I’ve always liked the simplicity and quaint design of the original Gadsden flag. You’ve seen it in history class—it’s the yellow flag with a coiled rattlesnake bearing the motto “Don’t Tread On Me”. Actually, I much prefer the “Join, or Die” cartoon designed by Benjamin Franklin that predates it, but my libertarian sensibilities are more in line with the spirit of the later design.
The Gadsden flag was designed and popularized by Christopher Gadsden, a soldier and statesman from South Carolina. According to Wikipedia, the U.S. Navy was created in 1775 in order to intercept ships bringing supplies to British troops in the colonies. Five companies of Marines were mustered to accompany the Navy, and they carried drums painted yellow with the rattlesnake and motto. Gadsden gave the Navy Commander-in-Chief a version of this design as his personal standard to carry into battle, and the rest is history.
What bums me out is the current usage of the Gadsden flag by the Tea Party movement. This morning on my way to work I spied a guy waving a 5′ Gadsden flag on the I-83 overpass at passing traffic; I don’t think there’s any rally locally today, but this dude seemed to really be into his freedom of expression. I’ve heard a lot about the Tea Party and how they’re mad about things, but it wasn’t until I read this article that some of the distinctions became clearer. Apparently the majority of the group is white, evangelical, identifies as conservative Republican/Independent, is over 45, 1/3 southern, and owns a gun. They seem to believe Obama is making the country more socialist (healthcare reform), and believe he has increased taxes (not true).
Asked what socialism means, roughly half of Tea Party supporters volunteered government ownership or control, far more than any other answer. Eleven percent cited taking away rights or limiting freedom, and eight percent said it means the redistribution of wealth.
According to the CBS poll,
They are more likely than Republicans and Americans overall to see illegal immigration as a serious problem (82 percent), doubt the impact of global warming (66 percent) and call the bank bailout unnecessary (74 percent).
So this Tea Party thing would make more sense to me if I actually understood what they were so upset about, but I think it’s a pretty good analogy for our culture and mass media in general. These folks are pissed off at…something, presumably whipped up into a frenzy by Mr. Beck and Mrs. Palin, but from all I’ve seen and read, don’t offer a whole lot of actual solutions for fixing things. They rail away at “Big Government” daily, but seem to forget that de-regulation is probably one of the biggest factors in the banking meltdown (and subsequent bailout).
Everybody has their right to be angry at something, I guess.