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Bright Constellation

Natalia J. Garland

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Since I am interested in web design, I visit a lot of websites that offer free tips and instructions on how to create effective web pages. Recently, I came across the American Institute of Graphic Arts which emphasizes a positive connection between business and culture.

In particular, I enjoyed reading a forum on various points of view regarding the symbolic meanings of the American flag, and the prospect of creating a design to symbolize the September 11th attacks. For example, the yellow ribbon design was created in response to the Gulf War, and the famous three-legged peace symbol design was popular during the 1960's. Symbols of this type have become permanent expressions in our culture which everybody understands.

The thought came to me: what if we changed the design of the flag itself? After all, the flag we have now is not the first American flag ever created. America did not even have an official flag until 1777. The Continental Congress declared the first Flag Act on June 14, 1777. "Resolved, That the flag of the United States be made of thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation." Since the date of that first official flag, the design changed as new states were added to the union. An additional star was added for each new state.

There are both practical and emotional aspects to changing our flag's design. On the practical side, it could give the economy a boost. All the government offices, the military, the schools, and every organization and private home that fly the flag would have to buy new flags. This would keep some people employed. The old flags could be sold as collector's items at auctions and yard sales.

If this went well, the flag design could be changed every ten years or so. Artists would have an opportunity to use their skills and gain special recognition. The President could declare another Flag Act, and the design changeover could become a great day of celebration every ten years. Similar to the Olympics, a different American city could be chosen for each celebration, thereby boosting the economy of that city.

America seems rather stodgy in making changes of this sort. For example, American coins and bills have had the same designs for many years. I appreciate the contributions of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, but there are many other statesmen, as well as scientists, writers, musicians, and social workers, who are also worthy of having their portrait put on a coin or bill.

(If you are a coin collector, you know what I mean. It gets very boring to collect American coins. You can really only collect by date or by those tiny mint designations, and not by type. Other countries change the design on their money much more often. They create coins of various types including beautiful images of flowers and animals. Coin collecting is a serious hobby in Europe. Now, with the new euro, convenience has triumphed over national history and culture. Europe's children of today will have fewer opportunities to develop what can be an educational, satisfying, and lifelong hobby.)

Perhaps more importantly, there would be an emotional aspect to changing the flag. People identify with the flag, soldiers fight for what the flag represents, the courts defend the rights and freedoms guaranteed by the government that sanctions the flag, and children pledge allegiance to the flag in school. Some people, after the September 11th attacks, are flying the flag for the first time. Moreover, many people do not adapt well to change. Artists like to create, but many people like to have something in life that remains predictable.

If we were ever going to change the flag, even once more, now would seem to be the time to do so. There is more than artistic and economic reasons for doing so (not that art and the economy are insufficient reasons). This needs to be an era of cultural and spiritual renewal. We cannot allow ourselves to slack off, to become complacent, or to deteriorate into denial. We must keep our nation safe from attack. It will take ongoing emotional nurturing and spiritual devotion to restore and maintain the values on which our nation is founded.

We are not a new constellation, but we live in a new era in which this bright constellation is threatened and much more difficult to protect. A new flag could remind us of that and keep us united. Each time we looked at the new flag, we would bear in mind how much we all suffered on September 11th and how much we need to keep working to preserve the goodness of our nation and continue building more good things upon it. (Written 05/20/02 - Revised 12/01/03: bibliography available.)

Until we meet again..............stay sane.

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Copyright 2002, 2003 Natalia J. Garland