Episode Information

CMS: The Power of a Flag
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Flags are meant to be a uniting symbol, but in many cases they cause stark divisions.


Episode Audio

49:29 minutes (23.76 MB)
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It's hard to quantify but I think it's fair to say that people who come to the United States from other countries often think we're a little bit weird about our flag.

It seems to them we display it more and argue about it more. It would make more sense if -- as was the case with Northern Ireland -- there were multiple flags competing for legitimacy.

These days, maybe there are. Connecticut just went through a fight over the Gadsden, the exciting yellow rattlesnake flag, once a symbol of the Revolution, then a symbol of the Marines and now a symbol of the somewhat fuzzy Tea Party movement.

At pretty much the same moment, Virginia found itself once again convulsed by a debate over the meaning of Confederate symbols when its governor recognized April as Confederate History Month.

It's just a piece of cloth. And most American flags are, of course, made in China. So why do flags make us coil and strike?

You can join the conversation. Leave your comments below, e-mail colin@wnpr.org or Tweet us @wnprcolin.

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Confederate flag

We don't glorify Benedict Arnold;  why do we glorify the likes of Robert E Lee or Jefferson Davis who were, inarguably, just as much traitors as Benedict Arnold.


The Confederate flag symbolizes treason.  Period.

Listener E-mail from Michael

As an independent cartoonist and sometime pamphleteer, I share the skepticism of censorship espoused by some of your guests. That said, I feel they are being disingenuous when it comes to a few of the points they have raised.
If they are so skeptical of the government, a sentiment I often share, why do they feel it necessary to use a government owned flagpole as the conduit of the "tea party" message? Like the name of the movement itself, these activists are merely attempting to co-opt a preexisting symbol, while redefining the flags original message to suit their own needs.  The Gadsden flag was the product of a particular historic moment. Seems to me they are merely seeking to hijack the preexisting semiotic implications of the symbol due to a lack of a cohesive and directed message.

Listener E-mail from John

Your guest is legitamizing the teaparty too much. My biggest gripe with them is: If this is purely about fighting power, then where were they during the Bush administration??