Monday, July 6, 2015

We Are What We Wave

I really love July 4th. It happens to be my favorite American holiday for lots of reasons. It's summer, it's hot, there's ice cream, there's lemonade, there's immolated chicken, there's watermelon and blueberry cobbler, there are parades with marching bands, there are sparklers, and to top it all off, there are fireworks. Bang, boom, crash right in your ears and a dazzlement in the sky. I love it all.

One of the things I adore about July 4th is bunting. I love when the fire trucks in the parade have red, white and blue bunting. I love when people put red, white, and blue bunting on their porches. I love little kids waving flags. I love the myth and the magic that made America America on July 4th, 1776. The ol' red, white, and blue just sets a very patriotic tone and I love it. It says AMERICA! with all the swags you can hang. It's just lovely.

But I didn't like seeing a Confederate flag hanging off the back of a Minnesota fire truck in Albert Lea. It made all the media outlets and the firefighter who hung it was suspended, but he managed to be interviewed by every cub reporter within a zillion mile radius, and he easily validated the original idea that he is a moron. 
"I'm sick of the politically correctness, because they are trying to change too much in the United States...Me raising that flag had nothing to do with slavery. It had nothing to do with disrespect towards our vets. It was more of a statement against the PC."                                                   Brian Nielsen, Heartland Fire Department 
The PC? Is that something akin to the VC? (I'm not sure I want to hear the answer.) There is no need to comment further on this. Mr. Nielsen does a fine job of giving credence to the idea that schools are failing to educate children, because it's pretty clear he is an ignoramus.  

What really surprised me, however, was my own visceral reaction to seeing the Confederate flag snapping happily in Minnesota. Visceral is a good word here. It was pure gut reaction and it wasn't a good one. 

That's kinda the problem with flags. They are the ultimate symbol. Flying them, waving them, even burning them. When you present a flag, you are making a HUGE statement. And flags are designed to be distinctive, to evoke a feeling. The colors have meaning, the symbols have meaning. There is no part of a flag that is gratis. 

Union Jack...........Stars and Stripe..............Tricolor
Union Jack: dating from 1606, the flag represents the union of England and Scotland - thflag of England (a red cross on a white background, known as St George's Cross), and the flag of Scotland (a white saltire on a blue background, known as St Andrew's Cross), would be joined together. (Wikipedia)
Stars and Stripes: Red means hardiness and valor, white means purity and innocence, blue means vigilance, perseverance, and justice (originally adopted in 1777 and altered as states - stars- were added)  
The Tricolor: a simple: blue for liberté, white for égalité, and red for fraternité. The colors also represent the three estates of French society... blue of the bourgeoisie, white for the clergy, and red for the nobility. Adopted in 1794 during the Revolution.
Other flags say other things, and not all are happy associations. When is a flag not okay to fly? Can a flag whipping in the wind send such a powerfully wrong message that flying it is not okay?

Okay, let's go a step further. What about this group. One of these we Americans would be fine with. But as a group? Is there a message that emerges when viewed in a line?

Jolly Roger c. 1710...........MIA-POW flag c. 1982.................ISIS c. 2010.
The first was a flag designed to terrify other ships at sea. Okay, it's become a bit of a joke, but the Jolly Roger didn't start out that way in the 18th century.

The middle is a flag that happens to hang in my neighborhood, a constant reminder that a family member never came home from Vietnam. And the third? Instant media has made sure we don't need a translation to know this is a flag of hate and violence. 

The plain black banner was flown by Muhammad in Islamic tradition, but it is also attributed to Abu Muslim in his uprising leading to the Abbasid Revolution in 747 C.E. and and the establishment of the Abbasid Caliphate. The text above the circle says, There is no god but God, Muhammad is the messenger of God. The center circle is supposed to be a seal which says Muhammad is the Messenger of God. If the black banner is traditional in Islamic countries, it is not here and sends a very different visual message, one which may more accurately portray the intent of the flag....which is to strike fear into the hearts of its enemies. 

What about this set? 


The Union Jack had been the flag of the Motherland as well as the Colonies. We rebelled and got the Stars and Stripes, then the South rebelled and suddenly, there was the Confederate battle flag...a bit of an amalgam of the two. When was the last time you saw someone fly the Union Jack in protest of independence on July 4th? If you saw the Union Jack flying on a fire truck,  would there be some kind of message about loyalty...divided or otherwise? 

Now, hop across the pond to the Mediterranean, and get a load of this trio:

                   Greek flag.......Golden Party flag...Golden Party Rally Banner

Does number 3 look familiar? You bet your sweet bippy it does:

If you are thinking for one Athenian minute that the flag for the Gold Dawn Party isn't a throw back to some other European event, guess again. Their rhetoric is equally familiar. Racist and xenophobic, they make no secret that they are going after the few remaining Jews of Greece. Their campaign slogan, "So we can rid this land of filth." 

Folks, I wrote about London last week. This week, it's Greece. Who knows where it will be next week. We just celebrated July 4th with renewed vigor because the Supreme Court ruled in favor of equal rights for the LGBT community. Not everyone on the face of this planet gets equal rights. Not in Greece, not Pakistan, not in France, not in China, not in Nigeria, not in Saudi Arabia, not in Israel, not in a lot of places.  

If We, the People truly believe in equal rights and equal justice, then we had better believe in flying flags that represent those ideas and ideals. 

Truth is, we are what we wave. 

Wifely Person's Tip o'the Week
Listen to Bernie Sanders.
You don't have to agree with him, but you have to admit 
he's changing the conversation.
This is not a bad thing. 


  1. Excellent statement, WP! And, I love the headline.

  2. Good article. Flags are either over or understated these days. My question is why is the confederate flag seemingly more hated than the flag of Daesh?

    1. Maybe it's because the war ended 150 years ago and this should've been put to rest then? It's a burr beneath the saddle blanket, I suppose, and it's been tolerated long enough. Time to stop. IMHO.