Speaking as one who has harbored a fascination with flags and symbolism for as long as I can remember, I have been intrigued with the amount of time legislators in several states have put into resolving issues related to their state’s symbols, notably flags.
Granted, the bulk of these challenges have been taken up by Southern legislatures as they are confronted with the sundry challenges associated the symbolism of the very late Confederate States of America, some of which is incorporated into their symbols.
Within the last generation two Southern states, Georgia and Mississippi, have undertaken wholesale revisions of their state flag, though Georgia opted in the end to retain a design inspired directly by the Confederacy’s first national flag, the Stars and Bars.
More recently, South Carolina is dealing with what could prove to be one of the most vexing challenges of all: settling on a standard for the state’s iconic Palmetto and Crescent symbol. Fortunately for South Carolina, this symbol predates the Confederacy and stems from the state’s distant Revolutionary past.
As it happens, the Palametto and Crescent flag hoisted daily over the Statehouse bears a somewhat different design than those displayed in the House and Senate chambers and the governor’s office.
Complicating matters is the fact that South Carolina, like many other frugal state governments, relies on private manufacturers to supply the flags it displays in official offices and on public grounds. And because the Palmetto and Crescent symbol never had been standardized, these companies supply different versions.
Consequently, the Legislature is now being challenged to adopt a standardized version of banner, one that has proven more challenging than any of the legislators anticipated.
Speaking as a proud Alabamian, I have to concede that I envy South Carolina immensely. No other state can hold a candle to the Palmetto and Crescent, except Texas, which possess the nation’s most iconic state symbol, the Lone Star flag, recognized the world over.
If only Alabama’s Yellow Hammer carried as much symbolic punch But alas, it is rooted in the Old Confederacy and sooner or later will be consigned to extinction – the symbol, not the bird – much like several Alabama college administrative buildings bearing the name of Gov. Bibb Graves, a noted educational reformer who also maintained KKK membership.
Whatever the case, I do think that the recent dust up over the Palmetto and Crescent is possibly highly instructive from a cultural standpoint.
In the face of an increasingly fraying American identity, state flags and symbolism are likely to become more significant in the future.