Wednesday, December 14, 2011
Mad Rant: Mistreating Flags
Being born and raised in Texas, I learned in high school what a controversial symbol the Confederate flag was in the United States. The argument over what it ‘means’ still flares up occasionally, though for the most part it is regarded as politically incorrect at the very least and is increasingly scarce. At first, I thought this was a unique situation, but it is not. It turns out that almost every North American and European country have a similar flag. Japan as well, which is really a problem for them as they have only ever had one national flag and it would be hard to imagine anything different. Up in Canada it has lately become the Canadian Red Ensign that has the bad reputation. In Great Britain it is the St George Cross of England and of course in Germany the Nazi German flag is strictly forbidden. Here is where my blood starts to come to a boil. Do you notice anything really wrong with the examples I just gave? Such as, why the hell would the Canadian Red Ensign, the English St George Cross and the flag of Nazi Germany be in any circumstances grouped together? The St George Cross originated in a different era of history and the brave boys from Canada fought under the Red Ensign in wiping out the Nazi German menace.
Speaking to that, one could, of course, make the argument that the English flag is evil because as times the Kingdom of England was involved in some rather unsavory undertakings. However, that could be applied to virtually any flag because no nation or government on earth has ever been perfect. Such is why we usually do not allow anyone to expropriate flags currently in use. The United States flag, for example, flew from slave ships, was carried by troops who wiped out the Indians and was carried by the Ku Klux Klan in their mass rallies and parades at the height of their power in the 1920’s. Yet, for most Americans, this changes nothing. They still view the “Stars and Stripes” as a symbol of liberty, freedom and all the best qualities of America. Another, perhaps more interesting, example is the French tricolor. It was the flag of the Revolution (Boo! Hiss!), the Reign of Terror but was also the flag of the First Empire, the July Monarchy, the Second Empire and is still the flag of the French Republic today. Most in France (who are sadly not monarchists) still view it in the best possible light as the symbol of “liberty, equality and fraternity” and, in a wider context, it has been used by so many different sorts of governments that most view it as simply “French” and nothing more, neither good nor bad in itself. If the most vile of racists do or were to wave the French tricolor, I doubt they would be allowed to change the perception of the flag to represent themselves alone.
Without getting into a debate on the reputation of the Confederate flag, to compare the Red Ensign to the colors of the Confederacy seems absolutely ludicrous. There never really was any slavery in Canada at all. The Canadian Red Ensign only came into widespread use after the American Civil War was over, it was never a flag of rebellion or dissent but was the flag of a country which developed and came to independence peacefully with (originally) no animosity but pride and respect for the British Empire it sprang from. The Canadian troops who came charging to the rescue of Great Britain and the other Allies in World War I and World War II carried the Canadian Red Ensign with them and for such people as in The Netherlands for example, the Canadian Red Ensign should be seen as a flag of liberation recalling the Canadian troops who marched in to free them from Nazi subjugation. Some, of course, do and always have objected to it because it is, well, just “too British” what with the Union Jack being on it and all. It’s too “colonial” and reminds them too much of the British Empire. Well, if the truth hurts I am sorry for you, but Canada would not exist today had it not been for the colonial era and the British Empire. That is just a simple fact of history. To allow a few undesirables to tarnish the Canadian Red Ensign is as despicable as their own misuse of it and it is an insult to the proud history of that flag and all who lived, fought and died under it to do so.