V-E Day

From the Facebook group Flags and Vexillology, in honor of the seventy-sixth anniversary of Victory in Europe Day (May 8, 1945), a propaganda poster illustrating the contemporary flags of the allies in World War II. Note that this was before “United Nations” referred to a more specific organization. 

Northern Ireland

Flags and Vexillology.

Today marks the centenary of the creation of Northern Ireland, when the Fourth Home Rule Bill went into effect. Someone posted to the Facebook group Flags and Vexillology a photograph of an early flag for Northern Ireland, a blue ensign with six six-pointed stars surrounding a shield of the traditional province of Ulster. This flag, however used, was superseded by the Ulster Banner, taken from the shield of the arms of Northern Ireland, which was granted in 1924. 

Heraldry-wiki.com.

Paul Halsall also draws our attention to an article at West Cork Historical Society Forum, about what happened to the once numerically strong (but still minority) Unionist/Loyalist population of Cork after 1920.

In 1919 the Unionist community in County Cork was prosperous, numerous and committed in varying degrees to the Unionist cause. They had their own newspaper, held parades and maintained a complex social system. Yet by 1923 their community lay decimated, torn asunder by a campaign of murder and intimidation and forced into a supposedly “Free State” which did little to protect them. What brought about such cataclysmic changes? How was the campaign of murder conducted and for what reasons? Did Cork Unionism maintain its identity during those violent years – and can this still be seen today?

The numerical decline between 1911 and 1926 of the Protestant (and mostly unionist) community in Cork, and indeed throughout Southern Ireland, is startling. The historian Hart puts the level of Protestant decline during this period at no less than 34% (the Roman Catholic population declined by merely 2%) and comments that “this catastrophic loss was unique to the Southern minority and unprecedented: it represents easily the single greatest measurable social change of the revolutionary era”

It is difficult to argue with Hart’s assessment that this population decline is unique in British history – representing “the only example of the mass displacement of a native ethnic group within the British Isles since the 17th century”

More at the link. Those who weren’t murdered fled to Northern Ireland or Britain. Reminds me of my own Loyalist ancestors following the American Revolution. 

St. George’s Banner

From Chris Berard, a short article on Medievalists.net, which I take the liberty of reprinting in its entirety:

St. George the martyr and his banner

By Steve Muhlberger

St. George is one of the earliest martyrs of the Christian church. He is also well-known in the present day if only for his banner – a red cross on a white background. St. George’s Cross flies above every continent, and represents, among other things, traditional power and legitimacy. Many soldiers now wear the cross as a sign of their military service. George’s extraordinary service is evoked by his well-known conquest of a dragon, which makes him one of the most impressive of all of God’s saints.

If St. George is venerated in the present day, his reputation reaches back to the Middle Ages and Late Antiquity. The old roots of this military saint allow us to appreciate the somewhat paradoxical relationship between earthly and spiritual power.

St. George is sometimes regarded as a purely legendary figure. His story, however true it may be, is typical of those told about martyrs of the age of the Roman emperor Diocletian (who reigned from 284 to 305), the foremost pagan persecutor of the 3rd century. George was from a Greek Christian family and a military background. He had attained one of the highest ranks when he heard that the emperor was forcing Christians to worship the Roman gods George felt compelled to register his dissent.

After he defied the emperor to his face, George was subjected to a long list of torments, and eventually succumbed. But George became one of the most popular saints in the eastern provinces of the Roman Empire. Was George particularly regarded as a martyr because he used his earthly power – soldier’s strength in God’s cause? He certainly had plenty of strength and he had used it against a dragon, an evil monster with Satanic associations. Even today the most common depiction of George shows him on horseback battling the monster.

St. George’s reputation continued to grow in both east and west. His patronage remained especially important in the Greek provinces of the Byzantine empire, which were constantly endangered both by Muslims and even Christian neighbors. George became a figure of Christian unity when eastern and western churches became tangled in a debate over leadership in the Christian community. In the turbulent years around 1100, warriors and clergy competed for leadership of the churches, and Christians found themselves under attack by pagan raiders and invaders. Clerics – monks, bishops and abbots – needed protection from warriors but were skeptical of milites – soldiers, or later, knights – who devoted themselves to fighting and plundering, as they so often did. Too often these milites oppressed their Christian neighbors, when the warriors were needed to defend the Christians. Christian warriors, on the other hand, were proud of their military way of life. Prowess and honor and pride were the necessary ingredients for effective warriors.

Sometimes the ideal of Christian cooperation came true. The centuries after 1100 were an era of famous knights and holy war. The threat of Muslim expansion and intra-Christian conflicts required the clergy to muster princes to fight worthy wars. In 1066, for instance, William the Conqueror asked for a papal banner to bless his expedition to England, and the pope, at odds with the leading English bishops, sent him one. A generation later a far larger force including men who had helped William take England, marched and sailed to Jerusalem with papal authorization. The Crusaders, as we call them, were accompanied by Michael the Archangel, the champion who at the beginning of time had led God’s heavenly army against the rebel angels. In the second rank, though, was St. George, no mean champion and well known in the Christian East.

During the 12th and 13th centuries, St. George and other saints were invoked through the use of heraldic symbolism and banners. The saintly intercessors were regarded as knights, earthly knights being now a higher class of warriors than before. In the middle of the 14th century, St. George’s iconography became closely associated with worthy military men. King Edward III of England, for instance, appealed to chivalric sentiment to justify his flashy, ambitious projects. Foremost among them was St. George Chapel at Windsor, which was not only an impressive church but the seat of a chivalric order – The Order of the Garter. It was a shrine that among other things celebrated the foremost warriors of Edward’s realm and put the Order under the patronage of St. George.

Although Edward believed that he had a special link to St. George, he had no actual monopoly on  George’s claim to claim George’s patronage. The wars of the 14th century spawned mercenary companies of many nationalities, and various independent cities. It was quite natural for any of these Christian warriors to look to the great St. George as their special patron. How often, I wonder, did one bannered force face another? We know that it did happen in the Italian and French wars during the 14th centuries.

At the end of the Middle Ages St. George became more strongly associated with the important dynasties and states of Christian Europe. The red cross on white now flew over England, of course; the Iberian kingdoms of Aragon, Catalonia, Valencia and Portugal; the Kingdom of Georgia; Serbia and Montenegro; Ethiopia; Russia; the wealthy and belligerent Italian cities of Genoa, Milan, Bologna and quite a few others; and many historic Greek cities.

In the early modern era, heraldry became increasingly systematic and the St. George flag became a permanent element in the symbolism of monarchical power. It was a practical custom too. The traditional flags came to be regarded as national and imperial flags, and as claims to ownership. In the era of oceanic exploration the famous captains flew flags symbolizing their allegiance to both the monarch and the patron saint. When an explorer planted a flag or flags over a newfound land, it was not merely a historic decoration; the banner had a legal and diplomatic meaning. An example of this can be seen in the flags of British North America (Canada). Today, more than half of the Canadian provinces celebrate the ancient ties to Britain by including the modern version of the provincial arms, which themselves include St. George’s Flag (and others include the English royal lion). A significant minority of the province of Quebec are less enthusiastic about the symbols of the Conquest by the British. Quebec once had a St. George’s Cross on its flag and its arms, but in more recent times has eliminated British symbols and replaced them with blue and white banners reminiscent of France, from where the settlers of New France came.

This one example of how imperial expansion wrote itself on the land and shows how the stories of warriors and martyrs helped make such figures as St. George the foundation of modern communities.  George, the ancient martyr and medieval knight, is still with us and is likely to display his power and his patronage for some time to come.

I’d like to state that my attitude towards St. George is not all that proprietary. If other people want to write about that fascinating figure, then go right ahead! I would love to hear their perspectives. However, I dare say that this article could be improved. It’s not just all the vagueness and passive verbs, it’s also such errors as:

• “The Crusaders, as we call them, were accompanied by Michael the Archangel.” No primary source that I’ve ever read records an appearance of St. Michael to the soldiers of the First Crusade. George, Demetrius, and Theodore were the three main ones. 

• “Quebec once had a St. George’s Cross on its flag and its arms, but in more recent times has eliminated British symbols and replaced them with blue and white banners reminiscent of France, from where the settlers of New France came.” Quebec’s blue and white fleurdelisé flag dates from 1948, and is based on the Carillon-Sacre-Coeur flag of 1902. I don’t believe that Quebec ever had a flag with St. George’s cross on it, unless the author is referring to a time when the Union Jack flew over Quebec, or to the Quebec Blue Ensign, which never really flew. Certainly, Quebec never had a cross of St. George on its arms, which were granted in 1868 and modified in 1939.

• Most important, we need to draw a distinction between a plain red cross on a white field (in heraldic lingo: “Argent a cross Gules”) and the veneration of St. George. The two things had little to do with each other originally, and even now you can find examples of the arms referencing things other than St. George, such as those of the city of Milan (patron: St. Ambrose), the diocese of Trier (patrons: St. Mary and St. Michael), and the Arthurian figure of Sir Galahad. The most obvious origin for these and other heraldic crosses is the idea of Christian warfare, i.e. crusading, but such crosses were not originally associated with particular saints. It stands to reason that the preeminent crusading saint should come to bear the preeminent crusading symbol, but I have a theory how exactly this happened: the city of Genoa (patron: St. George) bore a red-cross shield as its civic emblem, and Jacobus de Voragine, in the 1260s, inserted this detail into his account of St. George appearing to the Crusaders in the Golden Legend as a point of local pride. The huge popularity of the Golden Legend thenceforth ensured that a Genoese custom spread far beyond Genoa.* Edward I (1272-1307) went on crusade and in so doing acquired an affinity for St. George; he then deployed the saint in his wars against the Welsh and Scots, largely through the use of Argent a cross Gules in various media. The less said about his successor Edward II (1307-27) the better, and when Edward III (1327-77) assumed personal rule around 1330, he consciously sought to revive the glories of his grandfather’s reign, including his use of St. George. The chief evidence of this project is Edward’s foundation of the Order of the Garter (1348) with St. George as its patron, but plenty of other evidence exists for both the private veneration and public deployment of St. George throughout Edward’s long reign, including with the red cross banner. Unlike St. Edward the Confessor, St. George made the leap to becoming a patron saint of the English nation as well as the English royal house,** and thus did Argent a cross Gules come to refer to “England” as well as “St. George” – especially after the Reformation deprecated the veneration of all saints. From there the emblem spread throughout the British Empire, sometimes on its own, sometimes in combination with St. Andrew’s saltire for Scotland (i.e. as the Union Jack), but always referring back to the metropole. Thus does decolonization sometimes inspire people to drop it. 

* See “Argent a Cross Gules: The Origins and English Use of the Arms of St. George,” The Coat of Arms 213 (Spring, 2007): 9-18.

** I have a theory about this too; see “Richard II and the Cults of Saints George and Edward the Confessor,” in Translatio, or the Transmission of Culture in the Middle Ages and Renaissance, ed. Laura Hollengreen (Brepols, 2008).

The “Southern Nationalist Flag”

I guess I missed this detail at the time of the Charlottesville Rally in 2017, when this photo was taken.

Getty images via Newsweek.

You can see the Confederate Battle Flag and a flag featuring the odal rune in the foreground (apparently the flag of the National Socialist Movement). But what do the white flags with the black “X” mean? Apparently they are examples of the Southern Nationalist flag. According to an article in Occidental Dissent:

The Southern Nationalist Flag, or Black Cross, was designed by Southern activists in Augusta, Georgia in the summer of 2013. It features a St. Andrew’s Cross (the black “X”), the basis for several of our ancestral flags in the British Isles, a few State flags in Dixie (Alabama, Mississippi, Florida and the former flag of Georgia) as well as the Confederate Battle Flag. It has since been adopted by much of the Southern Nationalist movement and has been used at events, rallies and protests across the South. 

Wikipedia says that it’s associated with the neo-Confederate League of the South, which also calls it the “Cushman flag.” And Flags of the World summarizes an interview with the designer, who said the flag “has a medieval, ‘Crusader’ look,” reminiscent of the flag of the Teutonic Order. The white field is supposed to stand for “European heritage, hierarchy, tradition” and the black saltire for “nationalism.” The flag also refers to the word “Dixie,” “which is derived from French word for number 10, dix, because the saltire resembles the Roman numeral X.” He proceeded to claim that the colors constitute “a complete rejection of the red, white, and blue which was borrowed from the French Revolution. You know, equality, democracy, fraternity, you know, liberty.”

But presumably he is not rejecting the red, white, and blue of the Confederate Battle Flag, which were derived from the U.S. flag, which were derived from the British Union Jack, which predates and has nothing to do with the French Revolutionary tricolor. 

Speaking of which, I am open to the possibility that not all current uses of Confederate flags are racist. However, I would not extend such consideration to this flag. Anyone flying it should probably be avoided. 

Speaking of Flags…

We were watching Season 2, Episode 10 of the 2015 television series Poldark, which is set in the fourth quarter of 1793. Dr. Dwight Enys, heartsick for a woman who has rejected him, has decided to enlist in the Royal Navy as a surgeon and fight against Revolutionary France. Here he is at the recruiting station.

The only problem is that the White Ensign and the Union Jack on display here are anachronistic: they are the versions employed after 1801, following Irish parliamentary union (itself partly a response to the revolutionary wars). (This is to say nothing about whether floor stand flags would be on display like this in Britain in the late eighteenth century.)

And this is a British show! I would expect this sort of mistake with Murdoch Mysteries, but not from the BBC. 

Here is the same error made closer to home – specifically, on a poster up at Reinhardt last year. Even the Betsy Ross flag dates from 1777 at the earliest. 

UPDATE: In Season 3, Episode 3 of Poldark, we see that the producers haven’t procured the correct version of the Royal Arms either. This appears on the wall behind George Warleggan as he acts as the local Justice of the Peace.

Yes, the image is rather blurry, but it clearly shows 1. England, 2. Scotland, and 3. Ireland, with the fourth quarter somewhat obscure. The arms of George III in 1794, however, looked like this.

Wikipedia.

That is, in the first quarter we have England impaling Scotland (for the parliamentary union of 1707), while in the second we have France, illustrating the king’s ancient claim to be the rightful ruler of that kingdom, which he only relinquished in 1801. The fourth quarter shows the Hanoverian territories on the continent. It would appear that the royal arms shown in Poldark are those of Queen Victoria.

Once again, I acknowledge my pedantry and wet-blanketness. But I still say that with a little extra effort, you can minimize such mistakes, and thus not alienate those audience members who might notice them. There are plenty of underemployed historians out there who would be happy to help out! I would add that while absolute accuracy might not matter all that much with eighteenth-century heraldry, it might be more important when depicting other times and places. Imagine a movie that showed, say, a Sioux encampment of teepees, each one with its own totem pole and/or inuksuk in front of it, to give an authentic “native” cast to the scene. Anyone with half a brain would be able to see that this represents an amalgamation of three quite distinct Native American cultures, and would be a major insult to the people in question. So if you get into the habit of thinking accurately anyway, it will help you avoid charges of insensitivity when the topic is politically significant.

Some State Flags and Logos

Most states in the United States have seals depicting a composite or symbolic scene. Many states then proceed to use these seals as the basis of their flags. A good example would be the state of Minnesota:

Manifest Destiny for the win! Wikipedia.

But you call that a flag?! Wikipedia.

Unfortunately, more than half of all the states in the Union have flags of this nature. I need hardly point out that this is poor flag design. A flag should not be ornate – it should be simple and recognizable. If it is, a useful side effect is that it can inspire any number of logos based on it, all of which instantly suggest the state in question. What happy states are these!

Wikipedia.

Nashville Predators NHL team shoulder patch. icethetics.co

Tennessee Titans NFL team. Wikipedia.

1. The Tennessee flag features three stars in a circle. This beautiful and simple device has inspired a number of logos.

Wikipedia.

Baltimore Ravens NFL team logo. My Logo Pictures.

Wikipedia.

2. The Maryland flag is very distinctive, featuring the quartered Calvert-Crossland arms, which appear all over the place in that state. 

Wikipedia.

easternscheritage.com

discoversouthcarolina.com

3. South Carolina is instantly recognizable by its palmetto and crescent, which appear in many things associated with the state. 

Wikipedia.

4. Then there’s the three pillars and an arch of the state of Georgia. People don’t make nearly as much use of this as they ought to.

Wikipedia.

Arizona Coyotes NHL team secondary logo. Sportslogos.net.

Employeenetwork.com

5. Arizona’s starburst is very distinctive and has inspired a number of logos. 

Wikipedia.

Dallas Cowboys NFL team logo. Wikipedia.

Houston Texans NFL team logo. Wikipedia.

6. Texas is the Lone Star state, which makes Texan logos all too easy.

Wikipedia.

Columbus Blue Jackets NHL team logo. Wikipedia.

7. Another flag that deserves more use is that of Ohio, the only one in the Union that is not rectangular. 

Wikipedia.

logolynx.com

Bear Flag Museum.

8. California’s bear and star make for a nice combination.

Wikipedia.

9. Some folks like Rhode Island’s anchor, which is adaptable for all sorts of situations.

Wikipedia.

10. New Mexico’s flag, featuring the red sun symbol of the Zia people, can be employed to a certain effect. 

Wikipedia.

11. Indiana’s torch and stars device enjoys a certain popularity.

Wikipedia.

Colorado Rockies NHL team logo. Wikipedia.

12. Finally, there’s the stylized “C” of Colorado’s flag. This design dates from 1911 and seems quite ahead of its time.

Of course, many states still have recognizable logos or images, even though their flags aren’t that well designed. Wyoming and Pennsylvania (the Keystone State) come to mind:

Wikipedia.

“Bucking Horse and Rider,” a registered trademark of the state of Wyoming. Wikipedia.

Wikipedia.

And as the logos reproduced above for Indiana and Arizona show, a state’s outline provides a ready-made image for the state in question. Americans love these jigsaw-puzzle pieces. I think what makes American state outlines so memorable is the combination of straight with squiggly lines. Whereas it would take effort to distinguish between the shapes of (say) Staffordshire and Wiltshire, apart from Hawaii all US states have at least one straight border, “anchoring” their shapes so to speak in one’s memory (although the shapes of Colorado and Wyoming, both square quadrilaterals, suffer the opposite problem).

But the fact remains that the overall standard for US state flags is rather low.

University of Wyoming Athletics logo. Wikipedia.

UPDATE: You could read Wyoming’s bucking horse rider as either male or female, but the rendition above looks male to me, and I would be not be against inventing a variant that presents as female, perhaps through the addition of a ponytail. I’m surprised that the University of Wyoming, whose teams are the “Cowboys” and “Cowgirls,” does not do this already. Governmental usage could then alternate between the two renditions, which would be especially appropriate for the Equality State

This is Trump Country

This post is not historical as such, but it does constitute a record of a particular time and place, that being Georgia’s Bartow and Cherokee counties on the eve of the 2020 presidential election. If campaign signs are anything to go by, it looks like the president will take these counties in landslide. All of the photographs below were snapped on my commute between my residence and Reinhardt, with a short loop once I got to Waleska. I am not lying when I say that, as of Tuesday, October 20, 2020, there are no signs for Biden/Harris, or any other Democratic candidate for office, anywhere on this route. By contrast, it seems that about every fifth house has a Trump sign, often more than one, and with many Trump flags as well. I have never before seen this level of support for a political candidate in any election. 

This is the basic sign: “Trump Pence Keep America Great! 2020” in a white sans serif font on a blue background. The small type reads “Paid for by Donald J. Trump for President, Inc.,” so I assume this one is official. “Keep America Great” is the obvious (and somewhat lame) followup slogan to 2016’s “Make America Great Again!”, often shortened to “MAGA!”* 

Here is a version of the sign rendered as a flag. Back in 2016 Scott Adams was praising Trump’s genius for marketing, and I think Trump’s use of flags is part of this (the red “MAGA” hat was also part of this, although there don’t seem to be any “KAG” hats this time around). Some people in my subdivision have flown Trump flags ever since he was elected the first time – people might display signs during election campaigns, but flags can be flown all year round! (Again, I don’t remember Bush ever getting this treatment.) And now that a campaign is upon us again, many more flags have appeared. 

You can get a large sign if you wish (note that this one recycles the old slogan)…

…and there are a variety of other sign designs to choose from, although I’m not sure whether all of these are official. (But if they aren’t official, it suggests that enthusiasm for Trump runs quite deep – see below.) 

Here’s a reused MAGA sign, with a handwritten “20” replacing “16”! 

Here’s a sign, mounted to a tall tripod, with a light to illuminate it at nighttime. Who does this!?

A couple of affinity signs. The women’s sign seems official. The gun owners’ sign is from an outfit called Trump Store America – i.e. not official, and thus the product of either cynics or True Believers.

The great thing about flags is that they can function as signs too, if you attach them to a fence. Note that the last one also has a solar light for nighttime illumination.

Different types of flags are also available. The last one also appears to be from Trump Store America. Note that it’s accompanied by the former flag of Georgia, two-thirds of which consists of the now verboten battle flag of the CSA – I assume exposing the motives of your average Trump supporter. 

Although here is one with the current Georgia flag…

…and here is one accompanied by the flag of everyone’s favorite local college football team. Go Dawgs! (Note another tripod-sign-and-night-light combination in front.) 

These five flags illustrate something rather strange. All of them feature the expression “No More Bullshit” as the tagline. Are these official? I certainly hope not. To my mind they’re about as classy as Truck Nuts, and I wonder whether the campaign actually approves of it (although it would not surprise me at all if it does, surreptitiously, as a way of appealing to Trump’s proletarian base). Furthermore, what is this “bullshit” to which the flags refer? A lot of people would ascribe that word to everything that comes out of Trump’s mouth! 

I suppose it’s a reference to accusations of Russian collusion, impeachment, media bias, and all other alleged efforts of the “Deep State” to undo the results of the 2016 election. 

I see on Trump’s official website that he is claiming “Promises Made, Promises Kept!” This is a much better slogan for a reelection campaign. Why it doesn’t appear on any signs I have no idea. 

Another novelty: the Trump garden banner. More discreet than a flag, and classier than a sign!

Most telling of all, I think, are all the houses with multiple signs and flags on display (although my camera cannot do justice to some of them). You can’t buy that sort of enthusiasm.

Some of the photos above are from the same residences, but I am not trying to exaggerate Trump’s support. There are many more flags and signs to be seen on my route from home to work that were not included in this post. 

And if all that wasn’t enough, on Saturday I encountered a couple of Trump souvenir vendors selling their wares at a disused gas station in Cartersville. Available for purchase were flags, signs, hats, t-shirts, pins, patches, can holders, COVID masks, and much else besides, all bearing graphics in favor of Trump or of other things that Trump supporters tend to be in favor of, such as the USA, the military, the police, gun rights, and Christianity (there was nothing Confederate, however).

One of the vendors’ vehicles was a coach owned by Star Coaches, Inc. of Atlanta, with a bus wrap by Andormous Graphics. Note that the operation is not connected to the official Trump campaign. On the bottom right we read this disclaimer:

So who is sponsoring it? At the rear of the vehicle we read:

This appears to be an Internet radio station. From the website:

COWBOY LOGIC was created in 2008 as Don Neuen’s diatribes on social media. Throughout the next few years, Neuen’s rants and raves became popular, especially on Facebook, with debates continuing for days, sometimes weeks on particular subjects such as Obama and his failed policies, the GOP Establishment, RINOs, Socialists, Maxists [sic], and Corrupt Politicians.

Damn those Maxists!

To the right of the back wheel we see another affinity:

From its website:

The #WalkAway Campaign is a true grassroots movement, founded by former liberal, Brandon Straka on May 26th, 2018. The #WalkAway Campaign encourages and supports those on the Left to walk away from the divisive tenets endorsed and mandated by the Democratic Party of today. We are walking away from the lies, the false narratives, the fake news, the race-baiting, the victim narrative, the violence, the vandalism, the vitriol. We are walking away from a party driven by hate. We are walking toward patriotism and a new, unified America! We are the future of this great nation!

Note though that Wikipedia claims:

News sources have debated the extent to which WalkAway is an example of astroturfing rather than a genuine grassroots movement. David A. Love of CNN condemned the campaign as “pure propaganda [and] a psychological operation.” The website Hamilton 68, which tracks Russia’s interference on U.S. elections, reported that WalkAway was “connected to Kremlin-linked Russian bots to manipulate voters into thinking the movement was more popular and active that it actually was.”

Be that as it may, it is clear that there is a market for all the Trump stuff. Lots of people had stopped and were browsing the wares, and lots of passing drivers honked their horns in support. So even if the people behind it were just trying to make a quick buck, the fact that they can do so indicates that in some parts of this country, people loooove the president. 

So the question is: where does all this come from? What is Trump’s appeal? This is especially baffling given that so many other people hate his guts, with a viciousness I have never previously witnessed. (I thought that Bush was polarizing, but he’s got nothing on Trump.) Perhaps a better question is: why is the countryside so seemingly full of Trump supporters? You would think that there would be some Bidenites mixed in. (Or are they simply quiet about it, intimidated into keeping their opinions to themselves?) The answer that a lot of my colleagues would give is that rural America is full of ignorant, racist rednecks, bitterly clinging to their guns and religion in the face of inevitable social and cultural change. The countryside tends to be white and “backward,” whereas cities are ethnically diverse, economically dynamic, and more receptive to the latest ideas. That would be the “city mouse” interpretation of what I see on my way to work. 

Of course, there is a “country mouse” interpretation too. According to this way of knowing, the countryside represents the religious and patriotic American “heartland,” and Trump appeals to that. Cities, by contrast, are cesspits of corruption, decadence, and social unrest (as graphically illustrated this past summer) – thus might other candidates do better there. Furthermore, one could also say that flyover America has some genuine grievances, given that its jobs have been exported to China, its wages depressed by undocumented labor, and its communities ripped apart by meth and opioids. In 2016 Trump successfully cast himself as the champion of these people, who are so often condescended to (when not completely ignored) by the elites of both parties and urban dwellers on the coasts.** Whether or not Trump actually believes what he says, or is actually willing to do much about it, is an open question, but the relentless attacks on his presidency by Democrats and Never-Trumpers (and academia, the media, the judiciary, the federal bureaucracy, etc.) over the past four years have apparently allowed him to maintain the outsider cred that brought him to power in the first place (“No More Bullshit”). 

I guess it needs to be said that nothing in this post should be construed as an endorsement of Trump. It is simply an attempt at examining a situation I find myself in. In the interest of fairness I will include one Biden sign I happened to see. It’s on GA-20, but not on my way to work. The owner has taken the liberty of adding two small American flags, and given the fading it has clearly been out for a while, indicating a certain enthusiasm on his part. But it’s a very rare sight around here. Whoever put it up, I admire his courage.

* I was curious to discover that Trump actually swiped this slogan from Ronald Reagan (with the laconic elimination of “Let’s”). This poster was on display at the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum in Dallas, Texas when we visited in 2016:

Of course, the slogan probably meant more in 1980, when “great” referenced a time before the Iran hostage crisis, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, stagflation, and Jimmy Carter daring to use the word “malaise.” What was it supposed to mean in 2016? Was Barack Obama that bad? One suspects that, to the narcissist Trump, “great again” simply means “benefit me.” Thus we must keep America “great” by keeping Trump in power. 

** This is not the typical Republican script of riling up the base with cultural issues like abortion and gay marriage, which they have no intention of delivering on (see Thomas Frank’s What’s the Matter with Kansas? [2004] for more on this strategy) – Trump tried to address their economic concerns as well. That he pissed off the right people with his abrasive boorishness was gravy. 

Liberté! Liberté!

My friend Jerry Hales shared a YouTube video of a recent anti-lockdown protest in Montreal. Check out the flags on display!

A horizontal tricolour of green, white, and red, in a Canadian context, represents the Patriote movement of the 1830s.* The movement did not succeed in winning republican independence for Lower Canada but its flag remains in occasional use as a nationalist and “rebellious” statement.

A variant on the Patriote flag features a gold star in the top left and a superimposed figure of “Le Vieux de ’37,” from a painting done in 1880 illustrating an archetypical participant in the rebellion of 1837. This is designated the flag of the Mouvement de libération nationale du Québec, a separatist group founded in the wake of the 1995 referendum on independence. You’ll notice more than one of them if you watch the video. 

A friend comments:

Anti-mask demonstrations around the world seem to attract various members of the lunatic fringe and so the MLNQ would definitely fit the bill. Note though that the MLNQ doesn’t really seem to exist these days as a single, organised entity at least overtly as their website and affiliated sites went down some years ago. I suspect many people using the Patriotes flag, defaced or not, in this particular demonstration are using it as an anti-governmental or anti-conformist symbol more than anything.

I assume that the inverted Quebec flag is “anti-governmental”!

The current Quebec flag started life in 1902 as the Carillon-Sacré-Coeur flag, when Catholicism meant a lot more to French Canadians than it does now. My friend comments:

I would assume the bearer might be part of one of the local fringe Catholic group such the Pilgrims of Saint Michael (AKA “the White Berets”) who tend to mix integrist religious belief with various conspiracy theories.

It is rare to see expressions of pro-American sentiment in Canada. It is astounding to see pro-Trump sentiment. Craziness!

* The Patriote Movement broke out into armed rebellion in 1837. Both it and William Lyon Mackenzie’s simultaneous Upper Canada Rebellion are seminal events in Canadian history. The flag for Mackenzie’s “Republic of Canada” deserves to be better known. 

Wikipedia.

Murdoch Mysteries

I was pleased to note a historically accurate Canadian red ensign flag in Season 11, Episode 16 of the Canadian television series Murdoch Mysteries, in contrast to an earlier appearance. The plot of this episode (“Game of Kings”) revolves around an international chess tournament taking place in Toronto in 1905. The players’ nationalities are represented by little tabletop flags. 

Constable George Crabtree has gone undercover as a Canadian entrant. His flag shows the original four-provinces shield devised for the Dominion of Canada in 1868, featuring the arms of Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick. It is true that Canada had nine provinces by 1905 (Alberta and Saskatchewan had been admitted on September 1 of that year, and Crabtree makes a reference to this in Episode 13 when, thinking he’s dying, exclaims “I’ll never see Egypt or any of those new provinces we have now!”). A nine-quartered shield for Canada was devised in the wake of this, but the original shield was still in widespread use until 1921. 

An American competitor is represented by a US flag with 45 stars on the canton (count them!), for the number of states in the union at the time – Utah having been admitted in 1896. Oklahoma (1908), Arizona (1912) and New Mexico (1912) would soon raise the total to 48.

Poland did not exist as an independent country in 1905, but a Polish player has entered the tournament and is represented by the flag of the Polish National Government 1863-64, which had been proclaimed following the January Uprising (although the bottom stripe, according to Wikipedia, should be blue).

Wikipedia.

The coat of arms is for “a proposed Polish–Lithuanian–Ruthenian Commonwealth which never came into being. It consists of the Polish White Eagle, the Lithuanian Pahonia and the Ruthenian Archangel Michael.”

Wikipedia.

Other Polish references in this episode include the Szczerbiec (the traditional Polish coronation sword) and the Husaria (Polish knights who wore decorative wings while mounted).