The Hartford Capitol Flag Brouhaha

Tea Party protestors in Hartford, Connecticut, wanted to fly the Gadsden Flag over the capitol, as part of a protest. From the ensuing coverage, it seems that Connecticut’s capitol building flies a number of flags, upon request. Odd things, that.

The police who draw flag duty at the state’s capitol initially assented to the request. But a politician protested and the police withdrew permission.

At first blush, the idea that a state capitol would co-operate with protestors to hoist a specialty flag up the state’s sacred pole seems nuts.

Gadsden Flag

Gadsden Flag

But the Gadsden Flag — a golden field featuring the figure of a coiled snake captioned with the simple command “Don’t Tread On Me” — has a respectable history . . . at least it does if you consider the founding of the United States of America respectable. Droll to think of one of the original 13 states as repudiating one of the union’s first real flags.

It was a Democratic pol who objected. He said it was a “partisan” flag. Tea-Partyers are partisan? This is not completely obvious to me, considering that I know registered Libertarians, Republicans, and Democrats in the movement. But, hey: The Democrat almost certainly knows what he’s talking about. If he feels threatened by the sentiment, I think we should take him at his word.

On the other hand, I am unclear as to why Tea Partyers would want the flag flown, officially, by the state of Connecticut. Surely the state is one of the institutions (the federal government being the other) actually treading on them.

Still, the Tea Partyers do not come off so badly here. One protestor put it nicely enough: “This is a great flag and it’s an insult to this country and to the men [of the]  Revolutionary War who fought under this flag to say the flag is not worthy to fly over the state Capitol building.”

The speaker, there, is a former state senator. I know nothing of his record in office, or of his stands now, other than that he’s standing with the so-called “Tea Party.” His explanation of the Gadsden Flag is eloquent:

The rattlesnake is an appropriate symbol for the Tea Party movement, said Joe Markley of Southington, a  former state senator from Southington who is once again seeking his old seat.

“A rattlesnake is a uniquely American animal,” he said. “It’s a shy, careful animal that doesn’t look for trouble . . . and it gives warning with its rattle before it strikes. But it is an animal that will only be pushed so far and when its pushed too far it will strike, and when it strikes, it strikes effectively.”

But because of this, it seems hardly an apt symbol for any state government now in operation. The states serve as oppressors, not as rattling defensive denizens. It seems far better a symbol to be raised by individual Americans:

Bob MacGuffie, an activist from Fairfield, said the flag is an emblem of the philosophy of limited government. “Don’t tread on me. Step back. That’s what this movement is about,” he said after the rally.

The Gadsden strikes me, today, as a much better standard for libertarians than for any existing government.

As long as the movement cannot recognize its enemies, the modern-day Tea Party cannot succeed in limiting government. If Tea Partyers think that by getting state capitols to fly a Gadsden Flag the oppressive elements within the states will just roll over, they are mistaken, and will relegate their movement to the level of all similar, past movements: Rah-rah-boy patriots and feckless flag-wavers.

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