Sunday, July 3, 2011

What Conspiracy Theorists Taught Me: Patriotic Edition

One of the joys or being a writer is the research. And no, I'm not being sarcastic. I love it! "Facts" are so often presented through a single lens, but when you start focusing in on a subject or question, that little extra ounce of focus starts opening the doors to non-traditional perspectives.

So since it's the 4th of July, I thought I would write about the very thing we pledge our allegiance to: the flag.

Huh. As I write that, it sounds weird... We pledge allegiance to cloth, not our country, leaders, or even the Constitution. But that's not what I'm writing about... or maybe it is... you tell me.

So today's post focuses on conspiracy theories surrounding our flag. But to understand the conspiracy, you need to be made aware that there is more than one flag. One is a peace-time, civil flag, and the other a martial flag used during times of war, occupation, and martial law.

The martial flag looks like this:

Pretty familiar, right? The second flag, or non-martial/civil flag looks like this:

Descriptions of this flag being displayed can be found in older literature, like the Scarlet Letter and the design is currently implemented in both the designs for US customs and the Coast Guard in designs like this:

Once you know what to look for, doing the research is easy enough. Once can start by simply googling "American flag" and "American civil flag." The civil flag, designed in 1799 by Oliver Wolcott Jr., was supposed to serve as a signal--largely on ships-- to differentiate between military and civilian vessels, in order to protect civilian vessels from being fired upon. This flag was allegedly used regularly up until the Civil War. Once war was declared, martial flags were raised. And since that day, no one has ever taken the military flags down and raised peace-time/civilian flags in their place.

So to bring this to modern times, if this civil/martial flag thing were still in effect, commercial airlines, cruise ships, civilian yachts, and anything transporting civilians would prominently display the civil flag to communicate that they come in peace, while jet fighters, battleships, and anything transporting military would bear the "we've got guns" flag so that citizens of any country and other military operations would be clear on what they were dealing with.

The conspiracy theory? Well, I probably don't have to spell out how conspiracy theorists interpret the permanent retirement of a "We come in peace" flag and replacing it with our war-time, military flag. Nor does it probably need explanation of what they think about a pledge of allegiance being written for every civilian to learn, memorize, and repeat whenever the military flag is raised. ESPECIALLY when images like this are available from the time the pledge was instituted by Congress (source: wikipedia, which is also a great place to research the Bellamy salute--especially if you find this image incendiary):

Last, it also probably doesn't need description as to what they might think about the military flag being stamped onto every commercial ship and craft that leaves our nation's boundaries.

And all this is just the beginning of the rabbit hole surrounding this underground controversy. Because if there's one thing governments and militaries don't take lightly, it's the emblems that identify them. And the fact is that they still are using the civil flag in areas of government where it's appropriate. I saw the civil flag when I drove through customs at the Canadian border a few years back and was totally confused by the flag. I thought it odd that on the border of my own country they had the wrong flag on the uniforms. But like most Americans, I just shrugged and got on with my drive.

Now, years later, it turns out those customs agents wore a different emblem for a reason. The government hasn't forgotten the flag, or its meaning. It just doesn't raise them, manufacture them, or advertise their history anymore.

Isn't research fun?

Right there--right in that very premise--is a book. I probably won't write it, but still, this is why I love research. You never know when little nuggets like this will come in handy :)

1 comment:

  1. Wow, I had no idea that different flags existed. Thank you for doing some research and sharing! I think details like this are important.