Seventh Flag

The US and Europe have unraveled since World War II and radicalism has metastasized into every community, tearing away the decency, optimism, and security that shaped those robust democracies for more than eight decades. No place is immune, including the small West Texas town of Dell City, where four generations of an iconic American family and a Syrian Muslim family carve a farming empire out of the unforgiving high desert. These families’ partnership is as unlikely as the idea of a United States, and their powerful friendship can be traced back to a bloody knife fight in a Juarez cantina just after World War II. The bond forged that night between Jack Laws, an Irish American who staked his claim in West Texas after the war, and Ali Zarkan, whose great-grandfather sailed from the Middle East to Texas in the mid-1800s as part of President Franklin Pierce’s attempt to create the US Army Camel Corps, shapes each generation of the families as they come of age and adapt to shifting paradigms of gender, commerce, patriotism, loyalty, religion, and sexuality. From the beaches of the Western Pacific to the battlefields of the Middle East and from the lawless streets of Juarez to the darkest corners of the Internet, the two families fight real and perceived enemies—journeying, as they do, through the football fields of Texas and West Point, the hippie playgrounds of Asia, the music halls of Austin, the terrorist cells of Europe and the political backrooms where fortunes are gained or lost over the rights to Western water. Underlying their experiences is the basic question of what constitutes identity and citizenship in America, or in Texas, a land over which six flags have flown. The seventh flag, ultimately, is not one of a state or a nation, but of a mosaic of cultures, religions, and people from every corner of the world—all struggling to define what it means to be unified under an ambiguous banner.

Author: Sid Balman Jr.

Publication Date: October 8, 2019


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“At precisely the moment when our diverse and multi-ethnic nation needs a spiritual lift, Sid Balman gives us a portrait of the complex racial and generational relations that define who we really are as Americans. You can smell the creosote of the desert and taste the huevos rancheros in this tale of West Texas . . . a splendid account of what being American is all about, a rich portrait useful to us all.”
―Mike McCurry, former White House Press Secretary (1995-1998) and Director/Professor, Center for Public Theology, Welsey Theological Seminary, Washington D.C.

“Sid Balman’s story comes alive through sympathetic characters and descriptions of places so nuanced I imagined I could almost feel again the scratchy grey wool of the West Point uniform. Anyone paying attention to the global struggle with radicalism will come away with a much keener understanding of the humans who fall prey, the context that claims them, and the necessity to tackle this challenge with more finesse than we currently muster.”
―Kimberly C. Field, Brigadier General USA (ret) and Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Conflict and Stabilization
Seventh Flag‘s rapid paced narrative takes readers from the football fields of West Texas to the battlefields of the Middle East, from Mexican shootouts to an ashram in India. A former war correspondent, Balman’s lively prose has his audience inside a tank’s turret and with the media cluster in the rear of the Secretary of State’s aircraft. The book entertains and enlightens!”
―US Ambassador James Bishop (ret)

“A must read! Seventh Flag views the world through the eyes of two very different families as they move through the trials and tribulations that we are currently experiencing across different societies and religions. Their journey together helps them appreciate the different challenges and choices individuals must make, the importance of family and their common humanity.”
―Shaykh Siddiqi, Founder Hijaz College; and The Blessed Guide of the Naqshbandi Hijazi Sufi Order

“Think you know what shapes Texas? Sid Balman’s tale of a Seventh Flag over Texas will rattle what you think. This saga of a generational partnership “as unlikely as the idea of a United States” is rooted in a true event from before the Civil War that led to Texas, of all places, being home to more Muslim Americans than any other state.”
―Mark Stein, New York Times bestselling author of How the States Got Their Shapes

About the Author

A Pulitzer-nominated national security correspondent, Sid Balman has covered wars in the Persian Gulf, Somalia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Kosovo, and has traveled extensively with two American presidents and four secretaries of state on overseas diplomatic missions. With the emergence of the web and the commoditizing of content, Balman moved into the business side of communications. In that role, over two decades, he helped found a news syndicate focused on the interests of women and girls, served as communications chief for the largest consortium of US international development organizations, led two successful progressive campaigning companies, and launched a new division centered on security issues at a large international development firm. A fourth-generation Texan, as well as a climber, surfer, paddler, and benefactor to Smith College, Balman lives in Washington DC with his wife, three kids, and two dogs.