Red Flags

Vladimir Putin

ACRE

By DYLAN SKINNER

It’s quarter to eleven p.m. 241 years after the United States’ Declaration of Independence was signed. As I type, the echoes of fireworks carry over the warm summer air, which you’d think might startle the 100 lb. dog and 16-year old cat with whom I share quarters. But they’re both fine.

I’m the one on edge, and I have been since November.

My eyes travel around the small bedroom and come to rest upon a large Rubbermaid container perched on the closet’s top shelf. In addition to snowpants, a tutu from last year’s Halloween costume, and this superhero mug that reminds me of my ex-boyfriend but shan’t be thrown out, this plastic tub also houses a giant American flag.

In spring of 2001, I was privileged to be a part of the United States Senate Youth Program — which takes two kids involved in student leadership roles from each of the 50 states and puts them all together in D.C. for a week.

Over the course of seven days this group got to query Trent Lott and Tom Daschle press-conference style, meet and speak with our senators, and even be made to feel like a very insignificant human by Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy. I made friends that week that I still keep in touch with today.

And at the end of the experience, each of the delegates was given a U.S. flag that had flown over the Capitol building — at the time to me a symbol of freedom, democracy, and hope for all.

That flag became the backdrop of my senior picture and traveled with me to college. I was so proud of it. But now it sits in the storage bin, neatly folded, surrounded by translucent plastic.

In the 16 years since I received it I’ve seen the Stars & Stripes consistently used as an excuse to oppress, terrorize, discriminate against, and judge people, and I have no longer felt comfortable putting it on display.

This morning I sat down and read — out loud — the Declaration of Independence. Took me just over ten minutes. Initially when I started reading I was picturing President Trump in the role of King George III. Defying laws. Abusing power. Drowning out the voices of the people with dogma.

But the more I spoke, the more it dawned on me that the modern parallel to the accused British monarch is not Donald Trump. It’s Vladimir Putin.

I think some people these days, despite their knowledge that Russian forces tampered with last year’s election, are reluctant to string together words like “conspiracy,” “puppet,” “coup,” and “takeover by a tyrant.”

Because it sounds nuts. It’s the plot of a Tom Clancy novel on steroids, with a movie version directed by Michael Bay and produced by Jerry Bruckheimer. I grew up on movies where the Russians were the bad guys, but I never thought I’d find myself living in one.

Thankfully, the smartest person I know is someone who has no fear of calling our current political situation in America exactly what it is. This is a man who has spent much time overseas in both military and civilian roles rebuilding war zone communities, particularly in Afghanistan.

From November 9th onwards he has insisted that M.A.G.A. 45, as I’ve come to call the President, is in fact a Russian plant. And if this dude says Trump is an agent, Trump is a agent.

I asked this friend recently how far down the Trump Presidency is going to drag us as a nation, imploring him to tell me whether someone will stop this nonsense or if the lunatic currently occupying the Oval Office is going to get us all killed.

Here’s his response:

“America has taken a hit, right in the central nervous system, but we’re holding. As a people, we have been bloodied, divided, and confused by the subtle espionage of our enemies abroad and their traitorous collaborators here at home – but we’re holding. Our immune systems and our allies around the world have responded to these unprecedented circumstances imperfectly, but with a combination of quiet stealth fury and visible-as-hell #resistance like the world has never seen.

We’re not out of the woods yet, but it’s working. A cruel fascist tyrant installed his spies in the White House, and has managed to do some damage, but we’re holding. Like Imperial Japan before, Putin has simply awoken a sleeping giant, and filled it with a terrible resolve.

Ben Franklin said we’ve got “a Republic, if we can keep it”. Keeping it requires eternal vigilance against all enemies, foreign and domestic, who would subject us yet again to the domination of foreign tyrants. History isn’t over, colonialism isn’t over, oligarchy isn’t over, and tyranny isn’t over!

While we have advanced far since our founders declared independence in 1776, we as a people have taken too much for granted, and rested too much on laurels earned by those who have gone before. Our work is far from done. We must all rededicate ourselves, however we can, to ensuring that democratic governance, human rights, economic equity, and the rule of law shall not perish from the earth.”

When I was 10, I wanted to be President. At 20, I wanted to be a Senator. Now all I want is to be a proud American again.

The colors of the Russian flag are also red, white, and blue. To alleviate any confusion about which country I’m in, maybe it’s time for my piece of cloth that once soared over the Capitol — currently filled with soulless enablers to whom history will not be kind — to come off of the shelf and be unfurled once more. 

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