Editorial Roundup: New state flag designs go past the frivolous

Published 8:50 pm Friday, November 17, 2023

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Most state flags are objectively bad. Flags are intended to be seen from a distance and should be readily recognizable, so simple is better.

But a large percentage of state flags — including Minnesota’s — are simply the state seal on a blue field. And state seals — which serve as the state’s “signature” on official documents and thus are intended to be viewed up close — are typically detailed.

Add in the racial imagery of the current Minnesota state seal, and we have two state emblems worthy of replacement. That the white settlers forced the native tribes off their land is a fact of history, but it does not deserve to be venerated on emblems intended to represent the state.

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Last week the State Emblem Redesign Commission, created earlier this year by the Legislature with orders to come up with replacements for both flag and seal, released 2,123 proposals from the public for a new state flag and another 398 for a new state seal.

The frivolous ones, such as the one featuring hotdish, got the bulk of media attention. The commission has bigger walleye to fry as the legislatively mandated Jan. 1 deadline approaches.

The serious entries were much more numerous, and some themes of consensus are obvious.

— Stars, playing off the official state motto, “L’etoile du Nord” — Star of the North. Many submissions offer the star shape from the U.S. flag. Others make it more elaborate, with some combining it with snowflake imagery.

— The color blue, to represent the sky-blue water that is the popular translation of the name Minnesota.

— Loons were far more popular than such other official Minnesota symbols as the Norway pine, the showy lady’s slipper, the walleye pike or the blueberry muffin.

One potentially intriguing direction would be the use of the Nordic cross — a cross with the center of the cross shifted toward the hoist. All five Scandinavian nations have flags based on the Nordic cross, but no U.S. state uses it in their flag, so such a design would be both classic and distinctive, and Minnesota’s connections to Scandinavia are legion.

Some submissions featuring the Nordic cross dress it up with a star at the joint, and at least one proposal gives that star a Native styling. But the commission might wish to shy away from any implied reference to an ethnic or racial group.

Hundreds of people — from children drawing on lined paper to professionals annotating their work with explanations of their design choices — took the time to devise visual representations of Minnesota. There is value in that, even from those with no chance at selection.

And we are confident that the commission’s deliberations will result in a flag and seal that are superior to the current models.

— Mankato Free Press, Nov. 15

About Editorial Roundup

Editorials from newspapers around the state of Minnesota.

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