MUSKEGON, Mich. — Ten-year-old Dallas Johnson couldn’t wait for Inauguration Day.
“I like that he’s honest and says what’s on his mind,” Dallas said about the President.
His parents rewarded that enthusiasm by ordering “Make America Great Again” caps for Dallas and his older brother, and they arrived a few days after Christmas.
Dallas wore his new hat a few times after that, but waited to wear it to school. He wanted to display it on the day President Trump took the oath of office.
“Whenever I said he’s our president, my mom would say he’s the president-elect,” said Dallas, a fifth-grader at Lincoln Park Elementary in the Mona Shores school district. “I said I was just waiting for Jan. 20, when he’s actually the president, so I can say that.”
He was pumped up when the big day arrived.
“When I dropped him off at school, I said you’ll probably be watching the inauguration today, and he was so excited,” said his mother, Dee Johnson. “He was like a kid waiting for Christmas.”
But Inauguration Day didn’t go the way Dallas had hoped. He learned the hard way how ugly people can be about political disagreements, even in elementary school.
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His first disappointment came when he asked his teacher if the class could watch the inauguration, and was told there wouldn’t be time for that.
He also encountered harassment from a number of classmates before school, during recess and at lunch.
A lot of kids didn’t like his hat, and weren’t shy about letting him know it.
“During recess some kids said stuff about (President Trump) and would take my cap off,” Dallas said. “They were saying ‘Trump is gay, Trump is whacked, and take that hat off.’ One kid took it off and ran away with it. One of my friends told me, ‘You’re not wearing that hat to basketball practice.’”
By the end of the day Dallas’ mood had turned pretty sour. He didn’t get to watch the inauguration, and the treatment he received from his classmates left him feeling “pretty teed off.”
“I didn’t like it that they did all that,” he said. “I was mad.”
His mother noticed his mood right away when she picked him up from school.
“When he got in the car, I said ‘What’s wrong buddy?’” Dee Johnson said. “He said people kept taking his hat. He was kind of chocked up. He said the kids kept saying President Trump was gay, dumb and stupid. I asked if the class had watched the inauguration, and he said ‘no.’
“I was upset. When we got home I wrote (a Facebook post) because my heart hurt for him. Here he was, excited about the guy he had watched go through the election and win. He was so excited, then he was crushed.”
But Dallas is not the type of kid who stays down for long.
His mood started to rebound that evening, when he went with his father, Yosef Johnson, to play basketball at a local gym. They went to the basement and noticed a man who was boxing and wearing a Trump shirt.
“I said, ‘What a coincidence, I’m wearing my Trump hat,” Dallas said. “He said he had to get a picture of us.”
The man, who was a total stranger, had a photo taken of him and Dallas together, and later sent a copy to Yosef Johnson.
“Later on (Dallas’ father) went over and told the guy what kind of day Dallas had, and thanked him,” Dee Johnson said.
On Saturday, after his team’s morning basketball game, Dallas got to watch a recording of President Trump’s inauguration.
“He wanted to watch it at midnight on Friday, when I got home from work, but I told him to go to bed, we’ll watch it tomorrow,” his mother said.
The following Monday, with his pride fully restored, Dallas decided to wear his hat to school once again.
“It was up to him,” his mother said. “I just said, ‘It seems to upset you when this stuff happens, so if you don’t want to wear it, that’s fine.’”
“I said ‘I’m wearing my hat, whether they like it or not,’” Dallas said.
Dallas talked to his teacher on Monday and told him what had happened with his classmates.
“I told him we have freedom of speech,” Dallas said. “He said they have freedom of speech, too, and I said yes, but they should do it in a respectful way.”
As it turns out, Dallas is going to get the chance to show off his “Make American Great Again” cap in a special way at school.