Simanaitis Says

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YESTERDAY’S FLAG LORE had theories and practices of political science, religion, combustion, and inversion. Today in Part 2, the flag is monochromatically bland, though we’ll see that white flags have a multitude of meanings.

Not Just Surrender. As noted in Wikipedia, “The white flag is an internationally recognized protective sign of truce or ceasefire, and request for negotiation…. Persons carrying or waving a white flag are not to be fired upon, nor are they allowed to open fire.”

Of course, negotiation may well result in the weaker power doing the surrendering.

Flashman and the Flag. I am reminded of Sir Harry Flashman as described in George MacDonald Fraser’s historical (and hysterical) novels. Flashman is a delightful scoundrel of the 19th century who survived everything from Afghanistan in 1842 to Little Big Horn in 1876. Each time, though, it had utterly nothing to do with valor.

As described in Flashman: A Novel, Harry is the sole survivor in the 1842 Kabul Retreat. Though lauded as a hero wrapped in the Union Jack, in unmitigated cowardice he was actually surrendering the Colours, not defending them.

White-Flagged Cartel Ships. In international law, “cartel” ships on humanitarian voyages are identified by their flying white flags. Traditionally (the concept dates from the 17th century), such vessels were unarmed except for a single signaling gun. A cartel ship was not subject to seizure or capture, provided, of course, it remained disengaged from commerce or warlike acts.

Wikipedia writes, “The last known modern day use of the title ‘cartel ship’ refers to the SS Canberra, a British Peninsula & Oriental cruise liner used in 1982 in the Falklands War.

Known colloquially as ‘The Great White Whale,’ Canberra ferried 4000 Argentinian prisoners of war … after the cessation of hostilities….”

The White Helmets. To this day, those on peace-keeping missions around the world wear white helmets. For example, the White Helmets, officially the Syria Civil Defence, is a volunteer organization in that war-torn country.

The Syria Civil Defence, SCD, is credited with having saved more than 114,000 lives since its formation in 2014.

The White Flag in Formula 1. These days, signal lights around the circuit supplement traditional corner workers’ flags. Colors are yellow (danger), yellow and red (slippery condition), red (halt a session), blue (being lapped), green (resume racing), black (disqualification), black/orange circle (damaged car), black/white diagonal (unsportsmanlike behavior) and white (slow-moving vehicle on course).

The white flag has an additional nuance in F1. At the end of free practice sessions, white flags at the last corner and along the pit straight warn that drivers may be performing practice starts.

The Country of Nutopia. On April 2, 1973, John Lennon and Yoko Ono introduced the conceptual country of Nutopia (as in “new utopia”) at a press conference in New York City. As described in Wikipedia, “The Lennons were ambassadors of the country and sought (creatively, though unsuccessfully) diplomatic immunity to end Lennon’s ongoing immigration troubles…. (Ono already had a Resident Alien ‘green card’…. Lennon had been denied permanent resident status.)”

Lennon and Ono established the Nutopian embassy in their residence at the Dakota on the Upper West Side of New York City. Waving a white tissue, Lennon said, “This is the flag of Nutopia—we surrender, to peace and to love.”

I’m all for F1-like practice starts followed by Paul and Yoko’s idea of peace and love. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis,, 2020

One comment on “RALLY ’ROUND THE FLAG PART 2

  1. Andrew Johnson
    March 21, 2020

    In a comedy show episode many years ago it was declared that the flag of Baffin Island (CANADIAN Northwest Territories at the time, now Nunavut Territory) was snow on a white background.

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