Raising a New Flag

Ivan Morgan says the Pink, White and Green should be made the provincial flag

I’m watching a documentary on Hinduism on cable one night, killing time waiting for World’s Greatest Police Chases IV to come on. Suddenly my daughter is looking at the screen and laughing, incredulous. “What? Are they kidding?” Covering all the walls of a Hindu temple were thousands of swastikas. She couldn’t believe it. I tried to explain that long before Hitler and his Nazis, the swastika was a good luck symbol for Hindus. I remember the look on her face. “Yeah. Right.” No really.

That’s the nature of symbols. You see what you are taught to see. Flags are potent symbols too. Our Danny lowered the Canadian flag and all of Canada huffed and puffed. The Canadian flag is a deeply important symbol to many of us; it’s bad medicine to mess with it. So why is that? They’re just pieces of coloured cloth.

It’s because it isn’t the cloth, it is what we project onto that cloth. Take, for example, the Pink, White and Green. Over the past decade I have watched this obscure flag grow steadily in prominence. In my youth, in less politically correct days, I heard people call it “the Catholic flag.” It wasn’t the provincial flag — that was the Union Jack. Some said “our” flag was the Red Ensign, but you saw that even less than the Pink, White and Green.

So when the flag started popping up on T-shirts and flapping from trendy flagpoles, some people took offence. I got a kick out of what different people saw. Some people saw it as the old sectarian “Catholic” flag. It is sad that, even today, old prejudice still festers under a few rocks. Some sneered that it was the “yuppie flag” — the flag of the downtown trendies and the greying rubber-boot brigade. Historical purists lectured me on what it wasn’t. It wasn’t the “old” flag of the Republic of Newfoundland. We were never a republic. Others seethed that CFAs flew it like it was the flag of Newfoundland, which it wasn’t. Stupid mainlanders. They always get it wrong.

Then an upstart newspaper was started, with this flag on its masthead. Now people wear this symbol on their ball caps, coffee mugs, and designer bags. Now it is everywhere.

So while I knew very well what this flag wasn’t, I began, slowly, to see what it was.

I think this flag has grown to symbolize for many of us our potential. I think this might just be our flag. I think that this flag might be a symbol for those of us not happy with the status quo, a symbol of our resentment at the way we have been treated by Canada. A flag for a younger, newer Newfoundland. I think this flag is a symbol that has been adopted by people who have a new idea of what this place could be. Not what it once was, or is right now — but what it could be.

Our “official” Newfoundland flag is that triangle thing Peckford and some committee foisted on us. That was a typical Newfoundland event. Here folks — here’s your new flag. A nice enough flag for sure, but hardly a symbol that came from the streets. It is a “top-down” flag. This new flag — the Pink, White and Green — has come up from the streets.

So then I got this wicked idea. Look what happened when Danny lowered the Canadian flag. It was nothing — just some coloured cloth and a flagpole. And what a stink.

So here’s my idea. As a way of seeing what kind of clout we “new Newfoundlanders” might have, and as a way of proving that our “beer philosophers” have some political clout, why doesn’t someone start something gloriously pointless, just to make a point? Could we make the Pink, White and Green the provincial flag? Dispense with the current one, and adopt the Pink, White and Green? How hard would that be? How big a fuss would there be? Who would object, and why would they object? Is this silly? Did we need to be renamed Newfoundland and Labrador? I don’t think it is any sillier than that, except this would be a popular movement — not some stupid order from the eighth floor.

I would love to see that happen. For the debate. For the spectacle of politicians wrapping themselves in whatever flag they think will get them elected. For the reaction from other parts of Canada. For the boost I think it would give us all I am not interested in whatever that flag might have once symbolized. I have grown to see it as a symbol of our hopes and dreams for the future. I think a battle to have the thing flying from every provincial building would be a grand lark. Why shouldn’t it fly in Ottawa — right next to Quebec’s fleur-de-lis? Look at the boost we all got from Danny lowering a flag. Imagine the boost from getting him to raise one?

Ivan Morgan can be reached at ivan.morgan@gmail.com

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