FLAGS, AGAIN

Alvin Williams [Mid Ocean News 05 May 06] was critical of my comments about Bermudian disrespect for Bermuda’s flag. In his piece, he referred to people who would “…understand what obligations they owe their country and its symbols….”

             Kenya is a black African nation, and won its independence in 1963. At midnight, December 11th 1963, the new Kenyan flag – a red, black and green flag with two crossed spears behind a shield – was unfurled. The flag of this independent black African country was in the line of sight between myself and the Bermuda flag on the other side of the Exhibition grounds.

            If nothing else, I would have stood for the lowering of that Kenyan flag. To stand is to “understand” and show “what obligations” I have and that I owe to my country – with or without my own country’s flag symbol.

            The Kenyan flag wasn’t the only flag flying. In my article, I named three other countries – all black, all independent. All were disrespected.

            The disrespect came from ignorance. Not standing is the same as me – or Mr Williams – NOT STANDING when the Kenyan national flag is being lowered in Kenya’s national stadium at the end of a Kenyan national event.

            I wouldn’t sit then. I think that even Mr Williams would stand. Or…would he?

            Respect is a general thing. It is either rendered unconditionally, or not at all. There’s no such thing as half-respect.

            Mr Williams: “…until Bermuda becomes an Independent nation with its own new flag, people will not identify with the existing national flag.”

            I am a Bermudian. I have lived and worked in many environments where the only thing that identified me as the lone Bermudian was the one word ‘Bermuda’ on a brass cap badge. The “Bermuda flag” that was waving so prominently at the 20-20 Cricket final is the only way that Bermuda can identify itself as a separate country amongst the 200 other nations of this world.

            Do we have other ‘Bermuda’ symbols? Things that would enable any Bermudian, anywhere else in the world, to identify the other person as a “Bermudian”.

            What about someone dressed in red Bermuda shorts, yellow tie, blue shirt, and navy-blue blazer, walking down some Main Street somewhere in the world? You would know – without the slightest doubt – that’s a “Bermudian”!

            What about someone standing in a football crowd of 75,000 and holding up a large ‘Gosling’s Black Seal Rum’ flag. You would know – that’s a “Bermudian”!

            You’re walking down the street in some little corner of the world and someone shouts: “Hey, Bye!”  That’s a fellow Bermudian calling!

            National identity is something that exists – or does not exist – right now. It’s not something wrapped in coloured cloth sitting somewhere on a global supermarket shelf. Stitching a piece of multi-coloured cloth into things like Independence and ‘national pride’ and ‘national identity’ and ‘inclusion’ is disingenuous. There is no certain relationship.

            The French Tricolore has endured since 1789 – but there have been four – or is it five? – ‘French Republics’ since then. Canada, as a nation, has had two flags. Russia recently ‘reflagged’ – its third. Having a national flag didn’t stop the exodus of Jamaican professionals from an independent Jamaica during the nadir years of the Manley regime.     

            In 1917 and 1941, black Americans serving in a totally segregated army went to war. After each war they came home to lynchings and race riots. Today’s Stars and Stripes are little changed from the Stars and Stripes of 1917. Then, as now, there’s nary a hint of anything black or African in the Stars and Stripes. Yet Martin Luther King and Condi Rice and Al Sharpton all swore, or swear, allegiance to it and respect it to the hilt. Perhaps Condi Rice will be the USA’s first female President. Will she get a new ‘black’ Presidential seal and flag? Will the Stars and Stripes become red, white, blue…and black?

             When Mr Williams writes: “…there actually are legitimate reasons why some Bermudians neither relate to the current flag nor view it as representing them…”, I cannot see or understand the reasons.

            Tossing in references to Independence and race is like trying to camouflage and explain away a display of national ignorance and disrespect. 

            Don’t identify with and won’t stand for your own flag – the flag that everybody else in the world sees as ‘your flag’? That’s OK. It’s your free choice. But do be respectful and stand for the flag of the other country.

 

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