Sun | Jan 29, 2023

When is a flag a flag?

Published:Saturday | April 21, 2012 | 12:00 AM


It is beyond contention that the 'greenless flag' incident was, at best, driven by stupidity, and at worst, an unwelcome demonstration of tribal partisanship.

The issue of what is a flag and what is the meaning of a national flag and how it should be treated must be considered.

Is a 'flag' without a required colour, or with an altered symbol, still a flag? Is the unorthodox use of a flag, or its likeness, to be considered desecration? There are flag-desecration laws in the United States that appear to seek to proscribe against the marking or defacing or burning of the national flag, and against its use for commercial advertising or in other ways showing contempt for the flag.

influences of modernity

But that was way back then, and free speech, buoyed on by the influences of modernity, has opened up the use of the flag in ways that are not seen as contemptible, at least by some.

For example, cycling teams have the flag emblazoned in proximity to their buttocks. Flip-flops have flag designs on them. How many of us have seen our brilliant Jamaican flag on towels and curios for sale to our tourist friends? How about our flag on a coaster for our glasses?

Most of us have no objection to seeing our star athletes parade the flag around stadia and even wrap it around their bodies, at times falling with it to the ground. We have no objection to seeing our flag on a headwrap during the local carnival road march. But we do not like seeing any flag being burned in protest, or being stamped on, or might we say, 'desecrated'?

While our outrage at the recent local flag fiasco should not be brushed aside, we will need to accept that many traditions are rejected even as they do offend the sensibilities of the many.

So when is a flag a flag? Perhaps the answer lies in the eye of the beholder, or in the work of the decorator.