Saint Andrew’s Day


30 November is celebrated as Saint Andrew’s Day by Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant denominations. According to legend Andrew the Apostle, brother of Saint Peter, was crucified on an X-shaped cross. Today, Saint Andrew’s cross feature on flags all over the world.

Happy Saint Andrew’s Day to the Scots! Saint Andrew’s Cross, also known as Saint Andrew’s Saltire, has been the national flag of Scotland since the 15th Century.

Across the Atlantic, the flag of the Canadian province of Nova Scotia resembles that of Scotland. The flag, created in 1858, is a banner of the province’s coat of arms from 1625: the colours of the Scottish flag are reversed; in the middle the Royal Arms of Scotland.

In 1606, King James VI of Scotland became King James I of England and a new flag was designed joining together the blue-white Saint Andrew’s cross of Scotland and the red-white Saint George’s cross of England. This Union Flag became the national flag of Great Britain in 1707 after the Acts of Union. In the 17th and 18th Century a Scottish version of the Union Flag was in unofficial use. Unlike the official version, it had the Scottish cross superimposed on the English cross.

On the European continent another version of Saint Andrew’s cross also originated in the 15th Century. The Cross of Burgundy is a red, knotted Saint Andrew’s cross on white. In the 16th Century the lands of the Burgundian dukes in present-day France, Belgium and the Netherlands were inherited by the Habsburg dynasty. Since 1506 and the first Habsburg king in Spain, the Cross of Burgundy has been a part of Spanish history.

The City of Huesca in Aragon, Spain has a flag with the Cross of Burgundy dating back to 1707. From Spain the Cross of Burgundy spread to all parts of the Spanish Empire.

The flag of Alabama is from 1895. It is codified as “a crimson cross of St. Andrew on a field of white”, but its creators also ment for it to suggest the Confederate Battle Flag. The flag of Florida is from 1900. It has the state seal and a red cross on white. The flags of Alabama and Florida recall the Cross of Burgundy of those Spaniards who were the first Europeans to reach their shores 500 years ago.

In two of Spain’s autonomous communities the capital city feature a red cross of Saint Andrew on its flag. The City of Logroño is the capital of La Rioja. The City of Vitoria-Gasteiz is the capital of the Basque Country.

The flag of Tenerife, the largest of Spain’s Canary Islands, is similar to the Scottish flag, but the blue colour is of a darker shade. The white of the cross symbolizes the snow on the Teide volcano which gave the island its name: Tenerife means “the white mountain”.


This is part 1 in a series about Saint Andrew’s crosses in flags. Read also The Russian Connection.


The Rainbow Flag


The flag of the LGBT movement is an American invention that became a worldwide phenomenon. What started as a symbol of pride and protest for a fringe group in society is now part of the U.S. cultural and political mainstream. 

The Rainbow Flag was designed in 1978 in San Francisco, California by the activist and artist Gilbert Baker. It had eight horizontal stripes: pink, red, orange, yellow, green, turquoise, blue and violet. A year or so later the eight stripes were reduced to six due to the fact that it was difficult for manufacturers to get hold of pink and turquoise.

The colors of the rainbow represent the diversity of the gay community and the fight for a tolerant society with many expressions of love, sexual orientations and gender identities. In the beginning the flag was also known as The Freedom Flag and The Gay Pride Flag.

In 1977, Gilbert Baker had been challenged to design a flag for the movement by Harvey Milk, member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors and the first openly gay person elected to public office in the United States. Baker may have been inspired by other multicolor and rainbow flags used by the peace and Hippie movements of the 1960s and 1970s.

The Rainbow Flag was first flown on June 25, 1978 at the San Francisco Pride parade. After the murder of Harvey Milk on November 27, 1978 the flag became more well-known and sought-after. Today, it could be considered one the most succesful advocacy flags ever.

In 1994 in New York City, at the 25th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, Baker created the world’s largest rainbow flag. It was 30 feet (9 m) wide and 5,280 feet (1609 m) long and was carried by 5,000 people. Again in 2003, at the 25th anniversary of the Rainbow Flag itself, he created a mile-long flag to reach from the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic Ocean in Key West, Florida.

The Stonewall Riots were violent demonstrations by members of the gay community against police raids and anti-gay laws in Greenwich Village in Manhattan, New York in the summer of 1969. It is considered an important moment in the history of gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people in the U.S.

Today, half a century after Stonewall, LGBT Americans face fewer prejudices and less discrimination. In 2003, the U.S. Supreme Court made sexual activity between consenting adults of the same sex legal nationwide. The fight for gays and lesbians to be able to marry reached its goal in 2015 when the Supreme Court held that the fundamental right to marry is guaranteed to same-sex couples.

Since 1978 the Rainbow Flag has been there at gay pride events all over the U.S. and worldwide. It is a political flag, and it is highly commercialized at the same time. The flag indicate LGBT pride and is a sign of welcome for LGBT customers and consumers. In many countries the world over it is, however, still a controversial symbol in the fight for the right of LGBT people to love and to live.

This is part 4 in a series on American flag culture, November 2016. Read also:
The Thin Blue Line
The NFL Quarterback Who Took A Stand By Not Standing
Remarkably Few U.S. Flags At Protests, Flag Burnings Reported

The NFL Quarterback Who Took A Stand By Not Standing


Colin Kaepernick started a movement when he refused to stand for the U.S. flag and anthem before a game. But his stand was also met with outrage. It’s controversial to politicize the few symbols which unify a nation.

At a game in August 2016 Colin Kaepernick, a San Francisco 49ers quarterback, sat during the national anthem as a protest against police killings. Since 2015 a number of deaths of young black men during police arrests have been the cause of renewed debate about inner city crime, police education and procedures, and racial issues in America.

Kaepernick decided to stand up for what the Black Lives Matter movement has described as “victims of unaccountable police murders” in sitting down or kneeling during the singing of the anthem.

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” he explained.

Over the last three months other professional athletes have also chosen not to stand for the national anthem. According to ThinkProgress, in November 2016 the protests have spread to “at least 48 NFL players, nine NBA teams, 14 WNBA players, one gold medal swimmer, one pro women’s soccer player, 52 high schools, 39 colleges, one middle school, and two youth football teams in 35 states across the United States”.

There is a long history in the U.S. of sports figures using their position to make political statements. While obviously having the right to express himself freely, Kaepernick has been criticized for explaining his stance at a press conference wearing a shirt with an image of Cuban Communist dictator Fidel Castro, a notorious enemy of free speech. According to teleSUR, Kaepernick announced that he did not vote in the November 2016 election “as that would have been a show of support for a system of oppression”.

Kaepernick, it has been noted, speaks from a position of very little oppression, himself being a succesfull and very well-payed black man. 29-year old Colin Kaepernick is the son of a white woman and a black man who left the family before Colin’s birth. He was given up for adoption and raised by a white family living in Wisconsin, later California.

In September at a CNN presidential town hall President Barack Obama commented, saying that he respects Kaepernick’s decision not to stand during the national anthem:

“Well, as I’ve said before, I believe that us honoring our flag and our anthem is part of what binds us together as a nation. But I also always try to remind folks that part of what makes this country special is that we respect people’s rights to have a different opinion.”

“The test of our fidelity to our Constitution, to freedom of speech, to our Bill of Rights, is not when it’s easy, but when it’s hard,” he continued. “We fight sometimes so that people can do things that we disagree with.”

At big sports events in the U.S. it is tradition that everyone present stand for the national anthem. The U.S. flag will always be displayed in some form. The solemnity of the moment would also imply respect for fallen service men and women and confirm an unspoken collective commitment to the unity of a diverse nation.

President Obama was clearly mindful of this when, on CNN, he addressed the issue of the protesters who refuse to stand for the flag:

“I want them to listen to the pain that that may cause somebody who, for example, had a spouse or a child who was killed in combat.”


This is part 3 in a series on American flag culture, November 2016. Read also:
The Rainbow Flag
The Thin Blue Line
Remarkably Few U.S. Flags At Protests, Flag Burnings Reported

The Thin Blue Line


In the U.S. more law enforcement officers have died in targeted and ambush-style killings in 2016. This have added popularity to the Thin Blue Line flag, a sign of support for police officers and their families.

Last Sunday, 20 November 2016, three police officers in three different states were shot in apparently unprovoked and execution-style attacks. A veritable wave of attacks on law enforcement officers have happened this year. On July 7 in Dallas, Texas, one person killed five police officers and injured nine others. Ten days later six officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, were ambushed and shot by one lone perpetrator, three of them died.

The deliberate targeting of law enforcement personnel and the many deaths recently have given rise to the Blue Lives Matter campaign and flags with a single blue stripe, the so-called Thin Blue Line, have become more widely used as a sign of support for the law enforcement community. Blue is considered the color of the police.

The Thin Blue Line has its origins in the 1988 documentary “The Thin Blue Line”. In the film the police is described as “a thin blue line” between society and anarchy. The expression stuck and flags and bumper stickers with a thin blue line became widespread, not least in families of fallen police officers. Law enforcement officers who had died in the line of duty would be remembered and honored with for example blue laser beams, blue ribbons and flags with blue stripes.

It was Rudyard Kipling who, in the 1890 poem “Tommy”, used the expression “the thin red line” about soldiers – heroes that would not always be respected by those they protect. The Thin Blue Line inspired other groups of professionals serving the citizens, keeping them safe from harm or risking their own lives to save the lives of others:

The Thin Red Line is used by firefighters and to honor firefighters who died in the line of duty. The red line is the most widely used besides the blue line.

The Thin White Line is connected to emergency medical services, to paramedic healthcare workers and to ambulance personnel.

The Thin Silver Line is used by detention and prison officers, also known as correctional or corrections officers.

The Thin Green Line is used by border patrol officers, national park rangers and personnel of the environment services.

The Thin Orange Line is used by search and rescue personnel.

In the U.S. the Thin Line flags exist in two versions: 1. Black flags with one narrow stripe of color. (The Thin White Line flag, however, would usually have a blue background.) 2. Modified black and white U.S. flags with one stripe of color: blue for police, red for firefighters, silver for corrections and detention officers, etc.

Inspired by the Thin Line flags in the U.S., national flags in black and white, or greyscale, with narrow stripes of color have become popular in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, the U.K. and other countries.


This is part 2 in a series on American flag culture, November 2016. Read also:
The Rainbow Flag
The NFL Quarterback Who Took A Stand By Not Standing
Remarkably Few U.S. Flags At Protests, Flag Burnings Reported

Remarkably Few U.S. Flags At Protests, Flag Burnings Reported


Those who follow news of flags and look for flags in the news have noticed two things about the anti-Trump protests: The American flag is not very popular among protesters. The Mexican flag, however, is getting more and more common in the U.S.

For a week now, anti-Trump protests have taken place in large cities and on university campuses all over the United States. Marches and gatherings have spread from New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Berkeley, Oakland, Los Angeles, Seattle, Portland, Austin, Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C. to at least 20 other major cities.

Protests have varied from peaceful, but noisy groups with signs and chants and speeches – some evenings counting thousands of participants, for example in L.A. and New York – to out-of-control riotous behavior, with fires burning in the streets, vandalism, looting and violence. Many demonstrators have been arrested by police.

Slogans like “Not my president” and “Love Trumps Hate” are the most widespread and popular. More strongly-worded, even anti-white racist slogans are also reported. The stop-the-hate message of most protesters risk being undermined by the radical and the violent.

The American flag is being used by anti-Trump protesters, but in remarkably small numbers. This may be connected to a more general trend among left-wing activists not to use or identify with national flags. It may also have something to do with the Black Lives Matter movement. This year BLM activists have argued that the U.S. flag is not an inclusive symbol for all Americans.

Some U.S. flags were carried upside down to indicate a state of emergency or distress, and there have been a number of flag burnings. On November 9 it happened at the American University in Washington, D.C. Student President Devontae Torriente explained:

“For some members of our community, emotions were expressed through burning an American flag. While to many, burning the flag is seen as a disrespectful action that people should not engage in, those who do choose to partake in it unequivocally reserve that right. We need not forget that the action symbolizes a discontentment with the current state of our American society on behalf of several individuals of marginalized backgrounds.”

Someone later commented on Facebook: “Once the American flag is burned, NO ONE hears what you say anymore.” Flag burnings usually step-up the conflict as the response will often be just as emotional and irrational as the act itself.

The role of the Mexican flag in protests during the last week is also worth noticing. The Mexican flag is being used more and more in the United States.

This fact is in itself not surprising: Mexicans, or people of Mexican origin, make up more than 10% of the U.S. population. But it is a little surprising in a context of American politics and may be of little tactical value following an election where immigration from Mexico was a very important topic. “Not my president” chanted by a protester carrying a Mexican flag may justifiably tempt many an American voter to think: Of course not! The President of Mexico is Enrique Peña Nieto!

This is part 1 in a series on American flag culture, November 2016. Read also:
The Rainbow Flag
The Thin Blue Line
The NFL Quarterback Who Took A Stand By Not Standing

PROPOSAL: A Flag For The President-Elect


The title President-elect is used in the U.S. between election day and inauguration day. During the presidential transition there is an Office of the President-Elect in the White House. But there is no specific flag for the President-elect. Should there be?  

The President-Elect of the United States is the person who has won the presidential election, but has not yet been inaugurated and taken the Presidential Oath of Office. For a little over two months the President-elect prepares for taking over and organises his administration. To a certain extent the President-elect is supported in this endeavor by the incumbent President and his administration. A smooth transition of executive power is an ideal in American politics.

The President of the United States has a personal flag which is used for military and ceremonial purposes, in official photos, for press conferences, in the Oval Office as well as on buildings, cars, ships and airplanes where he is present. The flag is dark blue and has on it the presidential coat of arms surrounded by 50 white five-pointed stars. The flag is never flown at half mast. It is not connected to the President’s person as such, but to the office of President.

The President-elect becomes President and Commander-in-chief at the moment when his predecessor’s term of office comes to an end. That is at noon on January 20 according to the Twentieth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

Taking into consideration the semi-official status of the President-elect in the transitional period, an argument could be made for him to have his own personal flag. A design similar to that of the presidential flag, but with the color being red instead of blue, would ensure that the flag of the President-elect were easily distinguishable from that of the President.

Personal flags of senior officials of the executive branch of government, heads of departments and high-ranking military officers (generals and admirals) are usually kept in the colors of the American flag: blue, white and red.

The Vice President of the United States has a white flag with four blue stars and the presidential coat of arms. As the senior official in charge of U.S. foreign policy the Secratary of State uses a blue flag with four white stars and a white disc with the coat of arms from the Great Seal of the United States. His deputy in the State Department has a similar flag where the colors blue and white are reversed.

The Secretary of the Treasury’s personal flag is blue with the Treasury emblem and 13 stars, all in white. The flag of the Deputy Secretary of the Treasury is white, with stars and emblem in red. Under Secretaries use a red flag with the colors reversed: red, with stars and emblem in white.

The system of using different combinations of colors to indicate rank is also used for the highest and second-highest civilian officials in the Department of Defense and in the Departments of the Army, the Navy and the Air Force.


George Washington On The Flag


It is election day in the USA. American voters will decide who the 45th President of the United States will be. No matter if Hillary R. Clinton or Donald J. Trump wins, none of them will have a state named after them or have their image depicted on a state flag.

When it comes to presidents, George Washington was not only the first elected head-of-state of the young American nation in 1789, he is also the only president ever to have been elected unanimously by the Electoral College.

Apart from Washington seven US states are named after heads-of-state who exercised authority over parts of the territory of the present day United States of America:

Virginia is named after Elizabeth I, Queen of England, also known as the Virgin Queen because she never married. In 1583 Elizabeth granted a charter to establish a colony on the Atlantic coast of North America. The Commonwealth of Virginia was among the original 13 states which declared independence from Great Britain in 1776.

The part of Virginia west of the Allegheny Mountains broke away during the Civil War and was admitted to the Union in 1863 as a new state under the name of West Virginia.

North Carolina and South Carolina are named after Charles I, King of England and Scotland, who in a charter in 1629 granted lands south of Virginia and north of Spanish Florida and named them after himself. (Carolus is the Latin version of Charles.) The two Carolinas split in 1712 and were later among the 13 original American states.

New York is named after James II, or VII, King of England and Scotland. In 1664 when King Charles II established the Province of New York, his brother James was the Duke of York. James followed Charles as king in 1685. New York became one of the 13 states.

Louisiana is named after Louis XIV, King of France. The state of Louisiana was admitted to the Union in 1812. Originally, Louisiana was the name of a much larger territory stretching from the Gulf of Mexico to the Great Lakes. La Louisiane was colonized by the French from 1682, and in 1803 this enormous territory was sold to the United States.

Georgia is named after George II, King of Great Britain. The colony was founded in 1733 under a charter issued by him. Georgia is the southernmost of the original 13 states.

Washington is named after the 1st President of the United States of America, George Washington. The Territory of Washington was carved out of the vast Oregon Territory in 1853, and in 1889 it became the 42nd state of the USA.

For decades Washington didn’t have a state flag, but in 1923 the State Legislature adopted one: The flag of the State of Washington has the state seal on dark green. The seal mentions the year in which the state was admitted to the Union and it has the image of the president whose name it carries in the middle.

Only one state has been named in honor of one of the Union’s presidents. (New states with names such as Jefferson and Lincoln have been proposed over the centuries, though.) So far, the flag of Washington is the only state flag with an image of a president on it. It is very unlikely that there will be more than the one.