Two years ago I visited Washington DC. In the midst of doomsday crazies and protesters among the post-election chaos, I eagerly searched foreign-run gift shops lining the East Executive Avenue for the perfect trinket to sum up my adventure in newly-founded Trump Town. Sitting on a shelf sandwiched between Paul Ryan bobbleheads, I saw it. A fake, polyester, red Make America Great Again hat. The irony of the hat being made by foreign workers in China not escaping me, I purchased it, telling myself it was fine because not a single penny of this bootleg hat would be going into Trump’s pocket.
Okay, so if it isn’t already clear, I don’t consider myself an avid Trump supporter. Despite what this article’s images might lead you to believe, my red MAGA hat was not purchased as a declaration of my support for a politician, but instead serves me for a multitude of purposes from comic relief for speeches, satirical halloween costumes, and most recently, the key to being interviewed by twelve different international journalists. Yes, twelve. Turns out when people assume you’re gonna say something outrageous, they’re going to want to get it on camera. But to their surprise, I wasn’t at all a gun-totin’, Obama-hatin’ stereotype. Instead, I was wearing the MAGA hat, and I wanted to have my voice heard.
Let me backup. My tiny home country of Singapore made international news when it was selected to host the June 12 2018 Trump/Kim Summit. With both leaders equally controversial, thousands of reporters flocked to the Island each trying to get the scoop that would set their newspaper apart from the masses. A friend and I with nothing better to do on summer weekday decided it would be fun to go down to Orchard Road where all the commotion was happening. However before we left, one of us thought that it would be interesting to gear up in MAGA outfits to see the reactions of the notoriously reserved Singapore public. With both of us having backgrounds on the stage, it wasn’t out of character for us to want to test the boundaries of public civility. So decked out in stars and stripes T shirts and my ever faithful red cap, we headed downtown.
After several (unsuccessful) attempts to sweet talk our way into the hotel where our POTUS would be staying during his short time in SG, we ended up loitering around the street where we had heard from a couple passerbys that the presidential car would be making its way through. To my surprise, I felt a tap on my shoulder. A woman introduced herself as working for the BBC as she asked to take me and my friend’s picture for her article. We agreed, and within seconds half a dozen cameras were flashing as local and international journalists tried to get a picture of the two international kids in trump hats. It soon dawned on me that everyone standing around waiting for Trump was desperate for a story, and they were practically begging for something to cover. As we answered question after question for the ever growing queue of journalists, I quickly noticed how we were being prompted to say something controversial. Although it was evident that these journalists wanted something contentious for their next headline about the summit, we refused to give it to them. Questions like “So why do you support President Trump?” were answered with overarching statements like “I support my country, and I support peace between the United States and North Korea.” Despite posing as a Trump supporter, I made careful note to stick to my guns and not get caught saying anything I didn’t firmly believe in. I opened the door for me to push for peace on an international platform, doors that without my republican mask I wouldn’t of been able to begin to unlock.
I opened the door for me to push for peace on an international platform, doors that without my republican mask I wouldn’t of been able to begin to unlock.
As an international student, global issues are some that are close to my heart and affect those around me. I wanted to remind those around the world watching and reading about the summit that no matter where you come from, everyone should maintain one common goal for this monumental occasion- progress. Through my interactions with journalists from Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Britain, and The United States, I was able to understand the magnitude of the meeting that was about to unfold on my home island, and therefore contemplate the importance of the words I used to explain my views. By allowing something as simple as this cheaply made knock-off MAGA hat to open doors, I was able to give statements pushing for peace and to root for my home country. My aforementioned background on stage has taught me a key lesson—never doubt the ability of a good costume.