Flags seem to be in the news a bit at the moment, particularly over that pond. Is there nothing more interesting going on? Obviously not, because I can’t think of anything else to blog about at the moment. Anyway, the World Cup has enough of an excuse for flags to be discussed in the blogosphere anyway!
Anyway, flags. What a load of horse dung. I don’t mean that. I quite like flags themselves, as in the designs of them and so on. While we’re at it, I’ve been reminded of this website about flags that MatGB linked to a while ago. I didn’t link to it at the time because I don’t actually agree with a lot of it. Surely the Brazilian flag is one of the world’s coolest?
But what I really cannot stand about flags is the intense symbolism that surrounds them. Some people act like a flag is the most important thing in the world. I have been led to believe that in some parts of the USA a child could be swimming in his own shit outside a house, yet a passer-by would be more shocked by a tatty stars and stripes. That would probably happen in parts of Britain aswell, come to think of it.
I am one of these people who couldn’t really give two hoots about nationality. Sure, I like good aspects of Scotland / Britain / whatever, but that’s only because I was brought up here, and all of my memories are here. If I was born in Slovakia I would probably quite like Slovakia. Even if I was born in Scotland then moved to England when I was two years old I would probably feel more English than Scottish. Nationality is a load of old pish really. I am sorry if this makes me a wet old hippy. So be it.
So I think it would be kind of pointless to go around waving a Saltire. And I am not one of those people who thinks that it’s some kind of choice between the Saltire and the Union Flag and something else. I’m not a particular fan of either flag. The Union Flag is quite cleverly designed, but it looks like a complete mess.
Meanwhile the light blue used in the the “traditional” Saltire (to the right) just makes it look washed out, as though it’s been left out in the sun for too long (surely an impossibility in Scotland?!).
For what it’s worth, I quite prefer the design of England’s flag. Red and white is such a simple idea, and it works brilliantly. The English flag is bold, minimalist, and a dream for remixers to boot. So says Chris Applegate at least:
There is an important design element to it; many of the St Georgeâ€™s Crosses flying out there have been modified in many different ways. Corporate logos can be added to promote a brand, lions have been placed in the corners (alluding to the England teamâ€™s crest), or worst of all, â€œENGLANDâ€ is splashed across it (a big no-no in vexillology).
Defacing a flag like this is probably actually a hangable offence, but being a callous flag-hater I actually quite like the fact that people are claiming their flag in this way by adapting it to their own tastes (no matter how tasteless). I like this comment over at Qwghlm:
I think it shows a healthy lack of deference towards our prime patriotic symbol. The George Cross – unlike the Uion Flag – seems to have emerged as something to be enjoyed, not something to be revered. Thatâ€™s about as healthy an approach to national identity as it gets, I say!
They also have possibly the most terrifying flag in the modern world – black and red with a fucking machete on it. That flag surely makes a statement. That statement being – “Fuck off or lose your legs. Your choice.”
They chose for their flag the colours of fear and blood, then stuck a fuck off big knife right in the middle of it.
Anyway, on to the crux of my post. Given my indifference towards flags, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I find flag burning one of the most bizarre activities in the world. I don’t blame the flag burners themselves. They want to cause a fuss and get a big reaction, and setting fire to a particular piece of cloth certainly gets them that with the minimum of effort.
And therein lies the problem. People who act as though burning a flag is an act of war or something! In the USA flag burning is so awful that they are always planning on making it illegal (even though they never seem to have a problem with starting actual wars where people die and stuff). Apparently the American flag is such a strong symbol of freedom of speech that they need to curb freedom of speech in order to protect this symbol of freedom of speech, otherwise freedom of speech will be eroded and the terrorists have won!
Here is Longrider:
Iâ€™ve always viewed the behaviour of angry flag burning mobs as little more than playground temper tantrums that never quite made it to the adult world. Libertine views the matter similarly to the burning of books and I guess he has a point. There is something repugnant about it, which is why people do it. The desecration of a national symbol is deeply insulting and it is intended to express maximum displeasure. The counter to this, surely, is to ignore it; refuse to rise to the obloquy.
And via Longrider, in the Times Online News Log (dead tree, geddit?):
Speaking for the protection of Old Glory, the Republican Majority Leader Bill Frist said: â€œCountless men and women have died defending that flag. It is but a small humble act for us to defend it.â€
A load of rubbish. I think if anybody died for the sake of a flag then they must have been a bit thick. As Longrider points out:
Surely they died defending what it represented and in passing this amendment to the constitution, it would no longer represent that, would it?
And, via Guardian Unlimited’s Newslog, Jonathan Alter:
For dad – and me – any member of Congress who supports amending the Bill of Rights for the first time in the history of this country for a nonproblem like flag burning is showing serious disrespect for our Constitution and for the values for which brave Americans gave their lives. Such disrespect is a much more serious threat than the random idiots who once every decade or so try (often unsuccessfully) to burn a flag.
Some people obviously care very much about what a flag represents but at the end of the day I say it is just a piece of cloth. And if people didn’t get so worked up about it, flag burners probably wouldn’t burn flags.