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Stop making anything anything

| Tuesday, February 28, 2017

On Feb. 22, dorm elections took place. Which means, in the week or so preceding, residence halls were wallpapered with campaign posters, evidence of how much each candidate was willing to spend out of their black and white print quota in order to earn the vote of their fellow students.

At best, these are legitimately amusing; usually, at worst, they’re either aesthetically horrendous or they irk you because the kid running for senator was a real jerk at a party that one time. But this year, there has been a disquieting trend in branding and slogan usage. It is endemic to political campaigning due to its origins, but it has disseminated into other forms of common discourse and it needs to be addressed.

“Make ____ Great Again.”

Walk back with me, to the faraway epoch of summer 2015. Noted unpredictable, rich person Donald Trump has descended the escalator in his eponymous tower in order to declare his candidacy for president. This is a veritable goldmine for comedians and pundits across the country. Jon Stewart can barely contain his glee; Fox News can barely contain their viewership. People from all spots on the political spectrum tune in to see the spectacle.

What do they all have in common?

Nobody takes this seriously for a second.

“Make America Great Again” is nothing more than a cheesy phrase inscribed on cheap red trucker hats easily lampooned by John Oliver or thrown back in Trump’s face during a particularly cringeworthy debate. It is harmless. It is fun. Even as Jeb, Marco and Ted all fall, even as Hillary runs a ground game about as effective and well-organized as that of the Cleveland Browns, it is a piece of whimsy, the stamp on a defective package that would never be delivered.

I don’t have to tell you what happened on Election Day. I hope I don’t have to tell you what’s happened since then. But what I apparently do have to tell you is that this rallying cry is not a joke anymore.

With Trump in office, “Make America Great Again” carries weight. It bears the heft of executive orders that tear families apart and deny innocent people the right to enter the “land of the free.” It swings with the might of the privileged class using their words and actions to make the marginalized fear for their lives on a daily basis. It is the set of words printed across the wrecking ball that may bring down this entire system of government for good.

This is not a personal attack on any voter or citizen. This is a human being asking other human beings to think about the words they use before they continue to normalize a slogan of fear, one wielded by the #tcot (“Top Conservatives on Twitter”) and the dangerous people who advise the unstable president. This is a white man asking other white men to stop and consider groups less fortunate; sections of society that do not see a fun twist to a popular saying when you promise to “Make (Your Dorm) Great Again,” but instead sense the looming threat of ostracization. Notre Dame is home to all of us, but it’s hard to feel safe when the same phrase chanted by those who want to wall off our border is thoughtlessly plastered on bulletin boards all over campus, advertising everything from potential hall presidents to Legends’ Hip Hop Night.

Words, and the effect thereof, do change. But, despite how it may seem with fake news and alternative facts, words have power. It is time to recognize that impact behind “Make ____ Great Again” and work to remove it from our popular lexicon. It’s no longer a laughing matter.

Plus, it’s been almost two years. Come up with something original.

Gabriel Ostler


Feb. 23

The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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