Liberal Arts Blog — The American, French, and British Flags: What Do the Colors Stand For? Who Cares? Who Should?
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Today’s Topic: The American, French, and British Flags: What Do the Colors Stand For? Who Cares? Who Should?
What were you taught at home or in school? Did the topic even come up? Should it? What would logic say they should stand for? If you were chair of a committee appointed to assign meaning to each, what would your recommendation be? Is ambiguity a virtue in this matter? Today, a few notes. Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.
THE US FLAG: Charles Thomson (1729–1824), Secretary of the Continental Congress (first link below)
1. “White signifies purity and innocence.”
2. “Red, hardiness and valour.”
3. “Blue signifies vigilance, perseverance, and justice.”
NB: How about the red representing red states, the blue states, and white peace between them? (on the model of the Irish flag — green for Catholics, orange for Protestants, and white for peace between them). Or red representing the principle of liberty, blue the principle of justice and white the reconciliation of the two? Or perhaps white could stand for the principle of truth, without which there is no justice, nor freedom.
THE FRENCH — logic and history evoke these possible meanings
1. “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity” (Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite)
2. These were the colors of the Dutch Republic and the “three colors of liberty.”
3. White was the color of the clergy, blue of the aristocracy, red of the bourgeois or middle class. Is the flag primarily a symbol of national unity?
NB: White represents the King, blue and red are the colors of Paris. Alternatively, a traditionalist, Catholic view: “Blue symbolizes Saint Martin (Martin of Tours), a Christian saint with a shrine in Paris. Red symbolizes Saint Denis, a martyr and saint who was the Bishop of Paris. White symbolizes the Virgin Mary or Joan of Arc.”
THE UNITED KINGDOM — the merger of three countries, three saints, three crosses
1. England: the vertical red cross of St. George, the patron saint of England, on a white background.
2. Scotland: a diagonal white cross of St. Andrew, on a blue background
3. Ireland: a diagonal red cross of St. Patrick, on a white background
NB: Kind of a visual jumble? And, oops, what about Wales? The United Kingdom is actually comprised of four constituent countries, three of which collectively make up “Great Britain” (England, Scotland, and Wales). The fourth is, of course Northern Ireland. The flag of Wales includes the color green plus a red dragon. Can you visualize inclusion of either in the Union Jack?
FOOTNOTE: flags, colors, and the law of diminishing returns
1.) Does the law of diminishing returns set in rapidly after three colors in a flag?
2.) Is the flag of South Africa, for example, too busy? It has six colors.
3.) Or is it the exception that proves the rule?
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