My Favorite Flag

A Hitler Youth

At my Cub Scout den meeting, the American flag on the back wall is hanging upside down.

The den mother speaks softly, and has a funny accent. We all recite the Pledge of Allegiance together. When my mom drives me home, she laughs about the upside-down flag, and she tells me I don’t have to go to any more Cub Scout meetings if I don’t want to. So I don’t. I’d rather stay at home anyway.

If the Nazis had won, this wouldn’t have happened. The Nazi flag looks the same upside down as it does right side up. If the Nazis had won, I might still be in Cub Scouts.

There’s a Nazi flag in my mom’s old dictionary. Most of the dictionary is black and white, but there are a few shiny color pages. They show all of the flags in the world from when they made the dictionary. The flag it shows for Germany is the Nazi flag, a red field with a white circle and a black swastika. This is my favorite flag, and Germany doesn’t even use it anymore. Now they use a flag with a black stripe, a red stripe and a gold stripe. When it’s upside down, it’s a completely different flag. It’s not as cool as the Nazi flag. But Germany kicked the Nazis out after they lost World War II, and now no one uses the Nazi flag.

I like these flags so much that my mom buys me a poster of all the flags that are being used. I hang the poster up in my room, and sometimes I look at it and think about all the cool countries I’ve never seen. I might never see some of them at all, but I’ve got enough time to see a few. More than any other country, I want to visit Germany, even if I don’t care about its new flag. I’m trying to learn German, but it’s a lot to memorize.

When I can’t fall asleep, sometimes I think about swastikas. When I picture a swastika, it’s always spinning around like a record.

My family lives way out in the woods. We only get four or five channels on our TV, and they’re all pretty boring. On Friday afternoons, after school lets out, we usually rent a VCR and a movie from Curtis Mathes. If I like the movie, I’ll sometimes watch it three or four times before we have to take it back.

The first time I ever saw Nazis was in Bedknobs and Broomsticks. That movie happens during World War II. The good guys in it are British, and at the end of the movie, they’re listening to the radio and waiting to get attacked by Nazis. One of the good guys is a witch, and she’s trying to think of a spell to beat the German army. She finally decides to cast a spell on a bunch of old suits of armor. The suits of armor come alive and beat up the Nazis. One Nazi gets kicked in the butt. The Nazis yell at each other and make funny faces. They have a lot more personality than those old suits of armor, which are kind of cool but also kind of creepy and don’t say anything. I know I’m not supposed to root for the Nazis, but I feel sorry for them. Maybe they’re not so bad, and it’s all a misunderstanding.

It seems like the funny people, the people with a lot of personality, are always getting beat up and losing. The boring people always win. The bad guys always have more personality. I always secretly root for the people with personality. Sometimes I get mad when the good guys win.

Hitler was the leader of the Nazis. He was a funny little man with a cool uniform and a mustache. In this movie called The Great Dictator, it shows Hitler dancing around and bouncing a globe off his butt. When the Nazis lost World War II, Hitler was so upset that he killed himself. That’s sad. Hitler had a lot of personality, and if he’d stayed alive and apologized over and over, maybe he would’ve gotten out of trouble eventually. Hitler bragged a lot, but I don’t think he needed to be that modest just because he lost. Maybe he didn’t kill himself. Maybe somebody else killed him and they just didn’t investigate enough.

No one else is sad that Hitler died. My mom doesn’t seem to like talking about Hitler at all. As far as she’s concerned, the Allies beat the Axis, and that’s all there is to it.

During my summer vacation, my mom has to work, so I stay with Ms. Margaret, a woman who lives in town. Ms. Margaret stays at her house all day and makes sourdough bread, which smells really good. In the afternoons, she closes the windows, turns the air conditioning up really high, and watches old TV shows.

Her favorite show is Perry Mason. Every day, someone gets murdered, and Perry Mason has to figure out who did it, which he usually does by determining the motive. It’s never the person that the cops thought it was. The real killer always breaks down and confesses right at the end, while they’re on the witness stand getting cross-examined by Perry Mason. Perry Mason doesn’t talk very much, but he’s intimidating because he’s so smart.

Perry Mason used to be my favorite show, too. Then my favorite show was the Iran-Contra hearings. Now, my favorite show is Hogan’s Heroes.

The good guys in Hogan’s Heroes are a bunch of Allied soldiers who get captured by the Nazis during World War II. They’re in a jail, but it’s a fun, easy jail, and they don’t want to escape. The Nazi leader is Colonel Klink, a man who’s funny when he tries to be serious, because he’s not smart at all. Colonel Klink messes up everything. He gets mad a lot and yells at the prisoners. The prisoners are always in trouble, but nothing really bad ever happens to them. Hogan, the main prisoner, doesn’t even get caught when he makes out with Klink’s secretary, right there in his office. I’d like to make out with Colonel Klink’s secretary, too, but I’m real and she’s not.

The other big Nazi on Hogan’s Heroes is a fat guy named Sergeant Shultz. He always catches the prisoners doing things they’re not supposed to do, but he never tells on them. He’s funny because he’s always afraid of getting in trouble. He seems to be rooting for the good guys, just like the audience is supposed to. Klink and Schultz are my favorite people on the show. They have personality.

Sometimes, Hogan kills people, when he’s on some kind of a dangerous mission and bad guys get in his way. But the main characters never die. No one interesting ever dies.

When I can’t fall asleep, I pretend I’m in Stalag 13, the camp in Hogan’s Heroes. Some crazy adventure happens. No cool people ever die. Then I sit around and talk about the adventure with my friends, and we eat food and make jokes with the Nazis.

When I’m at school, I don’t talk very much. Most people don’t give me a hard time, though. Most people don’t notice that I’m there. Sometimes they try to get me to talk to them, but they usually give up after awhile.

Most of those kids don’t seem cool to me. I’d like to talk to them about Klink, Shultz, and Stalag 13, but none of them has ever seen Hogan’s Heroes. They wouldn’t know what I’m talking about. I would have to explain the whole thing to them. It would take a long time, and they wouldn’t be able to remember it all. My mom says I should talk to them about whatever they want to talk about, but I’ve never seen any of the shows they watch. They’ve never heard of Hitler, either. Some of them don’t even know what Germany is. I tell them that my family is German, and they believe me, even though I’m pretty sure it’s not true.

Sometimes, I wish I could just get rid of all the people who aren’t interesting. If there are any cool, interesting, funny people with personality out there, I’m afraid I won’t notice them because of all the boring people. Maybe they’ll think I’m a boring person, too.

On one PBS show, I saw British people during World War II, and they were putting masking tape over the insides of their windows. My mom says it was to keep the windows from breaking when the bombs went off. Bombs are like really big fireworks. Sometimes I’d like to skip school, stay at home, put tape over the windows and wait for the bombs to go off. Or maybe I could put on a uniform with little flags wrapped around the arms, and go shoot a gun at boring people.

America isn’t in any wars right now. We don’t like the Russians and the Iranians, and they don’t like us, either. But no one is really afraid of them coming over here. I wouldn’t want to shoot at the Russians and the Iranians, though. I think they’re funny people, and they have cool flags. Not as cool as the Nazi flag, but still. Maybe I could fight for them, against America. My mom says I can do whatever I want.

My mom says the Nazis tried to take over the whole world because they were greedy. They also wanted to get rid of all the Jews in the world. The Jews are from Israel. They have a cool flag, too. If you turn it upside down, it’s still the same flag. I’ve tried to draw it, but I always mess it up. It took me a lot of practice to draw a really good Nazi flag, so maybe I should just keep trying. I think the Nazis should come back, take over Germany, and team up with the Jews. That would surprise everyone. Then they could start a whole new program. Maybe they could start by taking over Greenland. I don’t think Greenland even has a flag. I thought they would have a flag that was just a green field with nothing on it, but that’s already Libya’s flag.

There haven’t been any world wars since the Nazis lost World War II. I wonder if World War III is going to happen soon. In World War II, it was three countries against the whole rest of the world, which I don’t think was fair. The Axis should have known they would lose. I think World War III should be a bracketed tournament, like March Madness. One country can fight another country, and the winner of that can fight the winner of another battle. The country that beats everyone else can run everything until next year.

America is the toughest country in the world, so they can start by fighting some little country like Nepal. Nepal has a cool flag, but I don’t think they could beat America. The last fight would probably be America versus Russia, but some little country like Swaziland might pull a lot of upsets, make it to the Final Four, and beat America. It would give everyone something to be excited about. No one would be bored.

My mom says she’ll get me a cat to play with, if I feed it and clean its litter box. I ask if I can have a black cat, and she says that’s fine, if we can find one. I ask her if I can name the cat Hitler and put a Nazi flag on his scratching post. She gets mad at me for saying that.

“I wouldn’t call a worm Hitler.” That’s what she says.

She still lets me name my brother’s rabbit Mohammed.