The Universal Notebook: How about a yellow flag with pink trim?

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How embarrassed are the champions of adopting Maine’s “original” pine tree and star state flag to replace the blue state seal flag we have lived with since 1909? Turns out the ‘original flag,” a cartoon pine tree and star design on a tan field, is not the original at all, but a version of the original made by a local flag company about five years ago.

Frankly, the whole flag debate strikes me as a waste of time. True, what I’ll call the “traditional” blue flag with the farmer, sailor, pine tree and moose on it looks pretty much like about a dozen other U.S. state flags. If we’re going to retain Old Blue, we should at least update it with figures of different genders and colors and perhaps a waiter on one side and a phone rep on the other. Dirigo (I lead) can be changed to servio (I serve).

Edgar Allen BeemI’m afraid I can’t get too excited about the “original” flag either. It looks to me like something a school child might have designed. It also looks suspiciously like South Carolina’s moon and palmetto state flag.

Now that we know the “original” is not the original, I sure hope the state legislature will rethink letting voters decide which of the two to designate as official. At the very least, we should have three choices on the flag ballot — Old Blue, the Cartoon Flag and the true original, a Blue Star/Green Pine banner with a much more realistic pine tree.

Better still, if folks suddenly have had enough of the state flag we have used since 1909, how about really putting the past behind us and having a new state flag designed?

If we’re going to have a childish state flag, why not let a real child design it? And in a state filled with artists it seems as though we might end up with something truly original, something like Arizona’s starburst or New Mexico’s red sun on a bright yellow field, a design inspired by the native Zia people.

Our state legislature, which obviously must have more important things to do, was also thinking about replacing our chickadee license plate with one featuring the phony flag. My guess is that revision is now on hold.

In other legislative business, since some Old Orchard Beach middle schoolers recently persuaded the legislature to make the Pink-edged Sulphur the official state butterfly (why not the monarch!?), perhaps we could just let the Loranger Middle School kids whip up a lovely state flag covered in butterflies. Or maybe just a bright yellow flag with pink edges.

I’m whipping off a letter suggesting just that to Secretary of State Shenna Bellows right this minute. A butterfly flag can’t be any worse than the lobster license plates we had after some Saco middle schoolers persuaded the legislature to adopt the crustacean plate back in 1986.

From 1987 to 2000, we drove around with something that looked like a smashed bug on our license plates. But I bet a state butterfly flag would really flutter.

Edgar Allen Beem has been writing The Universal Notebook weekly since 2003, first for The Forecaster and now for the Phoenix. He also writes the Art Seen review column.

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