Friday, October 11, 2013

A New Virginia State Flag

Regular readers will know that I have proposed new arms for both the City of Charlottesville and Albemarle County in Virginia.  Today I would like to make another, less modest proposal: a new state flag.

Virginia has the "standard" state flag: the state seal on a blue field.  This design has been panned by flag enthusiasts as the worst design we've got.  Every one of the ten worst flags in the North American Vexillological Association's ranking of state and provincial flags has this design.  Virginia came in 54th of 72.  (And one of those, Georgia, introduced a new flag since the poll, probably resulting in a jump ahead of Virginia.)  This is not simply a matter of vexillological snobbery or angling for a better ranking.  The whole point of a flag is to be identifiable.  If twenty states have basically the same flag, how can you tell them apart?  Virginia's state seal is more recognizable than some, but on a hazy day or at a distance the distinction is a modest one.

The basic design that I propose (above) has two layers of meaning.  The colors are drawn from the flags of Britain, from which so many of Virginia's first colonists came.  The horizontal bar recalls the Cross of St. George on the flag of England; the angled bars recall the Crosses of St. Andrew and St. Patrick, from the flags of Scotland and Ireland, respectively.  Alternatively, the shapes and colors may be read as an allegory for Virginia's history.  The bloodshed of the Revolution and Civil War (red) is now enfolded in the reign of peace (white) and Virginia, having passed through the trial of succession is bound once more by loyalty (blue) to the United States.  The shape of the stripes recalls the way people of many cultures and backgrounds have come together to form this state.  (If you say that the only thing this flag recalls for you is the flag of Iceland, I have no rebuttal except to say that I hear Icelanders are very nice people.)

Having sketched out the above design, I began to wonder if perhaps the state seal, representing the female figure of Virtus striking down Tyranny, might be incorporated.

I played around with a couple versions (see left) which incorporated these figures, as they exist on the arms of Virginia Army National Guard units (see, for example, the 276th Engineer Battalion).  But I was not entirely satisfied with these.

Finally, I settled upon the notion of placing the state seal, used on the current flag, at the junction of the angled and horizontal bars.  I must admit, I was rather pleased with the result:

Am I serious about the adoption of any of these flags for use in Virginia?  Well, sort of.  In all honesty I think them superior to the present one, but things should not be changed for light and transient causes and I do not know that a change would be worth the trouble.  I suppose I am a bit inspired by the little-known Kansas State Banner, a flag rarely used except by the Kansas National Guard, though co-equal in law with its better known counterpart and of much greater vexillological merit.

Tip o' the hat to Fix the Flags, a blog dedicated to creating better flags!  I only discovered it after drafting these, but Jack may have inspired me to work on more.
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