claus, taking a break from Drinking Liberally a nationwide political and social organization where liberals and progressives gather in bars to drink, socialize and talk politics. It’s a “Cheers” -like place to hang out and drink (responsibly) with like-minded friends, to blow off steam, trade jokes and ventilate.
Santa handed out “Merry Impeachment” pin buttons with mistletoe on a white background. Santa led us in chants like “Trump! Trump! He must go!”, or he bellowed out “Impeach!” and we would reply “Remove!”, or “Let’s show him what democracy looks like!” Santa kept it up for at least thirty minutes and we all enjoyed his presence as did many of the cars that drove by honking their horns.
Others on hand include a man about my age who told me the origins of the organization known as “MoveOn”. It began with the opposition to the impeachment of President Clinton in 1998. The idea was to “move on” beyond the Clinton impeachment matter, and get back to more pressing issues facing the nation. MoveOn was the first organization of its kind to establish its own Political Action Committee or PAC which successfully accepted small donation contributions (average being less than $35) online via credit card. MoveOn was one of the groups that backed us in our impeachment demonstration.
Being politically active involves all kinds of experiences. You meet all kinds of people whose views may be different than your own, or may be similar to your own. It’s filled with people who care about the country, the present and the future, and are appalled by the policies, tragedies and atrocities perpetrated by the current occupants of the White House.
So as the 2020 election season approaches, consider joining a political progressive or liberal organization (in your hometown). Make your voice heard, and take your part in helping America get back on the right path. This is our time to save the country, save our democracy and save our planet. Furthermore, there is only one major political party that believes the climate crisis is real and wants to do something about it!