Happy Flag Day to all! I’ve never thought much about Flag Day, but since this post is on the (non)holiday, I wondered why we have such a day to commemorate the red, white, and blue. After all, we already have Independence Day and Memorial Day.
But first a little journey to the past about why we have flags at all. The use of flags as such date back to the ancient peoples of what is now China, perhaps a thousand years BCE. History tells me the founder of the Zhou dynasty had a white flag carried before him. Later Chinese flags bore images such as a red bird, a white tiger, or a blue dragon. Rulers and military higher-ups propped them on chariots and planted them on the walls of captured cities.
Remember Iwo Jima and the American soldiers’ struggle to plant the red, white, and blue on that hill, proclaiming they were not defeated? Even in ancient China, the fall of the flag meant defeat, and the king made sure his flag his flag was carried by another important personage, so if it fell, he was not defeated, and also not his realm.
About the U.S. flag, the earliest reference to establishing a “Flag Day” is in 1912, crediting George Morris of Hartford, Connecticut, with suggesting a day to honor the adoption of the American flag on June 14, 1777 by resolution of the Second Continental Congress. Most of us know the stripes represent the original 13 Colonies and the stars the 50 states of the Union. If I was taught the symbolic meanings of the colors, I don’t recall. Red symbolizes hardiness and valor, white purity and innocence, and blue vigilance, perseverance, and justice. All values we should aspire to and often fall short.
But… George Morris’s effort toward a Flag Day explains the date and the reason but not the actual observance. That didn’t come about until much later. Presidents Wilson and Coolidge issued proclamations asking for June 14 to be observed as National Flag Day, but not until 1949 did Congress approve it and President Truman sign it into law. Not much is made of the day because it is left up to the president to officially proclaim the observance.
More recently, people flying the red, white, and blue are also displaying below it the blue and yellow flag of Ukraine in support of that country’s struggle against the Russian invasion. Their flag evolved over time as Ukraine freed itself from both the Austro-Hungarian empire and the Soviet Union. The red banner of the Soviet Union with its golden hammer, sickle, and star was modified for use in Ukraine by having a stripe of light blue added to the bottom. Once anti-communist forces were successful, the flag became the nationalist blue-yellow banner in 1992. The colors represent the country’s role as Europe’s breadbasket, blue denoting the skies over the vast plains and yellow for the grain growing in the huge wheat fields below.
Democracy is under threat today around the world. So to commemorate Flag Day, I will be thinking of the brave American colonists who fought and won and established our democracy. And of the brave Ukrainian patriots. May we keep fighting to keep our respective democracies. I look forward to your comments.
The Kindle version of ON DEADLY GROUND, the first book in my Devlin Security series, is on sale now through June 30 for only 99 cents. No flags in the book, but Max and Kate’s race to return a valuable Mayan artifact. You can find it here: http://getBook.at/OnDeadlyGround