Sunday, September 21, 2014

Still Life With Robin: A More Perfect Union...Jack

by Peggy Robin

Now that the Scottish independence vote is over and it’s clear that Scotland is staying in the UK, you might think that the design problem with the Union Jack is over and done with. (For those not up on the flag aspect of the independence vote, the issue was this: Should the design element that represents Scotland – the cross of St. Andrew, a diagonal (saltire) white cross on a field of blue – be removed from the Union Jack? If that came to pass, the flag would be left with just two crosses, the upright red cross of St. George, which represents England, and the saltire red cross of St. Patrick, which represents Ireland … or rather, Northern Ireland, since the rest of the island left the UK in 1921. Now there’s no need to change the flag if the countries symbolized by the elements in the design are unchanged, right?

But what if all the countries that should be recognized in the flag are not there to begin with? That’s an argument coming from many in Wales, a land that’s been in a union with England since 1282. That’s far longer than the union with Scotland, which dates a mere 300-some years to 1707.  Seven hundred and thirty two years of union should be more than enough to earn a place in the Union Jack, one would think. You don’t need to be Welsh to see the point.

What would solve the problem?  Welsh flag wavers offer two possible solutions. One would be to add the Welsh cross of St. David to the design. It’s an upright gold cross on a black background.  Work those colors into the Union Jack and you can really come up with some eye-popping designs. The Atlantic magazine recently posted an article showing a stunning variety of designs along these lines: See

But the cross of St. David is not actually one of the symbols used on the current flag of Wales, which features an arrow-tongued and arrow-tailed red dragon in the middle of two color blocks; the top block is white and the bottom green. So another, perhaps more historically correct approach, is to take the Welsh dragon and work it into the design of the Union Jack. Here’s one such design that puts the dragon at the dead center of the flag:

The BBC asked its listeners for ideas for a new Union flag that solved the Welsh omission as well as other representational problems, and then posted the 25 favorite designs on its website:

At this point, having looked over dozens of UK flag designs, you may be thinking, “What’s this to us in DC?” Well, here’s why I think it's relevant: We, too, are an unrepresented piece of a larger union. The District of Columbia came into being in 1790, just 14 years after the creation of the United States, and we still don’t have a vote in the House or the Senate. We still don’t have the final say over our own laws or even our budget. And we still don’t have a star on the flag. If we can’t get anywhere on the more substantive matters of voting representation and financial and political control over our own destiny, I suppose it’s not worthwhile fretting over the lack of a star.... But one can always dream. Just as the Welsh may dream of getting their dragon or their colors onto their own national flag.

Looks pretty good, doesn’t it?


Still Life With Robin is published on the Cleveland Park Listserv and on All Life Is Local on Saturdays.

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