I promise this is my last flag blog. It’s hard not to be taken by the colours red white and blue at the moment. I was all for change up until recently. But I’m not so sure anymore because I no longer know why I want change. My deep ambivalence is disconcerting and refreshing. Going through the process has given New Zealanders a chance to ask what we stand for it has started conversations beyond sport and the weather, truly remarkable. If one of the driving forces is to distinguish between the Australian flag and ours then I have a simpler solution just change the background colour. Heck there is nothing more distinctive than the green/gold vrs black/white rivalry why not just make it official. If I’m truly honest, my attachment to colours and symbols is waning in the face of a world divided by fear. This was a good dress rehearsal, a first draft of sorts and perhaps it is time to go back to the drawing board. It would be cool if we could get a flag that changed depending on the angle or perspective you had of it. That might speak more broadly of our colonial heritage and the hidden stories and identities as a nation.
If I was an entrepreneur I would be thinking seriously about getting into the flag industry. From the passionate to the privileged, patriotic to political there is a growing movement toward marking territory along lines of separation in the present that flow into the past and future of which all happen now with real effects that can be felt in persecution, disavowal, and fear. There is a new flag on the block and it’s got nothing to do with NZ trying to decide how to resignify our place such that the rest of the world finally knows we are not the east island of Australia.
The Russians are all in a flap about family values and have decided they need to help people pick a side. This flag is meant to be a counter to the increasing profile of the rainbow one used as a visible representation of the invisibility of those falling outside heteronormativity. The idea of ‘straight pride’ being captured by a flag with a family on it reveals other invisibility. Clearly unless you have three ‘able bodied’ children of clear gender expression (based on clothing and marginal hair length differences) and two parents you are not a good model of heterosexuality. They might have gone with a simpler version that both mirrors and contrasts the rainbow. A simple black and white with no shades of grey, although they might want to refrain from using any symbols – been a bit of confusion with regard to black and white flags recently. Alternatively Russians themselves could fly all sorts of family flags without deviating from a man and woman being the parents. Mixed race couples, people with varying body shapes and functional uniqueness, and the obligatory alternative numbers of children that could make for a family unit – including 0.
South Carolina could consider adopting its state flag for public display, how many people know what it looks like? It’s one that might help cast off the shackles of mixed meaning because regardless of now the past lives and replays certain acts and scenes if given the chance under particular signs that have been etched in the fabric of time itself. We need to remember that rallying under a banner has been an effective propaganda technique for centuries and symbols can be turned from one meaning to another just ask any Hindu about the Svastika.
So to Russia with love – being heterosexual is not a crime in any country, you cannot be sent to jail, killed or denied basic human rights simply for being straight. Pride is only possible against a background of shame, the blood of those lost to hate crimes might make a good backdrop for your new flag – red…somehow I think that has other connotations.
Back to the drawing board.
It has been a crazy couple of weeks, with flags going up coming down changing colour and misidentified. In the middle of this are some very serious and real dangers for people. Lives are most definitely at stake so to break the tension with humour might seem like an act of trivialising but CNN brought it to a whole new level when one of their reporters mistook a certain black and white flag with random symbols for an ISIS one.
I’m tempted to launch into a slippery slope of sex terrorism, loaded with rocket propelled explosions, but the sad thing is many people would view a flag with sex toys on it as a threat. So while they might seem poles apart the confederate, rainbow, ISIS, flags attempt to represent and define ideology, beliefs, values, power, oppression, control and resistance. They have history and meaning for groups to unite and define their doctrines of truth.
Flags are in fact so important we have already decided on one that will go on Mars should we land there. But I like Eddy Izzards take on flags and the entitlement they give to stake a claim and in doing so reveal the strange attachment humans have to bits of cloth that serve no practical purpose save to show the direction the wind is blowing. I might have found the answer however to what happens if you combine ISIS, southern USA and gay pride – My Little Ponies! Apple Jack is definitely talking with a Southern drawl and Rainbow Dash has the power to make a sonic rainboom.
That’s enough exploding of weapons of mass deconstruction.