We’ve all seen them, starting around the middle of 2016 and slowly growing, at least around here in the middle of rural Pennsylvania. Those red hats. The large hand-painted Trump signs on the side of the highway. And those jacked-up coal-rolling trucks with like 8 flags bolted to the tailgate. And you think to yourself, how is this a thing?
Until I moved up here from Georgia in the late 90’s, I thought of PA as a “northern” state, like New York or Massachusetts. You know, all those blue states I’d see on election maps while my parents were watching the results on the news. Boy was I wrong. There’s a reason they call it Pennsyltucky. I’ve seen far more rednecks and good ol’ boys up here than I ever did in Georgia. And Trump’s 4+ years of unchecked, open racism made it perfectly okay (in many “fine people’s” eyes) to act the same way.
So now that he’s lost the election, what’s going to happen to all those MAGA hats, Trump number stickers, and garish flags hanging from trucks, houses and cherry pickers on the side of country roads? I have a feeling they’ll slowly start to vanish. And those people will walk back four years of hate.
I was so used to seeing them. To me, they became a beacon, a clear sign that immediately told me everything I needed to know about that person… that they were racist and stupid and an enemy of science, logic and empathy. Or they were at least okay with those ideals. In any case, it was a signal that I could completely disregard them as someone who associated themselves with Trump. Family notwithstanding. (Because, what are you gonna do, you know?)
Something about the slow but inevitable disappearance of these cultish emblems bothers me. It reminded me of the end of Quentin Tarantino’s World War 2 yarn, Inglorious Basterds. After bargaining with the antagonist, Hans Landa (Christophe Waltz), into letting him go in exchange for being expedited to America, Aldo Raine (Brad Pitt) asks his former captor what he planned on doing once he was able to retire in comfortable anonymity. Raine asks Landa if he was going to burn his nazi uniform, allowing himself to leave that horrible mess behind him and blend in with the rest of society.
This was a question that character had asked of several of his nazi prisoners throughout the movie, and was something that he simple couldn’t abide by, so he’d … well, carve a swastika into the middle of their forehead, giving the former nazi soldier “something they couldn’t take off.” Meaning, they shouldn’t be allowed to follow a disgusting ideology for years, committing atrocities or at least being okay with it, and simply be allowed to slough off that part of their life after it was over.
You know, I kinda feel the same way about all these redhats and flag wavers running around. They were always there, always had that pathetic superiority complex against anyone who wasn’t part of their white conservative ethno-Christian background. They got someone in the highest office in the country who constantly, constantly, without any subtlety, derided and spewed hate against anyone who wasn’t in that same group. And so it was suddenly okay (to them) to very openly be racist, misogynistic, xenophobic, anti-liberal, “fuck your feelings” dickheads. Put on the hat. Fly the flags. Wear the shirts. Books very clearly identified by covers.
But now? They’re still the same. They’re still out there. They’ll reabsorb into anonymity, for the most part. They just won’t have those hats and flags and stupid bullshit cult-wear. And I wish that anyone who was enamored with and supported this evil, dumb motherfucker should have to wear those hats and shirts for the rest of their lives, so I’ll always know, and they’ll always know, that when given the choice, they were on the wrong side of history.