For the past two or three years we’ve all seen all these folks walking around sporting red baseball caps brandishing the letters MAGA.
Being from time to time a little slow on the uptick, I had to ask. Without too much ribbing, a friend informed me that letters signify Make America Great Again.
As someone who has spent all 66 of his years in this wonderful country, the greatest country in the history of mankind, I’m all about the first three words of that slogan. I’m down with that noble sentiment. Down to the ground.
Let’s all do what we can to make our country as great as it can be. It’s our patriotic duty.
My problem, though, was with the fourth word, the Again. It confused me when I first encountered the slogan and confuses me still today.
Again? As in when?
Take back what you said about taking our country back,
Like you want us to forget all that history
You’re trying so hard to redact.
The same folks wearing the red MAGA baseball caps have been know to chant “Let’s take our country back.’’ They’ve been chanting it every since our current resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue arrived on the national political scene.
At the risk of redundancy, I have to ask. Where do they want to take our country back to?
Give me a time. Give me a date. Give me a place.
We’ve come so far together,
Of that we should be proud
And here you’re trying to turn back time
Being all angry, hateful and loud.
Those in the red-hat movement remain vague about exactly when and where they’re talking about, perhaps intentionally so. At the risk of assigning motives where there are none, it’s not hard to imagine they’re referencing a sort of idealized 1950’s/60s Ozzie and Harriet America in black and white to which so many people look back in such fond fashion these days.
And if you’re a white heterosexual male, (such as yours truly) and in particular, a rich heterosexual white male (which I’m truly not) then that was indeed, without a doubt, a exceedingly fortuitous time to be living in our great country.
Because you were indisputably, and without peers, at the top of the heap, the absolute master of all you surveyed. Good times.
Take back what you said about taking our country back,
Could that be back from anyone who happens to be
Brown, red, yellow or black?
The question I’ve never heard those in the red-hat movement answer is what about those Americans who aren’t white heterosexual males? Should they be taken back to wherever it is — for the supposed good of our society and country — we’re all supposed to return?
As one who spent his career in journalism, I was trained to seek and even demand specificity. And it’s frustrating that nothing about this chant “Let’s take our country back’’ is in the least bit specific.
When are they talking about? Give me a time. Give me a date. Give me a place.
Look around we’re all Americans
You may not like it but that’s the deal.
But only by getting past the fear and hate
Can you really see what is real.
The Ozzie and Harriet days of the 1950s/60s weren’t, by most accounts, such a great time in America for anyone who happened to seek love and shelter from the storm with one of their own sex. The closet was overflowing, and to be caught outside was to all but ensure public censure, if not derision or even bodily harm.
And they weren’t great days for many women, especially considering how few there were walking the corridors of power. I’m old enough to remember how the boast of many men was that they kept their “woman’’ barefoot and in the kitchen.
Or do we want to return to 1919, the blink of an eye in the overall arc of history, to when women weren’t even entrusted with the vote? Is this when the red hat brigade is talking about?
Take back what you said about taking our country back
It’s time we all had a say,
Lord knows you’ve had your crack.
I’ll keep watching and listening for any specificity, for anyone to give me a time and a date and a place they want our country to return to. But while I’m waiting, I’ll provide specifics of my own.
The time: Sunday, 10:22 a.m.
The date: Sept. 15, 1963.
The place: 16th Street Baptist Church, Birmingham, Ala.
For it was then and there that four school children, Cynthia Wesley (age 14), Addie Mae Collins (age 14), Carole Robertson (age 14) and Denise McNair (age 11) were buried in the basement beneath the rubble resulting from a bomb planted by white supremacists emboldened by their governor proclaiming “Segregation now, segregation forever.’’ Four young innocents bombed out of the basement of their home church, while services were ensuing above.
And any notion this was an isolated incident has to confront the truth. Such atrocities were so common that the city was given the nickname Bombingham. And although it later came to light that J. Edgar Hoover, the grand poobah of the FBI, identified the four perpetrators as early as 1965, no charges were brought against anyone until 1977, when, at long last, Robert Chambliss was convicted of first-degree murder of McNair.
It took another 24 years before two more of the assassins, Thomas Edward Blanton, Jr., and Bobby Cherry were convicted of four counts and sentenced to life imprisonment.
A fourth alleged assassin, Herman Cash, died in 1994 without the American judicial system ever laying a glove on him.
Is this where we want to take America back, back to a day when school children were blown out of the basement of their church for one reason and one reason only – because they were black?
If we’re really the land of freedom,
If we take a stand for liberty
We’ll take that stand together
Or we’ll never be all we should be.
Notice, if you will, that I’ve yet to even bring up the greatest injustices of our past, how the forebears of some of us brought the forebears of others across the Atlantic ocean in chains and put them to work in our fields and homes as slaves, to be bought and sold as chattel. We even had a ruling in 1857 from the highest court in our land that anyone who arrived in this country as slaves – or whose ancestors arrived in this country as slaves – could never be America citizens and thus had no standing in our judicial system.
Take America Back? To that?
Nor have I broached the rather sensitive subject of the genocide of the native American population, how so many were uprooted from their ancestral homeland and carted off to subsist on some government appointed reservation. My mother Frances Cooper Collins, of Cherokee blood and who grew up on the Cherokee reservation in the mountains of North Carolina, taught all her children to curse the ground that Andrew Jackson ever walked on.
And she had good reason.
So why don’t we to the Angels,
Of our better natures appeal?
And instead of building walls,
We should be making laws that heal.
There’s a reflex by some of the most narrow-minded among us to brand every criticism of our great nation as anti-Americanism. You’ve heard it, how anyone who has the temerity to bring up past inequities just hates America.
What will surely not come as a surprise to anyone reading this is that I see things from the opposite perspective. To highlight where we’ve been (slavery, genocide, bigotry) and to see how far we’ve come is a testament to just how great our country really is.
Citizens are no longer bought and sold as chattel. Our law enforcement no longer turns a blind eye when citizens are massacred because of their skin color or sexual persuasion.
All that is the best reason I know to celebrate, to be proud, to give us hope and encouragement as we move forward together into a brave new world.
But we’ve got to do it together, or we’ve failed this great test of of history known as democracy.
Take America back?
Give me a time, give me a date, give me a place.