"When dawn spreads its paintbrush on the plain, spilling purple... ," Songs of the Pioneers song from TV show "Wagon Train." Dawn on the mythic Santa Fe Trail, New Mexico, looking toward Raton from Cimarron. -- Clarkphoto. A curmudgeon's old-fashioned newspaper column, cross-breeding watercolor, metaphors and journalism, for readers in more than 150 countries.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Independence protesting in the breeze

 We forget sometimes how integral protest and revolution leading to independence are symbolized on our flags. In America, constantly at war for years now, Old Glory is revered as a symbol of heroism, of identity, of sacrifice, of a free nation. But even during Fourth of July parades, the original purpose of the flag gets lost among the fireworks and speeches. At first, it was a symbol of defiance, of rebellion, of upstarts challenging authority. I think it is fitting that in times of turmoil, it is still used that way by those protesting one government policy or action. Turning the flag upside down, changing it with a peace symbol, or even burning it may offend most of us, and dishonor those who have served it, but it is an ironic testament to its power and history...it still signifies protest and independence of thought and action.
As I've looked at these flags of the readers of this blog, I've discovered many of those flags have similar histories, some much older than ours, and some younger, inspired perhaps by Old Glory.
So it is with the flag of the Netherlands, one of the oldest flags in the world. It dates from 1572 when William I of Orange joined Dutch nationalists in the struggle for independence from Spain. Originally it had an orange bar instead of red, reflecting William's livery, but the dye tended to turn red with age, so red was adopted in the 17th Century. It was confirmed by royal decree in 1937.
South of here and more recently a flag of independence is the flag of Venezuela, and that flag is still a symbol of controversy and independence.
It was first used without the stars in 1806 by in a failed attempt to gain independence from Spain. When the declaration of independence was signed in 1810, seven stars were added, representing the seven provinces that signed the declaration of independence. sounds familiar, doesn't it? Simon Bolivar, leading the country to victory in its war of independences from 1811 to 1823, wanted an eighth star added for another province, but apparently that didn't happen, and the seven  star flag was used until 2006.
That's when fiery President Hugo Chavez, who likes to poke at the U.S., and is now in the news because of his health, ordered the eighth star added. The opposition party refuses to use it.
And at the close of the Miss Universe pageant in 2010, the winner, Stephania Fernandez, pulled out a seven star flag.
Independence, protesting in the breeze of many countries.

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