The Meaning of Flags
Flags are essentially large, artistic symbols—representations of ideals, attitudes, concepts, beliefs, countries, etc. Although the most obvious form of a flag is the large flag that typically flies from the top of a flagpole, flags are also often decreased in size to become smaller, handheld representations. People use flags to make a statement, to decorate, to send a message, to celebrate. Flags probably have as many purposes as the number of people who use them, and therefore flags play a very large role in society.
Flags: Important Symbols
Flags are most generally recognized as symbols of countries because each country around the world, and even certain groups or regions within those countries, has its own flag with significant representative colors, designs and symbols. There are often detailed stories behind the design and construction of each flag—stories that make it into the local folklore or history—and flags often incite serious controversy as well.
It is hard to truly explain the meaning and significance of a flag to someone who is not from the group, country, or region it represents. For example, before and during the American Civil War, the North and the South each had its own unique flag. After the Civil War and continuing to the present, there has been serious controversy over the meaning of the Confederate flag. Many people believe that it should no longer be flown or displayed because it is a symbol of a torn country and a representation of the acceptance of slavery. However, many people who are from the South and who continue to support the Confederate flag argue that it is a symbol of the united history Southerners share, a part of their past, and not related to slavery in any way.
In any case, flags have incredible power to convey messages and act as influential symbols. The key to understanding any group of people is probably intrinsically related to an understanding of its flag, the reason they chose it and what it truly represents. In many cases, a flag is a symbol of unity for the group it represents partially because it is not understood by “outsiders” and because it is an enigma that yet explains a group’s essence.