Education

Weighing-In on the Arkansas Flag | There’s More to Fix Than Just a Star

What Makes a Good Flag

In a 2001 survey conducted  by the North American Vexillological Association (NAVA) the Arkansas flag ranks 45th in design quality out of 72, with New Mexico taking first, Texas second and Quebec third position.

Here are some guidelines for designing a good flag (and how the Arkansas flag serves as an example).

  • Easy and inexpensive to reproduce, thus promoting usage
  • Simple graphic so it is recognizable at a glance
  • Convey one symbolic message (ex. the diamond state)
  • Reads nicely from both sides (here we fall short. “Arkansas” is backwards on the backside)
  • Design should not bleed off the edges so the flag can be repaired without disturbing design
  • Symbolism in color. (ex. Red, White n’ Blue for our mother country).

Most people have no idea what any of the symbols mean on the Arkansas flag. In 40 years, the only time I can remember it being a subject of interest was at the flag’s 200th anniversary in 2012. Even I had forgotten that the stars located at the right and left point of the diamond are symbolic of Arkansas and Michigan being sister states who applied to join the Union together in 1836. I remembered the 3 stars below the word Arkansas represent the countries that once ruled our territory; US, France, and Spain. The star above the word Arkansas was added in 1823 for the Confederate States of America.

Okay. Now, about that dang star everyone’s been talking about …

If you read about the history of the Arkansas flag you will see it has been modified several times. So, it is not out of the realm of possibilities that we revise it again, though thinking this will erase history may be in error. In the words of Carl Jung, “What you resist, persists.”

In school, when asked, my history teacher would tell us one reason for studying history was to learn from the past, lest we repeat it. And another was to remember people and their sacrifices. Whether you like it or not, the Civil War is part of our history and many good people died, maybe in error but never in doubt of duty.

Are we to erase the Vietnam War, now that we know its truth? Or the Iraq War, since it began on the pretense of “weapons of mass destruction?” Has there ever been a war without the elements of greed and pride?

At first, I thought changing the flag meant forgetting and dishonoring the brave men and families of our past, on both sides. But in truth, it’s a moot point. Wikipedia will simply update their Arkansas Flag history page to include a paragraph on our state’s congress’s decision to change the flag and add a updated photo.

And just as Carl Jung implies, “We will talk about it even more.”

If the Arkansas congress does decide to remove the Confederate star, I suggest removing the word “Arkansas” too. This will be in keeping with good flag design practices, since the word “Arkansas” reads backwards on one side.

If we do decide to change it, I vote for Willie Kavanaugh Hocker‘s original design of 1812.