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Time to re-imagine the Australian flag


Friedensreich Hundertwasser's Australian flagBeing friends of the band, some of us used to go to hear Tootieville at inner-city hotels. They were an under-bubbling alternative band that brought out one record around the time of the Bicentennial. Today about the one thing I remember about Tootieville is the chorus to a song that went 'the only flag is your skin'.

You had to be there. It was hard to say what this line meant, whether a spoof on nationalism, some kind of erotic slogan, or just pretentious nonsense.

The proliferation since that time of tattooing as public expression brings the line back to my mind. When I see an attractive person covered in random images, my initial dismay is followed by the awareness we are seeing the insistent flag-waving of someone's inner frontiers.

But 'the only flag is your skin' tended to trigger a more general question: What is a flag? This was sometimes followed by the intermittently fluttering question: What is the meaning of the Australian flag?

There are national flags that make perfect sense. The tricolours of Europe express democratic republicanism. Old Glory is an emphatic display of American certainty, even if its cult inside the US is worrisome. Whenever I notice the flag of India I see the wheel of peace and Mahatma Gandhi. The Japanese flag hits you like a Zen koan.

But the same cannot be said of the Australian flag.

The problems begin with the fact that a quarter of it is taken up by another nation's flag. The presence of the Union Jack is a symbol of the slow separation of the Australian nation from its imperial connections. Satirists who replace the Union Jack with the 50 stars of the Union touch on our uncomfortable role as the best friend of superpowers past and present. Indeed, separation anxiety has come to be a meaning associated with the flag.

When Gough Whitlam helped raise the flag as a political issue he said the new one ought to have the Southern Cross. Whether this was Whitlam's preference, or he just wanted to spur discussion, is not clear.

Perhaps he harboured an historical affection for the Eureka Flag, with its dark blue field, bold cross and stars. Political affinities were there with the stockade on the Ballarat gold fields — an Australia independent of the Crown, an Australia able to assert its own rights.

But this was also a problem. Because the debate originated in the progressive side of politics it became partisan, so our leaders, parties, and grassroots have not been able to create impetus. Conservatives dug their heels in, or turned redneck. The advocates for change got bogged down in competitions, conferences and committees.

The debate over a new flag became associated with Paul Keating's proposal for a republic, but there is no reason why these two issues should be conflated. Keating's determined style was like a red rag to a bull and the bulls have never forgiven him, seeing anything that even hints at republicanism as a betrayal of the nation.

Most Commonwealth countries do not include the Union Jack on their flag and Australia will wake up sooner rather than later to the shift in our national allegiances that was already happening when Robert Menzies did but see her passing by. Eliding the Union Jack at some time in the future will not be a travesty but a transformation, not a rejection of our heritage but an acceptance of transition. A new flag would tell other nations what they know already, that Australia exists without reliance on London.

One of the stunning visuals at the time of the collapse of the Soviet Union was the appearance in Moscow streets of hundreds of white, blue and red Russian flags. These flags had not been hastily stitched together overnight like the Eureka Flag of 1854. The Russian flag, splendid in its simplicity, was well-known to the Russians.

I am hardly suggesting that revolution will break out in Canberra. But the readiness of Australians to design a new flag that is agreed to and honoured ought to be on the agenda of any forward-looking party. Either that, or a day will arise when a design will be foisted on us that no one likes and which has no distinctive meaning. One only has to listen to the national anthem to know how Australians are capable of embracing second best.

Revisiting entries to the pre-John Howard flag competitions is an inspiring exercise. Vexillologists, artists, thinkers and dreamers contributed images that show an engagement with the island continent that is inspiriting, and a maturity that has outgrown the adolescent clowning of the Boxing Kangaroo. These are flags that take in the scale of the country, the variety of its nature, and the range of its colours.

Whitlam would be pleased with the number of entries that do justice to the Southern Cross, still the most popular image for a new flag. A favourite of mine is by the Austrian-Aotearoan artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser, which is longer than the conventional rectangle, more like a banner, with a sun that could be the bend of the desert horizon, or Uluru, above a seven-pointed star suspended in the blue of ocean, or space itself.

During one round of the flag debate the cartoonist Michael Leunig had his own lateral proposal on what constituted an Australian flag. His corrugated iron flag has become a celebrated emblem for those who mistrust nationalism and its habit of using symbols like flags for selfish and narrow patriotic ends. His wavy metal standard even questions what a flag should be made from.

But more poignant than Leunig's reasons for a corrugated flag, in my view, is the fact that the flag is blank. It is telling us to get over tired arguments about the Union Jack and make a fresh attempt at self-definition.

Australian flag design should be a national preoccupation, a meditation on the larger reality of a country bigger and better than politics. It should be informed by stewardship of the land: we don't own it, but we live everyday with its transformative power. Simply to ask yourself what kind of flag you would design can be the start of a journey into your own understanding of place, past, present and future.

Philip HarveyPhilip Harvey is Eureka Street's poetry editor and head of the Carmelite Library of Spirituality in Middle Park, Victoria. 


Topic tags: Philip Harvey, Australian flag, nationalism



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Existing comments

I'm not a conservative, but I do not have a problem with the Union Jack on our flag. It seems to be mainly those with an Irish background that do. But, if you must, just drop the hated UJ, and leave the rest as it is, please. Get over it! It is a beautiful flag. Further, I'm not an Australian who has that ridiculous notion that we have an identity problem! We don't. Get real.

Louw | 11 May 2012  

"One only has to listen to the national anthem to know how Australians are capable of embracing second best." A little unfair, I think. As I understand it, it was the most acceptable of a range that were all inappropriate. If a true range was provided, a competition, or an anthem allowed to evolve organically, this might have been different. As far as flags, I couldn't agree more. I am increasingly unsettled with the Australian flag, especially when they are co-opted by those supporting a nationalism that exhibits signs of racism and exclusion. I am uncomfortable with the Eureka flag for the same reason.

Regular reader | 11 May 2012  

I remember seeing a beautiful simple design...blue background with the southern cross done with Aboriginal dot painting design. be great to never see again the colonial union jack viva the republic

Vacy Vlazna | 11 May 2012  

I have read this interesting article, and wonder why this issue is raised in this publishing venue, when there is such a public and overwhelming sense of profundity and emotion connected by old and new Australians for the current flag of Australia. Please let the issue be, and focus on the real issues at hand, the Poor, the Sick and the Homeless. Thank you.

Fra Prof Richard Divall | 11 May 2012  

What a considered and interesting article with much food for thought, thanks Philip

Cara Minns | 11 May 2012  

Love the design of the flag on this article!

teacher | 11 May 2012  

In Papua New Guinea, the Government had a competition amongst school children to develop a new flag. Australia is after all the country which one day will be owned by our children and they should come up with a design. Should we change the flag? Yes, of course.

Beat Odermatt | 11 May 2012  

Leave the flag alone and let the government and its agencies work at fixing the huge poverty that so many low income earners are going through now. The cafe latte set are all on comfortable incomes and so they grumble about things that are very low on the priority list of those who need help urgently to gain enough money to live, and not just exist, as many families cannot pay their food and utilities bills and go without the basics of life. So many people in rural areas can't find work and face terrible anxiety each day with no help coming to them from anyone in the forseeable future. The Australian flag and its present appearance or any future design is not on the ever increasing strugglers and battlers minds. All major efforts should be made to implement well paid employment for all.

Trent | 11 May 2012  

I think the Eureka flag, is the most beautiful of all flags flown in the country. Its simplicity and unique geometry make it a stand out flag.

Warwick | 11 May 2012  

A Crux of the New Australian Flag .The brightness of the stars without a doubt. For if the sun and the moon should doubt, they would immediately go out: * Prudence - able to judge between actions with regard to appropriate actions at a given time * Justice - proper moderation between self-interest and the rights and needs of others * Temperance or Restraint - practising self-control, abstention, and moderation * Fortitude or Courage - forbearance, endurance, and ability to confront fear and uncertainty, or intimidation, to steer by and calculate the time of day .A fifth Cardinal Rule, however, Squaring the Circle: The Wedding of The Aboriginal Flag ('Paradiso'33 and the Poets of Geometry by Ronald B Herzan and Gary W Towsley -Tradito-Volume 49-(1994) p.p 95) ---Just imagine if you will a hot cross bun--- A Crux inside a circle inside a square A Crux

Myra | 11 May 2012  

I agree that we need a new flag. The English union jack on our current flag is an embarrassment and almost indistinguishable from the New Zealand flag. I do not believe we need a new design because we already have an excellent design - the Aboriginal flag. Implementation of the Aboriginal flag as our national flag would be the ultimate reconciliation between our indigenous and non-indigenous cultures.

Mark Doyle | 11 May 2012  

Mark Doyle's suggestion of adopting the Aboriginal flag is indicative of the reason we still don't have Aboriginal reconciliation - Aboriginal people might not like having their flag stolen to represent everyone until they are satisfied there is genuine recognition of their status.

AURELIUS | 11 May 2012  

I agree with Regular Reader: to some extent the sight of the Australian flag has become a symbol of racism, which I deplore. It disgusts me to see young hoons careering around with our flag attached to their cars or persons. But, would changing this flag make any difference, in that sense? I doubt it.

Louw | 11 May 2012  

Our existing flag reminds us of out history by including the Union Jack; in the same way as Hawaii does and New Zealand etc. Our flag also records our federation by the prominent inclusion of the stars of the Southern Cross . It has then traditional red,white and blue and was a factor in the republican referendum being defeated by a majoriy of people in ALL STATES. Hands off our flag !

Bbary O'Keefe | 11 May 2012  

I have Italian and English ancestory that has a connection with Australia that goes back to the 1890's . The jack only ever represented one part of my ancestory and not the whole.Its long past time it went. Once I would have just dropped the jack. Now i want more .The flag shown in the article is beautiful and would be a good place to start.

john | 11 May 2012  

For a new flag to be acceptable to all it must hark back to our past, and (as with Canada's) be immediately recognisable as Australian. The RAAF roundel meets both needs perfectly; it is a red kangaroo on a white disc with a surrounding annulus of blue. Stretched into a flag it would be blue, white with kangaroo, and blue again. It would carry the colours of our past with an acknowledgement of our land's uniqueness.

Michael Grounds | 11 May 2012  

It's time to remove the Union Flag from ours, yes. But there's a simple way to do this without deleting our flag's essential elements: the Commonwealth Star and the Southern Cross. Simply delete the Union Flag and place the Commonwealth Star, larger but in proportion, in the centre of the left field.

Richard Laidlaw | 11 May 2012  

Dear Philip, Thank you for putting this matter into my consciousness again.

jean Sietzema-Dicksonpo | 11 May 2012  

How strange that in an article in a Jesuit magazine, written by the "head of the Carmelite Library of Spirituality", not only is there not even one vague reference to Christianity (though there are references to Buddhism and Hinduism), but he proposes to completely remove all four of the Christian crosses which currently dominate our flag, and doesn't even mention the fact that he is doing so. And even stranger, none of the previous commenters have even remarked upon this.

Sharon | 11 May 2012  

Our present flag features two elements that are divisive, and although they are cherished, especially by older people, it seems expedient for the sake of future harmony, that they should go, and be replaced by symbols of an all embracing culture that reflects hope for the future and a recognition of Australia's geographical location and likely trading and social contacts. Perhaps, somehow, it could contain the colours of the Olympic Rings, which colours were chosen as representing the colours in most national flags, and can be viewed as representing the Continents. Whatever is chosen, it should eliminate any of the "Us and Them" connotations

Robert Liddy | 11 May 2012  

If the blogs here are any indication of the general public mood then the flag debate continues to be divided down the middle and it is not surprising that politicians won’t go near it. Here are some individual responses: To Louw: I never say in my essay that Australians have an identity problem. Australians, in my experience, have a highly developed sense of identity, which is why the flag debate exists. I don’t ‘hate’ the Union Jack, it’s a very splendid flag, but in my view it is no longer appropriate as part of our own national flag. To Richard Divall: the flag is a cultural issue and a valid object of national discussion that is not going to go away. Some unaware people ask every other year why have opera, aren’t there more serious things to worry about, but it doesn’t stop opera. To Barry O’Keeffe: I will risk my hand here, but a flag that really represented our history would represent its entire history, not just the period after 1788. Also, the question of the national colours, I find, is quite unresolved. For everyone who says the colours are red, white and blue there are those who say they are green and gold (i.e. from the national flower, the Golden Wattle), and then as many again who argue for red, black and yellow, the colours of the Aboriginal flag, which I believe is a great flag. Can anyone give a definitive answer? I would go so far as to say that blue only came into the picture after 1953 when the blue ensign officially became the national flag. Before then the most common flag flown in Australia was the red ensign and when you visit the War Memorial in Canberra the majority of Australian flags held there brought back from combat zones before that time are red ensigns. Furthermore, as I infer in my essay, the republic debate of 1999 was not a vote on the flag: two quite separate issues. To Michael Grounds: in my view, a new flag should be free of any military connotations or connections. This debate is about much more than just our military history.

PHILIP HARVEY | 11 May 2012  

I cannot understand how Harvey is head of the Carmelite Library of Spirituality in Middle Park Victoria when he rubbishes our beautiful flag that the vast majority of Australians respect and are proud of our National flag. Our flag is a Christian flag with the Cross of St George, the Cross of St Andrew, the Cross of St patrick and the beautiful Southern Cross that represent, the great land of the Holy Spirit. Sadly it is only republicans and left wings that want to change our flag. Our flag for ever.

Ron Cini | 12 May 2012  

The Union Jack on our flag does not celebrate our identity. Rather, it connotes the fact that we started as a colony of England 200 years ago. Isn't it time we asserted our independence? The three crosses on the Union Jack belong to Britain, not us. We have our own cross.

Juanita | 12 May 2012  

The Australian flag harkens back to two past Empires, the "Holy" Roman Empire, and the British Empire.
Despite nostalgia, we are no longer British, and no longer really Christian. We are becoming a microcosm of the great Human Body, as people from all the continents make their home here.
This universal welcoming
will help us as the world shrinks to become the Global Village, giving us contacts worldwide.

Flaunting ties to Britain and Christianity when we live among Asian and non-Christian neighbours and when many, even of our present of our citizens, have been victimised by one or both of those ties we commemorate is divisive, and not conducive to the future peace,harmony, and prosperity we hope for.

Robert Liddy | 12 May 2012  

Louw says we don't have an identity problem. Why then, the increasing usage of the term 'down under' to refer to our country, our nation, ourselves?

This UK/USA term used by Australians, including the prime minister, clearly indicates we continue to define ourselves from the perspectives of the former and current superpowers from whose suzerainty we appear unwilling to let go.

Ian Fraser | 13 May 2012  

Well Ian, I never, ever use the term "down under". It is absurd. Many Australians might, and if they have an identity problem with their own country, I do not. Incidentally, I never use the word "Aussie" either. An Australian is an Australian, not an "Aussie".

Louw | 13 May 2012  

"Despite nostalgia, we are no longer British, and no longer really Christian." About two thirds of Australians still identify as Christian. This assertion is, at the very least, quite premature. At any rate, the presence of crosses in the flag does not seem to have deterred the millions of immigrants over the past decades from a wide variety of cultures from thinking Australia a welcome new home.

Richard M | 14 May 2012  

Sadly, while I don't identify with the Union Jack, being 5th generation Aussie from mixed European backgrounds like probably most Aussies who live Downunder, the Union Jack still represents the origins of modern Australia and our current institutions and much of our way of life (I had bangers and mash just the other day as a matter of fact). I regard myself as a Republican, but more and more I look at the Aussie flag as a unit and don't really seen the Union Jack that represents the folly of where we are today. And to Ron Cini, I'm afraid religious politics doesn't serve your argument as the Union Jack doesn't represent Catholics - at least those of Irish or non-Ango origin!

AURELIUS | 14 May 2012  

I'll bet not many of us could identify by name the four crosses that appear on our flag and what they stand for, nor answer the question: why has the cross of St Patrick been dismembered? In other words, the meaning of our flag is lost to us, or buried in the obscurity of the history of the British Isles. To us, these symbols (except for our own cross) are meaningless and irrelevant. As for colour, our nation is united in its use of green and gold - two colours that do not appear on our flag. At international sporting events there is a disjunction between our flag and our national colours. They're from the wattle, of course, our national flower, found everywhere in the country. This is a symbol which unites us. It should appear somewhere, I think, on our flag for these reasons. The flag of union of the united kingdom should disappear to make room for our symbol, our colours.

John O'D | 14 May 2012  

It's not surprising that Eureka Street promotes an article that recommends the dispensing of any Christian symbols. The Society of Jesus is misnamed and ought to be honest with itself and the Catholic Church by simply removing itself from any connection with Christ's Body. For God's sake, make the break!

Stephen Hemingway | 14 May 2012  

It's ironic that one of the crosses of the Union Jack was a symbol of the Crusades - which I guess became reality for the Moorish victims who were forced onto the cross for the sake of Western values.

AURELIUS | 14 May 2012  

I suspect that what is needed at this stage is not a new flag but rather a workable process for moving to the adoption of a new flag. One process could be that every ten years the UJ is shrunk by one third of its size, allowing people to adjust gradually. Eventually we would end up with the Southern Cross on a field of blue - and what could be better than that?

Socrates | 14 May 2012  

When I, an Italian by birth, became an Australian citizen in 1955 I had no difficulty with swearing allegiance to our flag, for it symbolized Australia's heritage, the men who fought under it during both World Wars, and I saw it as a pledge for the future. I feel no need whatsoever to change it now. Whatever the case, please spare us a "multicultural" flag which is more likely to be indicative of adolescent confusion than of any newly-concocted national identity.

Leander Gonzaga | 14 May 2012  

I have resisted responding to the blogs about Christianity and the flag, but feel that clarification is in order. The Southern Cross was, I think, a very good choice for the national flag when the design was first approved and I don’t see how we could replace the Southern Cross without indignation from many quarters. Indeed, I think those on all sides of politics who argued for the Southern Cross in the debates recognised it as one symbol we would all agree on, it is a powerful symbol of the nightsky that we all share and wonder at. A couple of bloggers complain that I talk about Hinduism (in fact all I do is mention the Indian flag) and Buddhism (Zen koan) in my essay and never talk about Christianity. They don’t seem to have noticed that the cross is actually given main emphasis, both in the Southern Cross and on the Eureka Flag. Some readers may not be aware of the contentiousness of the crosses on the Union Jack, either. The Cross of St Patrick, or Saltire, is a British heraldic device without any medieval precedent. It only joined the other two crosses after the Rebellion of 1798, when London wished to reassert its sovereignty over Ireland by the 1800 Act of Union. In other words, there are many Irish (Protestant as well as Catholic and maybe even Irish Buddhists) who would question its validity. The founding flag saluted at Sydney Cove in 1788 was the Union Flag with the crosses of George and Andrew only.

PHILIP HARVEY | 14 May 2012  

Richard M 14 May 2012 "Despite nostalgia, we are no longer British, and no longer really Christian." About two thirds of Australians still identify as Christian. This assertion is, at the very least, quite premature. ******************** Traditions can be helpful at first, but when conditions change, they can hinder progress. God evidently factored progress into Creation, as the One Constant is "Evolve, or Die." Certainly, despite many people still giving lip-service to Christianity, Christianity is nothing like what it was when it first started -as a Jewish sect, as described in Acts 2:44-47.

Robert Liddy | 15 May 2012  

I am bemused by the comments on Philip Harvey's essay on the flag. Most of them indicate that they have not carefully read both the essay and Philip's comments and some of the comments are nothing more than illinformed opinion made by people who do not have a good understanding of both indigenous and non-indigenous history. I suggest that people history books by Henry Reynolds and Humphrey MacQueen's 'A New Britannia'.

Mark Doyle | 15 May 2012  

Mark Doyle, I'd like to know what version of Indigenous/European history would convince Aboriginal people that their flag should be used to represent Australians from all cultural and ethnic backgrounds.

AURELIUS | 15 May 2012  

Phillip, despite your attempt at retrospective justification, you still haven't denied or accounted for the fact, which is the main point here by myself and others, that you propose to completely remove all four of the Christian crosses which currently dominate our flag, and don't even mention the fact that you are doing so. Did you seriously think nobody would notice or care if you removed all trace of Christianity from our flag? Regardless of the disputed heraldic history of various styles of cross, it's indisputable that the Cross has been the pre-eminent symbol of Christianity since the first millennium. What's so terribly wrong with keeping it on our flag? Those traditionally Christian countries which don't have crosses on their flags, lost them when they were abolished by order of the atheist and extreme persecuting anti-Catholic revolutionaries who seized control of those countries from 1790 to 1950. I don't think you realise just how powerful is the symbolism of ripping the crosses off a national flag. Basically it's saying "I hate Christ and Christianity and I want to violently exterminate it."

Sharon | 17 May 2012  

Dear Sharon, Christianity is a major religion found in all countries of the world, the majority of which do not have a cross on their flag, even where Christianity is the main faith. The United States is a good example of such a country. The reasons put for replacing (I am not in the business of ripping myself) the Union Jack have been stated already in the essay, the primary one being it is the flag of another country. I do not propose “to completely remove all four of the Christian crosses which currently dominate our flag,” in fact seem to be putting forward arguments for the Southern Cross and the Eureka Flag. My main appeal is to the imagination. Undoubtedly about my favourite example of how to use the imagination is Jesus Christ, truth be known. He is not reported as having anything to say about flags in the Gospel, but I am in awe of what he means about rendering unto God what is God’s, and unto Caesar what is Caesar’s. Shalom. Yours ever, Philip.

PHILIP HARVEY | 17 May 2012  

Sorry Philip, I've re-read your article very carefully and nowhere in it do you argue for retaining the Southern Cross on your flag. In fact you dismiss the Southern Cross as "a problem" and your proposed flag in the picture contains no trace of it. There might not be any recorded words of Christ about flags in particular, but He definitely did say, "Whoever is ashamed of Me before men, I will be ashamed of him before My Father." As for your flag that you think is so noble and imaginative, my son says that it looks like a boy setting a f**t on fire.

Sharon | 17 May 2012  

In regards to the question? 'Time to re-Imagine a New Australian Flag'. One word only "SORRY" should be our New Australian Flag because from the deepest region of every Australian's heart, Ex Labour Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, said this Word on behalf of all Australians to their brothers and sisters, The Australian Aboriginals- The Native People of Australia... It takes a strong person to say Sorry, and an ever stronger person to Forgive.We should never stop asking for forgiveness...Forgiveness brings inner peace.

Myra | 18 May 2012  

The Christian symbolism of the Union Jack is about as relevant and meaningful as Santa Claus is to Saint Nicolas. Even outlaw bikie gangs use the cross as a symbol.

AURELIUS | 19 May 2012  

Nice flag.. But I think Uluru is upside down.

Julian Smith | 20 May 2012  

Aurelius: Yes, bad men misuse variations of the Christian cross to express bad ideas. You think this means we should remove the crosses from our flag. Should we likewise tear down all the crosses from all of our churches, take them off from around our necks and off the insignia of our Christian organisations, if as you claim the Cross has become so irrelevant and meaningless? The USA flag you mention Philip is a special case. At the time it was invented Catholics comprised less than 1% of the USA population which consisted largely of radical protestant sects who considered the cross a hated symbol of Popery. In our own time of course, their spiritual descendants in the USA have warmly adopted the Cross as their symbol. Probably the only thing that stops them putting it on their flag is the USA's absurd modern legal situation which prohibits things like putting a Christmas crib in a park because it would supposedly "offend" non-Christians. Paradoxically now that most of the Catholic countries have had the crosses on their national symbols removed by militant atheist regimes, most of the countries which still retain crosses on their flags are the few protestant-majority countries.

Sharon | 21 May 2012  

Sharon in my comment I dot not say the Union Jack or any depiction of the cross was being misused in any way or that crosses should be taken down. My comment was that the Union Jack is no longer a Christian symbol - but I didn't say it should be removed either. And I'm happy for gangster and bikies to wear crosses too - they need for help on their path to salvation with all their bullets flying around!

AURELIUS | 21 May 2012  

Bad history is bad history, Sharon. The cross is the main Christian symbol for Protestants, Anglicans, Orthodox, Eastern traditions of all kinds, and Roman Catholics. The cross itself has never been the special possession of any one group, nation or church. It is quite irresponsible to claim that “radical protestant sects … considered the cross a hated symbol of Popery,” and to give this as a reason why the cross does not appear on the American flag. The reality is altogether much more complex and political than that. The revolutionary colonists broke with Britain. That is the reason they removed the Union Flag, not because they were anti-Catholic. Catholicism has nothing to do with it. (The church most seriously wounded by the War of Independence was the Church of England, not the Catholic Church.) The original flag had thirteen stars, for the thirteen colonies of the new Union. The country was seriously Christian in 1776.

PHILIP HARVEY | 21 May 2012  

Philip, it's hard to cover the complexities of a historical situation in 200 wordsds. My point is not that the USA flag doesn't contain the Union Jack but the fact that it didn't include any crosses (of any kind). I never claimed that the Cross has ever been the special possession of any one group, nation or church. I never claimed that the infant USA was not "seriously Christian" - its protestant founders were very serious Christians indeed. It is a historical fact that protestants of the Calvinist tradition (i.e. basically all except the Anglicans and Lutherans and their offshoots) rejected the cross as a "Popish" symbol, and only from the 19th century (as a result of protestants' sympathy with the French Catholics persecuted by atheists from 1792) did this opposition to the use of the cross start to dissipate. Look at any protestant church or artefact made in the 16th to 18th centuries and you will find very few crosses. Even today in Australia you see many 19th century protestant churches with no cross on top, whereas it would be very odd for a recently built protestant church NOT to have a (usually enormous) cross.

Sharon | 21 May 2012  

Tut Tut Philip ... the saltire is Scotland's St Andrew's cross not Ireland's St Patrick's .... Pedantry aside - I enjoyed your piece and think the flag design heading your essay is super. However I think the flag issue is a long way from resolution.

JD | 01 June 2012  

A saltire cross is any cross that runs diagonally in an X-formation. Both the cross of Andrew and the cross of Patrick are saltires. Patrick (there are at least three of them, according to scholars) probably died in his bed. What a formidable and lovely person they must have been.

PHILIP HARVEY | 11 June 2012  

If it hasn't already been mentioned the illustrated flag is by the artist Hundenvasser who also designed a brilliant alternative New Zealand flag the Koru Flag

Bernard | 11 August 2013  

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