Stars, Stripes and Rattlesnakes

There may be nothing that brings a greater feeling of patriotism than the Stars and Stripes. Immortalized in song and memory; will anyone forget the emotion brought on by the display of flags everywhere on September 12, 2001; the Stars and Stripes Forever,  or our National Anthem, which is of course about the flag. Since its adoption on June 14, 1777, it has been a symbol of unity, a symbol of pride, and of freedom. Perhaps over time, we have made an idol of the flag, and in doing so, forgotten what it represents.

Some generations ago, the flag that brought about this loyalty looked much different. Although red, white and blue, there were no stars. In the years leading up to the Revolution, our Founding Fathers held to an allegiance to their king; one they believed was chosen by God to rule. Historians tell us that even at the time of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, 40% of the colonies remained loyal to the king, and the flag representing him- the conjoined crosses of St. George and St. Andrew.

The men who founded our nation were radicals, free thinkers often not taken seriously, often marginalized by those who did not agree with them- and who often disagreed with each other. But, these men shared a common purpose, that of freedom- and they risked their property, fortunes and lives, in defiance of their king, of their nation, of their flag.

One of my favorite quotes from our founding came immediately prior to the signing of the Declaration of Independence when a wise printer, Ben Franklin, stated, “We must, indeed, all hang together, or most assuredly we shall all hang separately.” These men were traitors to the crown and to their nation; but to us, they are the greatest of all Americans. They were willing to look past the symbolism of the flag of their fathers and the false idol of a crown, to the actions of the crown and the promise of God-given freedoms. They birthed a revolution- a radical and complete change. They birthed the first government in the history of the world based upon rationality; upon the individual, upon an innate privilege afforded to all men by the creator that superseded the will of any other, or all others. They did not birth a star spangled banner.

These men, with the guidance of God, fulfilled the hope of mankind since the dawning of civilization.

Webster’s defines freedom as “The absence of necessity, coercion, or constraint in choice or action; liberation from slavery or restraint or from the power of another; the quality or state of being exempt or released usually from something onerous.”

In a day in which we experience coercion of the government, the constraint of choice or action by the government; maybe it is time we reconsider the banner which represents those of us who love Freedom. We might consider the flag of Christopher Gadsden (which of course, would classify lovers of freedom terrorists- according to Obama’s government).

After NC’s Mecklenburg Declaration in 1775, a corps of Marines was authorized by the Second Continental Congress to accompany the Navy on their first mission. Col. Christopher Gadsden of South Carolina described a standard of a rattle snake to the Commander-in-Chief of the Navy, Commodore Eseck Hopkins, who received the yellow flag as his personal standard.

The rattle snake had been used for over a decade, first introduced by Ben Franklin as a symbol of the Colonial unity. It was on the Gadsden flag the motto “Don’t Tread on Me” was first used. Later that year, the “American Guesser,” now generally considered to be Franklin, said of the flag: With her sharp eyes, the rattlesnake “may therefore be esteemed an emblem of vigilance. She never begins an attack, nor, when once engaged, ever surrenders: She is therefore an emblem of magnanimity and true courage… she never wounds ’till she has generously given notice, even to her enemy, and cautioned him against the danger of treading on her.”

Never used as a symbol of domination, is there may be no better symbol of the vigilance of Freedom- of what American stands for-than the Gadsden flag.

Following the events of September 11, 2001, the Gadsden flag was unofficially used by US Customs and harbor patrol boats, and by members of US forces overseas; a variation, the first Navy Jack, by the US Navy; and even by Nike in support of the US Soccer team.

In an era in which our government appears to have forgotten the foundations of our Declaration of Independence and our Constitution, is there a better symbol for that which freedom loving stand? Does the flag flying over Obama’s Whitehouse or Pelosi’s Capitol truly represent what it did when first flown?

Those who love freedom must hang together, or surely we will hang separately.

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One Response to “Stars, Stripes and Rattlesnakes”

  1. niner says:

    Jefferson did beleive in the ‘laws of necessity’, though I highly doubt he’d support smoking bans. National securtiy related necessities(Patriot Act) and similar things he did, though I’m sure he would. Two different categories of life though.

    “”[a] strict observance of the written law is doubtless one of the high duties of a good citizen, but it is not the highest. The laws of necessity, of self-preservation, of saving our country when in danger, are of higher obligation. To lose our country by a scrupulous adherence to the written law, would be to lose the law itself, with life, liberty, property and all those who are enjoying them with us; thus absurdly sacrificing the ends to the means.”

    -Thomas Jefferson

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