"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.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Sacred and secular...flags of readers

You can get in a fight in America, and sometimes arrested, for dishonoring the country's flag. Misuse or disrespect of the flag is a political issue. A sure way to anger Americans, protesters in other countries know, is to burn it. To those who have served in the military, it is almost sacred.
But there is at least one flag of regular readers of this blog that is religiously sacred--that of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Adopted in 1973 with white inscription and sword on the background of green for Islam, the flag carries the Islamic creed, the "shahada." In Arabic, it's pronounced "lā ʾilāha ʾillā l-Lāh, Muḥammadun rasūlu l-Lāh."
"There is no god but God and Muhammad is the messenger of God."
The sword stands for the house of Saud, the founding dynasty of the country. The kingdom was founded by Abdul-Aziz bin Saud in 1932, though conquests began in 1902.
Saudi Arabia is the birthplace of Islam and is sometimes know as the "land of the Two Holy Mosques," in reference to Mecca and Medina, the two holiest places in Islam.
Saudis take their flag religiously. It is never lowered to half staff as a sign of mourning, or hung vertically, because that would be blasphemous. In another instance, in the Olympics, an attempt to put the flag on soccer balls was reversed after protests, for the same reasons.
Another flag of frequent readers of this blog has a longer, but more secular,  history, that of the Republic of Colombia, Adopted in 1861 after winning independence from Spain in 1823, the flag is unique in that its stripes are not of equal width, and German philosopher Johann Goethe inspired it, telling the designer:
"Your destiny is to create in your land a place where the primary colors are not distorted,"
The colors represent the gold of the country, the seas on its shores and the the blood of heroes who gained the country's freedom.
Colombia has been a land of turmoil and long rebellions, and most recently drug cartel violence, but violence and danger are decreasing and tourism and the economy  increasing. After Mexico, it has the largest population of any Spanish-speaking country. It is one of few countries  to have shores on two oceans, the Pacific and Atlantic.
Important to me and this blog, in addition to its readers, is its huge coffee crop, which was once second largest in the world. Now, thanks to climate change which has decreased production, it ranks third behind Vietnam and Brazil.
Oh, and by the way, as Saudi Arabia gets its name from a person and family, Colombia does too, in a way, named for Christopher Columbus.

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