I am a white man of a certain age, living in the liberal-blue northeast, yet in a corner of New Jersey that is colored the deepest shade of red; mornings are spent working in a place that’s as conservative as conservative can be.
When I’m on the job, wearing my logo-emblazoned orange shirt and blue jeans, with a tool pouch bouncing on my hip, I appear as one with my domain. About me, it would be easy to make assumptions, and sometimes people do.
During the last presidential campaign, two co-workers who knew of my Texas roots were talking about The Wall — Trump’s Wall — when they saw me approach.
“I hear that not only are there a lot of Mexicans in Texas,” one of them said, “but a lot of dumb Mexicans.”
Seething, I swallowed hard.
“Are you referring to my three brothers-in-law and my godchild? Or maybe you’re talking about my daughter-in-law and my granddaughter, though they’re not exactly Mexican, but Paraguayan, and they don’t even live in Texas.”
I’d like to think that most people would have backed down at that point, apologized, but not this Trumper, who merely deflected: “I hear they don’t even have paved streets in Texas, nothing but dirt roads down there, is that true?”
I suppose everyone who opposes Donald Trump has one reason at the top of their list, and for me, it’s the knowledge that blatant racism is back in vogue. We’ve always had bigots and always will, but I had started to believe that most of them, at least, knew their bigotry wasn’t cool. Then along came a guy running for president who would validate their hate, make it socially acceptable again to be a racist.
For the average Trumper, in fact, color is very important, and that includes these three: red, white and blue.
Have you noticed how the Republican Party — the party of walls, deportation and travel bans — has co-opted our nation’s flag? These false patriots have taken a symbol of freedom and turned it into a symbol of hate, so that nowadays when I see the American flag in someone else’s yard, I make an assumption of my own: “Probably a Trumper.”
Color me #sad.
Trumpers, you see, are “proud ‘Muricans” who have forgotten what it means to be an American. They’ll fly Old Glory anywhere, anytime. They’ll wear it on their hats. They’ll hang it from their trees. They’ll tack it to their fences, or fly it to tatters from the beds of their monster pickup trucks that go blasting down the highway.
Old Glory indeed, for new glory is in short supply.
As a schoolboy I stood and pledged allegiance to that selfsame flag the Trumpers use. Then, as a Boy Scout, I was proud to learn to honor the flag, how to raise and lower it properly, how to fold it with the stars visible and the end tucked neatly into a triangle. My flag comes out on major holidays — Fourth of July, Veterans Day, Memorial Day — not as a political statement, but because I believe in the promise of liberty that’s woven tight within its fabric. For most of my adult life, whenever I saw the flag, I would think of Pearl Harbor, D-Day, Apollo 11 astronauts on the moon, 9/11, and the men and women of every color, race and creed who died for the high ideals it represents.
But that was then and this is now. You Trumpers have taken my flag, stolen its honor. When I see it tacked to your fences, suspended from your trees, or flogged to bloody ribbons from the backs of your pickup trucks, I no longer think of high ideals, but of low words spoken by a white man of a certain age:
“I hear that not only are there a lot of Mexicans in Texas, but a lot of dumb Mexicans.”
And I wonder if that flag-waver is you.