Trump flag sends a message

To the Editor:

In Rich Saltzberg’s Sept. 29 MV Times article “Trump supporter’s house shot at, sign vandalized,” Saltzberg writes about David Morris, a man who owns a home on New York Avenue in Oak Bluffs. Recently, Mr. Morris “affixed a Trump-Pence [flag] high up on that house,” the house in which he says he was born. He hung the flag there — in that place — despite the fear he and his “politically like-minded friends” feel, friends who are “afraid to display their support for Trump-Pence.”

For those who have seen the flag, its position on the corner of the second story of Mr. Morris’ home allows it to function as a sort of welcome banner into downtown Oak Bluffs. There the flag is, perpendicular to the road, stretched and stuck to the house with sturdy planks of wood, and — clearly — hung with care. And because Mr. Morris’ home exists at almost the exact point where a hill begins to decline down from the Vineyard Highlands into the Oak Bluffs Harbor area, a motorist can see Nancy’s, Our Market, and Mr. Morris’ Trump-Pence flag in the same instant. For those ascending the hill, the flag’s verso comes into view as the gaze of the viewer is naturally directed upward due to the incline. From either direction, a person eventually realizes what it is they are being forced to look at, and then either vexation or satisfaction inevitably ensue.

And yet, all told, it would be more accurate to say the flag attracts the eye not like a banner but a billboard — that trapping of mainland life so splendidly absent from Vineyard ways. By this fact, then, its conspicuousness is heightened. Indeed, the flag attracts the eye not only by declaring support for a presidential candidate opposed by the majority of the electorate of Martha’s Vineyard, but because it has been designed by the campaign and then placed by Mr. Morris in such a way as to shout support rather than speak it. The flag interrupts your day and your thoughts the way a commercial is designed to interrupt your day and your thoughts — simply by being louder. For why else would that infamous slogan (Make America Great Again! or Keep America Great!) be punctuated with an exclamation point?

When questioned about the reason for the recent incident of vandalism, Mr. Morris spoke with either obliviousness or feigned confusion: “If you don’t like Trump, don’t vote for him. As far as I know, it’s not personal. Apparently they have a problem with Trump. Why take it out on me? Don’t vote for the guy. But shoot my window and rip my sign because, I don’t know, you don’t like him? I have a free right to vote for who I want. Put up any sign I want. So you shouldn’t come by and vandalize my house.”

Though I neither condone nor encourage acts of violence or vandalism, I can understand them. As such, I can understand why Mr. Morris’ Trump-Pence flag has been vandalized. Why this is not obvious to Mr. Morris is worrisome. It would seem he expects to be treated with a standard of civility to which his candidate does not adhere. After all, President Trump is the person who recently instructed the Proud Boys — a known far-right, neofascist organization — to “stand back and stand by” (for what, exactly?) when he was pressed to denounce their unsolicited role as paramilitary vigilantes during protests in Portland, Ore. Or, less recently, the person who described the tiki-torch-wielding white supremacists marching in Charlottesville, Va., back in 2017 as but one side in a mere disagreement between “very fine people.” And yet, Mr. Morris seems confused — or at least surprised — that his flag has been vandalized. To me it is unsurprising. For what else might support for a candidate who unabashedly vilifies, slanders, and encourages violence against our fellow Americans be met with, other than resistance?

Perhaps Mr. Morris, like many other Trump supporters, still believes he can pick and choose the aspects of President Trump’s candidacy he supports, offering “Yeah, but’s” and “Even so’s” when presented with the evidence of their candidate’s heinous behavior.

Ultimately, though, Mr. Morris says he won’t be cowed. But it doesn’t matter. To hang a Trump-Pence flag in any part of this country requires no courage, not even an ounce. Instead, it requires an eagerness to believe that the white working class is the heir to a country built solely upon the blood and sweat of white ancestors alone. But for those who are willing to listen, for those who are willing to be courageous, consider that the above is simply a myth to which many poor white people continue to subscribe. A myth that is believable — in part — because many Trump supporters have acceded (whether they know it or not) to a bitterness that makes it easier for them (and thus makes them more susceptible to manipulation by others) to blame their neighbors for their personal struggles. Someone who won’t be cowed might be better served by considering instead that massive, federally subsidized corporations — corporations that have shirked their societal responsibilities for years (taxes) — are the ones responsible for the unrelenting extraction of wealth from the working class in this country. Someone who won’t be cowed would not allow themselves, as a member of one group of poor people, to blame the decline of their prosperity on another group of poor people.

But if they are not willing to consider the above, then they might go on flying a Trump-Pence flag high up in that place — higher, even, than some American flags fly — and in doing so display just how flawlessly they have fallen for this age-old trick.

 

Garri Saganenko

Oak Bluffs