Wednesday, July 09, 2008

people of the cloth

This beauty flies proudly in front of the Manzanillo airport.

According to an early entry in my baby book under "favorite amusements," this entry appears in my mother's distinctive angular penmanship: "Can spot a flag where ordinarily people would miss it."

Nothing changed over time. While my friends were collecting baseball cards in grade school, I was collecting flag cards. My friends might know Ted Williams's statistics, but I knew the design of the Cambodian flag.

To this day, I love flags; I even have a small collection. I often choose a flag at random to display. Wednesday? How about Trinidad and Tobago? Arbor Day? How about Liechtenstein? Independence Day? That Union Jack might create a bit of chat.

Even though a Baby Boomer, I am more of a Traditionalist when it comes to flags. They are not merely designs: they are the symbols of the best of every nation.

A Spanish newspaper, 20 Minutos recently challenged the world (or a portion of it) with the question: "What is the most beautiful flag in the world?" While the contest was underway, one of
Peter Rice's students started canvassing reader's of Peter's blog to vote for the Mexican flag.

Jennifer Rose now reports the results are in, and the winner is: the flag of Mexico -- with Peru and Guatemala as the runners up.

All three flags have a common general design, but each carries its own national pride. The design is simple and easily recognizable. No one ever said of the Mexican flag: Is that an Indonesian flag or a Polish flag signalling distress or is it Monaco?

The flag has three vertical stripes of green, white, and red. But what makes it truly Mexican is that engaging Aztec omen: the eagle on a cactus eating a snake. The colors were inspired by the French tricolor -- and all that it stood for. (A bit ironic when you consider what the French did to Mexico a mere forty years later.)

I find it odd and heart-warming, in this post-modern world, that anyone has taken the time to do something so old-fashioned as to honor national pride. To the post-modernist, symbols are symbols; they are not real. Therefore, they have no place of honor in society.

Over the years (and this year, in fact), politicians have ignored symbols to their cost. Pretending that people do not honor the things for which symbols stand is to ignore human nature. You may as well make fun of their religion.

That attitude was best demonstrated by one of my left-wing friends (a person who would never vote for Democrats because they are all too conservative for his taste), who expressed his disdain for the Canadian flag in the presence of two Canadians. "Looks like the label off of a syrup can," he quipped, and was then offended that all three of us were offended. "It's just a piece of cloth" was his best defense.

He was wrong. Flags are not just pieces of cloth. They represent the best in who we and our neighbors are.

I say congratulations to Mexico. Job well done. May all of the dreams that the flag stands for come true for all of her people.


jennifer rose said...

Flags are cool.

But the US did much in the century last past to denigrate and trivialize its national standard. And that didn’t come from those of us who wore pieces of the flag appliquéd on the seat of our blue jeans. The damage started at the beginning of each school day when students were required to recite a pledge of allegiance to the flag. Standing up when a national flag passes is one thing, but demanding that all in its presence recite an oath violates the very principles upon which this nation was built. I haven’t said the pledge of allegiance since I was in grade school (Heck, I viewed the repeated trips to the principal’s office better than sticking around in class.), and I still won’t.

Where is “liberty and justice for all” when all presence are expected to utter a pledge?

Babs said...

I had always taken for granted the pride in the US for its traditions and of course its flag. Having lived across from NASA for 17 years, it was commonplace for flags to be flying in each person's yard - especially the astronauts.
Imagine my delight and surprise when Imoved to Mexico to find that their pride in their traditions and flag is as fervent, if not more so, then any place I've ever lived or traveled! It's a delight to observe...and be a part of.......

Charles said...

I think the issue of the flag pin in the US democratic debates illustrates your point. People feel passionately about the flag because to them it represents their love for their country.

Steve Cotton said...

Charles -- You are correct about Senator Obama. He is the very essence of the post-modern politician. And I understand the thinking. But most Americans are not post-modern. They understand the power of symbolism.

Babs -- Most traditionalist countries still take pride in what their countries stand for -- Mexico being a good example. If you want to see what post-modernism looks llike, take a look at most of western Europe.

Jennifer -- You rebel you. If I did not know better, I would think you were a budding JW in your grade school years. Instead, you were a blooming libertarian. I went through some of the same rebellion. But, then, I am a registered contrarian.

Anonymous said...

Personally, my favorite flag is the Maryland state flag.

And I didn't even know about the flag beauty pageant until it was over, and Francisco proudly announced that Mexico had been pronounced the winner.

Still, I'd rather be sailing on a battleship flying the stars & stripes than any other flag.


Kim G
Boston, MA
(P.S. Do you think the fact that Mexico has the largest population of the Spanish-speaking world had anything to do with the outcome????)

Steve Cotton said...

Kim -- Of course, the Maryland flag has a leg up on style -- being the colors of the Calvert family. Nothing like a little heraldry to put up the design quotient.

And, if we are talking about true symbolism, nothing beats the image you have painted.