Running A Few Ideas Up The Flagpole

This Thursday is Flag Day. It’s not an official holiday, but it marks the day back in 1777 when we adopted our first national flag designed a year earlier.

Flags are interesting. There are 196 countries or entities (some, like the Vatican and Kosovo, not admitted to the United Nations) and they all have flags – some unique and some remarkably similar with a color bar shifted here and there.

I’ve looked over those flags and find that America’s really does stand out in design and colorfulness. It catches the eye in a breeze.


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This illustration is from 1885. Images from Bob Jones

It’s interesting how countries pick a flag design, why people had flags to start with, and that you don’t find any all-black flags or all white flags (do you?).

We’ve had some flag changes but nothing like Afghanistan, which has flown 21 different flags in its history.

Flags started out as battlefield markers and signs on shields so you could tell friend from foe in hand-to-hand warfare. The Romans supposedly first used cloth flags mounted on the end of spears.

They say red flags (China) show hardiness and bravery. Blue (plenty) for vigilance and justice. Green (many Muslim nations) for hope and joy and a special religious significance. Yellow is for generosity.

Many flags have some yellow, but all yellow? I can only find our old Don’t Tread On Me banner.

The flags of the European countries – except for Great Britain – tend to confuse me because of their rearrangement of some basic color bars. Is that Germany or Belgium? Hungary or Italy? Slovakia or Slovenia?

The flag of the Republic of the Seychelles (Indian Ocean) really stands out in a crowd. Same with St. Pierre and Miquelon (Atlantic Ocean near Canada).

Japan and Tunisia strike me as among the least interesting flags. They went for minimalist design. Somalia, too, one white star on a blue field.

But that place has disintegrated, so stand by for a new banner.

Togo’s is very eye-catching (noticed that tiny places often have the best postage stamps, too?) but Swaziland’s – I can’t quite figure that one out. Here’s how they describe it:

“On it is an Emasotsha shield, laid horizontally. The shield is reinforced by a staff from which hangs injobo tassels – bunches of feathers of the widowbird and the lourie.”

I guess the uniqueness award goes to Mozambique, the only nation to feature an AK-47 assault rife on its flag.

Then there’s Guam, about which a rating website says:

“Very bad. Looks as if they had just bought a T-shirt from the nearest souvenir shop and put it on a flagpole.”

* Got tickets yet for the July 3 final Hawaii Foodbank Patriots Celebration? I sure hope so. Honorees of all previous years will be there. Call 836-3600, ext. 244 or email

Editor’s note: We’re pleased to note that Bob Jones won a Hawaii Publisher’s Association Pa’i Award, taking first place in the Editorial Opinion category – based on his two columns about the Kauai Independent Food Bank misusing almost $1 million of federal funds, and on peddlers in Diamond Head and in Waikiki. Congrats, Bob, and thanks for the good work.