Flags in NJ & USA: It’s complicated, Part II

Napoleon said of flags, “It is with such baubles that men are led.” Nonetheless, like social media, flags are a medium of communications, and they go back as far as 5,000 years ago. Every flag has a story. As we saw in Part I flags can represent both pride and prejudice depending on the viewer, such as LGBT pride and opponents’ prejudice. This theme continues with the flags in Part II – the flag of a country which successfully resisted US power, one friendly to the US  which Trump denigrates, a suffering territory which he demeans, one of many flags I would never fly, and one flag that could save the world. The pride remains strong and Trump’s divisive policies have strengthened the prejudice, but the power of flags continues. In NJ you see these flags displayed in front of homes, at parades and in protests.

I remember its beautiful beaches and forested areas in the interior. Today Puerto Ricans continue suffering from Hurricane Maria. Trump was at his most insensitive when he visited our territory, downplaying the catastrophe by comparing it to Katrina, and saying to desperate people, Youve thrown our budget a little out of whack.” Time and time again Trump makes the whole thing about himself while disrespecting the needs of others, particularly brown and black people. The Puerto Rican population in New Jersey, 468,200, was 5.2% of the total population in 2014 and is growing rapidly as people flee their island and move here.  Seeking fair treatment for his island, PR’s governor is in Washington now talking with the government and other agencies. Apparently this flag is in great demand as Americans hasten to support their fellow citizens. You can buy the flag here. 

I am proud to fly the Mexican flag, a country I have visited many times. Unlike the US where we slaughtered most Indians, today Mexicans are a racial mixture of approximately European Whites (9%) and the remainder pure indigenous or a mixture of both. The ancient Mayan tribe in the southeast were valiant warriors against the white conquitadors and  created a highly advanced civilization. In the 1800’s we defeated Mexico and forcibly annexed about half of their territory, a fact still vivid in their minds. Those now living in the USA are categorized loosely as “Brown,” and are frequent targets of anti immigrant groups. When announcing the start of his campaign, Trump insulted Mexicans saying, “They‘re bringing crime. They’re rapists…” To the contrary, they have become a backbone of our work force, contribute billions in taxes, and they have a low crime rate. Trump is threatening NAFTA, a trade group which has been advantageous for USA, Canada and Mexico. There are over 260,000 Mexicans in NJ and their interest in becoming citizens continues to increase. You can buy a flag here.

In the earlyI 1900’s President Theodore Roosevelt aided Panama in its effort to annex part of Colombia where he wanted to build a canal. It soon became the greatest engineering feat of its time. A treaty with Panama gave the US perpetual control of the canal and adjoining territory. When I moved to Panama for two years, Panamanians were pressing the US hard to regain control of the canal, and they did not like that the US was using the zone for training US troops for Vietnam and South American military, often of dictators which the US then supported. There was was also resentment that Panama was a virtual US territory, using US currency, English spoken by many, and under the thumb of Uncle Sam. This all changed when the country regained control of the canal and became more Independent. It was interesting times but I had many friends there and respected their desire for self-rule. One final fact: here, as in other Latin countries near the Caribbean, many are Blacks, so while we think of hispanics as brown many are black or some combination. Relatively few, some 6,000, reside in New Jersey. Buy the flag here.

One of many flags I would never fly is the Nazi flag. Created by Hitler but without the wishes of the German people. It struck terror in their lives and sent many to their death on the battlefield and others to the gas chamber. It was the emblem which led Americans and their allies to shed their blood with ultimate victory. Since the end of WWII the Germans have been among our strongest allies. Nonetheless, in NJ and other states nativist hate groups relish displaying it. It was a sad commentary when our president said about Charlottesville that he condemned the display of hatred, bigotry and violence, on many sides. The Southern Poverty Law Center says 15 hate organizations are based in the Garden State, from white supremacists to anti-Muslim and black separatist organizations, There are many other nasty flags including that of the Ku Klux Klan which I won’t post here, but just this week in Hunterdon’s Whitelandia, a Black mom’s life was threatened – the anonymous note signed by the Ku Klux Klan.   

Ideally this is a flag we all should fly. As we become more appreciative of how fragile our earth is and how we must act globally not nationally to protect it, we need a strong United Nations or similar organization as a unifying force for all countries and peoples. Sadly the UN is not there yet, but encouraging more support for it is a progressive step forward which might just save our only home. The UN headquarters just across the Hudson River on the east side is worth a visit. The flag can be purchased here.

Originally planned as a two-part series, Flags in NJ & USA has been extended to a third part dealing with other flags, yardsigns, and images which speak to today’s concerns.  For Part I, which deals with flags that I fly, one that I would like to fly but don’t, and one that would have been dangerous to fly in the past,  go here. 

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