Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Flags and Know Nothings (aka Tea Party)

I like flags.  National flags, mostly, with the Maryland flag being an exception to otherwise largely dull field of state flags.  I also like historical flags.  I always have a US flag flying at my house, whether it's the current flag or a historical one, such as the circular star field of the original 13.

Recently I was shopping for replacement flags.  My US flag was sun faded and my orignal 13 flag had gotten torn.  I found a current flag easily enough but wasn't so lucky in finding the original 13.  However, in the course of my search I did find a historical flag from the Revolutionary period.  Actually, I found two that had some similarities, but important differences.

One was the Don't Tread on Me flag depicting the coiled snake.  The other is the Join, or Die flag depicting a snake in several pieces, with each piece representing a colony or region.  The Know Nothings have seized on the Don't Tread on Me flag as a symbol of their terrible oppresion under the tax code of the United States.

The Join, or Die flag shows clearly that the Revolution would not have succeeded if the 13 colonies hadn't united.  In fact, the Articles of Confederation that first governed the 13 colonies also showed that being united had to be more than a European Union sort of unification.  There had to be a strong central government to make decisions that affected all 13 colonies, or different numbers of them, because not all government decisions could be made at the state level.  The squabbling between the original 13 brought actual governance to a halt, much like the European debt crisis drags on and on without a central decision making authority.

The Know Nothings, as befitting their lack of intellectual heft, use the Don't Tread on Me flag to mean something it didn't mean during the Revolution.  The snake on the flag represents the united colonies resisting the crown.  They were being stepped on because the crown was imposing taxes in which the colonies had no say, as well as quartering troops in private homes, among other indignities.  None of this is what's going on in the US today.  The taxes at the federal level are taxes resulting from votes by duly elected representatives of the very people claiming they're being oppressed.  They're not being oppressed.  They just don't like that they were in the minority in the most recent election.

The Know Nothings totally miss the point of what the Founding Fathers learned.  To be free the colonies, later states, needed to be united.  They needed to work together to address the problems that crossed state lines.  That's precisely why the Constitution was drafted.  It was a work of compromise that papered over significant conflicts between the states, but it created the framework for a central government that could evolved over time to address the needs of the people. 

We the People.  It's right in the first words of the document as to who it's for.

Of course, I bought the Join, or Die flag.  There's no time for subtlety when there's this much stupidity running around.

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