The Symbolism of Old Flags

My next-door neighbor has affixed a Gadsden Flag to his minivan.

It could be worse, I suppose. Ten years ago I’d have looked at the Gadsden Flag or the Pine Tree Flag (a white flag with a pine tree and the words “An Appeal to Heaven”) and thought the person was a history junkie. Today I look at them and think, “Well, at least it’s not the Confederate battle flag or an upside-down American flag.”

Which I think shows how these Revolutionary War-era flags have been appropriated — or reclaimed, as I suspect Tea Partiers would say — as symbols of opposition, even rebellion, against the federal government. But if the Confederate battle flag is more familiar and more obvious as a rebellious symbol, the Gadsden Flag is more covert because it’s so obscure. Maybe that makes it more socially acceptable?

Suffice it to say, the historian in me has a little “squick” when I see a Gadsden Flag. (And the atheist in me wants to curl into a fetal ball when I see a Pine Tree flag; there’s a house nearby that flies one.) People are free to fly what they want, even the Confederate battle flag, but the message that’s sent isn’t always a positive one.

Published by Allyn

A writer, editor, journalist, sometimes coder, occasional historian, and all-around scholar, Allyn Gibson is the writer for Diamond Comic Distributors' monthly PREVIEWS catalog, used by comic book shops and throughout the comics industry, and the editor for its monthly order forms. In his over ten years in the industry, Allyn has interviewed comics creators and pop culture celebrities, covered conventions, analyzed industry revenue trends, and written copy for comics, toys, and other pop culture merchandise. Allyn is also known for his short fiction (including the Star Trek story "Make-Believe,"the Doctor Who short story "The Spindle of Necessity," and the ReDeus story "The Ginger Kid"). Allyn has been blogging regularly with WordPress since 2004.

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