Vexillologists unite!

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June 24, 2015 by unclespike218

With a title like that, we need to be playing some vintage R.E.M. or Decemberists.

Some song like “O Valencia!” or “Cuyahoga.” Because I want to talk state flags. Right time to do it, right? Everyone is up in arms over the Confederate flag, which seems to be gasping its last official breath. (Unofficially, there will always be the “the South will rise again” crowd, of course.) But when suddenly even the GOP rises as (mostly) one and says the Confederate flag must go, you know your days are numbered.

Enter Mississippi’s flag. Take out the ugly Confederate symbolism, and it’s actually a pretty cool flag. But yes, I think it must go. (Says the Yankee from Colorado who otherwise gives the flag of Mississippi hardly any thought, unlike Mississippians who see it every day.) It’s a shame that the flag that was proposed back in 2001 was a bit underwhelming in comparison. And at least at this date, it doesn’t look like the flag is gonna change.

But let’s expand this discussion of state flags. I think a majority of the state flags, really, should be redesigned…because they’re just too goddamned boring! At least every flag that is simply a state seal on a navy background – or some variation thereof – should be taken out back and shot. A flag should be a great symbol of a state…simple but strong enough to stand on its own.

Concrete examples? I’m biased, but I think states like Colorado (of course), Arizona, Texas, and New Mexico have it right. The flags are bold, graphic symbols that no one would mistake for any other flag. Simple enough that third-graders could enjoy coloring them with crayons and getting inspiration from them. On the east side of the Mississippi, Maryland takes the crown for an equally bold and badass flag (IMHO, the best state flag there is, only besting Colorado, even if it isn’t so simple). Ohio also gets high points for having the only state flag that isn’t your traditional rectangular banner.

States that need to go back to the drawing board and come up with something awesome include Oregon, Nebraska, the Dakotas…well, virtually every state in the Midwest and the Great Plains…and most in New England. For the most part, the South seems to have their flag game on. I’m on the fence about South Carolina’s flag, because it’s mostly navy and pretty boring. But the palmetto is the state tree and a distinctive symbol, so…points for that, I guess. I’ll let Georgia keep their flag…they’ve certainly had their troubles over the years trying to find a good one that reconciles their Confederate past with non-inflammatory symbolism, and sticking with it. Even if their flag really is a Confederate flag with the Georgia state seal in the center of the circle of stars, the original Confederate flag is not the one most people associate with racism and white supremacy.

I was inspired by this article. And no, redesigning state flags is not a huge pressing issue for every state. But flags make for very strong, stirring symbols, as the current controversy shows. So having a good one can be a great boon.


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