Patriotic Clamor / Fernando Damaso

Various uses of the image of the flag from times past.

Fernando Dámaso, 29 April 2019 — The uproar continues between those who reject and those who accept the use of patriotic symbols, mainly the flag, in utilitarian objects. With this in mind I would like to clarify a few things and offer some personal thoughts.

«Patriotic puritans,» who mainly come from the intellectual community, want to sanctify the flag and turn it into an object of religious devotion.

«Patriotic populists» use it excessively, and often inappropriately, as a decorative object in shops, farmers markets, public offices, companies and vehicles. Also included in this group are political leaders, entrepreneurs and business executives who use it at any number of events and activities, no matter how insignificant, at which the flag’s size is in direct proportion to the magnitude of the failures they want to cover up.

«Jingoistic opportunists,» mainly musicians and athletes, use it to varying degrees in unoriginal and inartistic clothing designs.

I believe that, when the flag is used (in whole or in part) in everyday objects such as clothing, towels, bedsheets, curtains and upholstery, it should display some artistic quality and originality.

Examples of good design can be found in multiple utilitarian objects which feature various elements of the American and British flags. These are popular throughout the world, including in this country.

Rather than attacks or insults to a patriotic symbol, citizens view these examples, which they have known since infancy, with affection, not as inaccessible objects to be placed on an altar.

To celebrate the anniversary of the founding of the republic, Cubans have followed the yearly tradition of wearing the colors of the flag, and even the flag itself, on May 20 as a healthy sign of patriotic pride, with the blessing of all the country’s war veterans.

Instead of debating the flag’s use or non-use on everyday items, it would be better to educate citizens from an early age on its proper use while not allowing it to be used indiscriminately in bodegas, farmers markets, business settings or street demonstrations.

If a flag is made of cloth, it should not be left outside, exposed to sun, wind and rain to the point of disintegration. If it is applied to some other backing (paper, cardboard, poster board), it should not be left in streets, plazas and sidewalks to be mindlessly trampled on, like trash, by passers-by.

For those who do not remember or do not know, during the Republican era the flag could only remain outdoors from dawn, when it was hoisted, to dusk, when it was taken down, correctly folded into a triangular shape with the star on top, and kept in a designated place until the following morning, when the process was repeated.

When it became worn out, it was incinerated. The same held true for flags printed on paper products. All this was taught in school, and was common knowledge and required practice.

Furthermore, printing images, landscapes, text and signatures of any kind on flags was prohibited. In other words, its use was subject to regulations, which were respected and adhered to by officials and citizens alike. There were also established standards governing where it was to placed and when it was to be displayed alongside other flags.

Today, almost of this has been lost, along with many other things. Government officials and citizens alike are ignorant of these practices. I believe rescuing them is more important than wasting time squabbling over whether the flag should be used on everyday objects.