Juxtaposition of the Day
We'll start with two gags based on misunderstanding the meaning of Flag Day, and then move on to misunderstandings that aren't in the least funny.
And let me disclose right up front that I am an old fart, old enough that I found these two strips funny because I come from a time when you couldn't miss the meaning of Flag Day, though not because the flag was continually shoved down your throat in a test of your loyalty to the government.
In a nation where the government served, rather than led, the people, the flag was a completely different presence.
Not that I haven't seen rabid extremism before: I was born into the McCarthy Era, and, while the worst of that period ended when I was four years old, with "At long last, have you left no sense of decency?", it didn't cut off immediately.
I remember an assembly a few years later in which a couple, most likely members of the John Birch Society, explained to us that, if we didn't stand up to the Communists, they would take over our country. (In retrospect, I wonder who green-lighted this mandatory indoctrination session?)
And while those Jack Webb films and the duck-and-cover air raid drills may be a source of humor for those who weren't there, they were part of our landscape. They were a feature of normal life.
Fortunately, our parents' had either fought to defeat the Nazis and Japanese imperialism, or, if they were younger, had been in Korea. And they hadn't been fighting for the vague policy goals of a Kissinger or a Cheney: They were fighting very specific threats, not only to our sovereignty but to our way of life.
Thus the enemy shouts of "To Hell with Babe Ruth" rather than "To Hell with Representative Democracy."
And the flag represented us, not our government. We did not pledge allegiance to Harry Truman or to Ike or to JFK but to the flag itself and "the Republic for which it stands."
Jump forward to 1967, when I took my driver's test: Being a country boy, that required going to the county seat, a town with which I wasn't very familiar, since we shopped at a larger city not much further away.
As we drove down the main street, the brownie said, "Take a left at the post office," and my response was, "Where's that?" to which he snapped, "At the flag!" because any nitwit could see that.
And I was embarrassed because, of course, unless it was Flag Day or Memorial Day or the Fourth of July or something, the only flags would be outside government buildings and public schools.
It was only a few years later that Nixon and his "Silent Majority" transformed the flag into a symbol of loyalty to him, and to his policies.
And a way to decorate car dealerships and pharmacies and grocery stores and private homes and confrontational bumperstickers and something to drag along on your truck until it became filthy and tattered and after that, too.
When I was a kid, having an American flag was like the fronds you got on Palm Sunday: It was a responsibility that could be troubling, because you couldn't let it touch the ground and you certainly couldn't just throw it away.
And you didn't leave it out in the rain or after dark. In fact, we knew it was raining at school as soon as it started, because we'd see out the windows that the head custodian was coming out to take down the flag.
Well, I told you I was an old fart.
And when the President of the United States declares the press an enemy, while praising one of the harshest dictators on the current scene, why is it inappropriate to call him on it in the most obvious, if harsh, terms?
At what point do you stop tippy-toeing around the parallels?
His followers are not doing so. As Brian Duffy points out, Rep. Steve King is actively, knowingly allying himself with neo-Nazis and race-baiters and he remains part of the GOP faithful in Congress.
This straightforward column by Paul Krugman has been making the rounds, and I don't think it sounds extreme in the least: The horrifying thing about our current situation is not what the President and his quislings say and do, but the way nobody in the Republican Party stands up to them.
As Krugman suggests, the time for assuming cooler heads will temper the worst of Trump has passed, because they clearly have not and will not: The only voices of dissent on that side of the aisle are namby-pamby statements by retiring Congressmen whose votes do not match their speeches.
Meanwhile, as Mike Thompson notes, the increasing effort to stifle the free press that has increased through several administrations hit a particular low point when it was revealed that a reporter's phone calls were monitored over several years.
And, as Ann Telnaes points out, the Trump family has been using the Presidency as a profit center in any number of ways, from Ivanka's securing of trademarks in China upon passage of friendly trade regulation to the simple profiteering of charging the President's security detail full price on accommodations when Trump chooses Mar-A-Lago over Camp David.
There is some mordant humor to be found in all this, and Tom the Dancing Bug does so in a longer piece of which this is a snippet.
The sad part being that "Homer Trump" is quite right: He doesn't have to deny being Putin's puppet, because everybody knows and nobody cares.