Salute the Flag — Which One?
Which Flag is Which?
The people of the United States actually have two national flags: one for our military government and another for the civil. Each one has fifty stars in its canton and thirteen red and white stripes, but there are several important differences.
Although most Americans think of the Stars and Stripes (above left) as their only flag, it is actually for military affairs only. The other one, meant by its makers for wider use (peacetime), has vertical stripes with blue stars on a white field (above right). You can see this design, which bears civil jurisdiction, in the U.S. Coast Guard and Customs flags, but their service insignias replace the fifty stars.
I first learned of the separate, civil flag when I was reading Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, published in 1850. The introduction, titled “The Custom House,” includes this description:
From the loftiest point of its roof, during precisely three and a half hours of each forenoon, floats or droops, in breeze or calm, the banner of the republic; but with the thirteen stripes turned vertically, instead of horizontally, and thus indicating that a civil, and not a military post of Uncle Sam’s government, is here established.
It took me two years of digging before I found a picture that matched what he was describing: my second clue was an original Illuminated History of North America (1860). If this runs against your beliefs, look up those two references.
History book publishers contribute to the public’s miseducation by always picturing the flag in military settings, creating the impression that the one with horizontal stripes is the only one there is. They don’t actually lie; they just tell half the truth. For example, the “first American flag” they show Betsy Ross sewing at George Washington’s request, was for the Revolution – of course it was military.
The U.S. government hasn’t flown the civil flag since the Civil War, as that war is still going on. Peace has never been declared, nor have hostilities against the people ended. The government is still operating under quasi-military rule.
You movie buffs may recall this: In the old Westerns, “Old Glory” has her stripes running sideways and a military yellow fringe. Most of these films are historically accurate about that; their stories usually took place in the territories still under military law and not yet states. Before WWII, no U.S. flag, civil or military, flew within the forty-eight states (except in federal settings); only state flags did. Since then, the U.S. government seems to have decided the supposedly sovereign states are its territories too, so it asserts its military power over them under the “law of the flag.”
Today the U.S. military flag appears alongside, or in place of, the state flags in nearly all locations within the states. All of the state courts and even the municipal ones now openly display it. This should have raised serious questions from many citizens long ago, but we’ve been educated to listen and believe what we are told, not to ask questions, or think or search for the truth.
How Ya Like Me Now?
The combination of arrogance and ignorance makes this a perilous place to live. Rauf had his home in Gulfport, Mississippi (a bastion of state’s rights advocacy in the 1950′s and 1960′s) for his ethical and principled stand that was so woefully misunderstood by fools with overlapping interests. Rauf certainly has the right to decline a salute to the civil flag, but who can take exception with his refusal to honor a military flag which has never flown with the intent of liberating any of the people with whom Rauf claims kinship. Certainly only his mortal enemies or a gaggle of fools could be offended. And, so it was.
A rush to judgment is a rush to nowhere.
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- April 16, 2009 / 11:25 am