On this Fourth of July I’m having second thoughts about putting the American flag on the cover of my book, The Expat Files, in the time of Trump.
It seemed like a good idea when I conceived the design, the Stars and Stripes commingling with the Maple Leaf above a photo of me as a young American in Canada.
This was the cover when the book was published about six months ago. But then a well-meaning friend spotted a distortion in the reproduction of the photo and volunteered to fix it.
He succeeded in sharpening my visage but futzed with the flags, the U.S. banner all but obscuring the Maple Leaf.
During the time the publisher was changing the cover, the book was not for sale. And, I was told, changing it again would make the book unavailable for up to another three weeks.
So, I decided to live with the new cover, while thinking it might as well be an image of a bald eagle devouring a beaver.
One consistency on my Amazon page since the book appeared is this ad: Customers who bought this item also bought … Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, by Michael Wolff … #1 New York Times Bestseller.
Which has had me thinking that although I mention Trump only a couple of times in the last chapter, I should have titled my book The Origin of the Species and put that priceless combo the Orange One and an orangutan on the cover.
My conundrum with the cover and disgust with the current occupant of the White House does not mean I am ashamed of being an American. It’s who I am and will always be.
I’m happy I was born in the United States – not Bangladesh or Bulgaria or Britain.
I love New York, my hometown, and San Francisco and Boston, the coast of Maine and the Everglades, the canyons of Utah and the high country of Montana, the Sonoran Desert and the rainforests of the Pacific Northwest.
But, at times, I’ve despised my government’s policies – on race, the Vietnam and Iraq wars, its token commitment to heath care and education while providing welfare for the wealthy at the expense of the needy.
And I’ve despised some of its leaders – Nixon and Kissinger, Nancy Reagan, Dick Cheney.
But I’ve never before feared the death of American democracy, my country in mortal peril.
I knew when Trump was elected that he was stupid, nuts, a liar, narcissistic, bigoted, boorish, sexist, immoral, unethical, childish, petty, mostly incoherent, barely literate, probably a criminal …
And I knew that most of the Republicans in Congress shared his ignorance, malevolence and soullessness.
But the speed with which their governance, their tyranny, is taking the USA back to its darkest ages is disorienting and frightening.
James Comey was not far off when he likened the president to a crime boss. But he failed to note how many Republicans in government serve as Trump’s lieutenants, soldiers and button men.
These are the Goodfellas cheering as the Scofflaw in Chief aligns with murderous dictators, allows the kidnapping of children at the border, and prepares to plant another right-wing cultist on the Supreme Court.
And they all follow the timeworn Republican playbook of wrapping themselves in the flag.
“Sinclair Lewis said, ‘When fascism arrives in America it will come wrapped in a flag, carrying a cross,’” actor Bradley Whitford, forever playing Josh from The West Wing, said on the Bill Maher show last week.
“Trump literally hugs the flag,” added Maher.
“Yeah,” said Whitford, “he’s humping it, he’s assaulting it.”
Me too, said the flag.
When I was in elementary school in New York City, we started the day saying, “I pledge allegiance to the flag …”
We sang the national anthem, The Star-Spangled Banner, a song about a flag.
But I would learn that it’s the same flag American Nazis carried alongside a swastika when the first America First crusade gave allegiance to Hitler in the 1930s.
That the KKK has waved throughout its homicidal history in the name of racism.
That the John Birch Society displayed during its campaign to impeach Chief Justice Earl Warren, a Republican, because his Supreme Court mandated school integration in the 1950s.
That hard-hatted Nixon supporters weaponized when they attacked kids rallying for peace in New York after the Kent State massacre in 1970.
That white supremacists paraded with in Charlottesville last summer.
If a flag is only a symbol, too many times its been attached to dangerous politics and deranged leaders.
Maybe the cover of my book should be illustrated with the Empire State Building beside the CN Tower, or a saguaro cactus in a snowbank, or a pastrami on rye smothered in poutine.