The Massachusetts Flag Debate: History Deserves a Fair Hearing, Not Another Rush to Judgment

“white supremacy culture.” I admit that I tend to react instinctively in opposition to the removal of historic images or memorials. However, the Massachusetts flag dispute seemed strikingly similar to the debate that we recently had (and lost) at GW over our moniker “The Colonials.”

According to activist Marianne Vesey, the state flag and seal depicts a “colonializing and violent depiction that is really supporting the fact that white people are in charge of this world and that we have to subdue the Native American people.”

The official emblem of the State goes back to 1775 and was later adopted by Governor John Hancock and his government on December 13, 1780. The seal and flag have gone through changes through the years. The first seal, for example, depicted a nude Indian with a bush covering his groin. That image was later changed.

The current depiction is reportedly based on a composite sketch using the image of the Chippewa chief Thomas Little Shell III.

In fairness to critics, there is history related to older images that had offensive elements common at the time. During King Philip’s War in 1676, the Bay Colony ordered a seal with the words “In the present Warr with the Heathen Natives of this Land / They giving us peace and mercy at their hands.”

The question is whether the current image of a Native American is itself racist as opposed to reflecting the Native American origins of the area. Many of the objections appear to be the juxtaposition of the sword above the head of the figure.

However, the sword above the figure was added around the revolution and was a reference to resisting British rule, not Native Americans.

For some of us, it is reminiscent of our debate over the Colonials. The objections to the Colonials was entirely ahistorical and uninformed on its meaning. It did not matter.

For roughly 100 years, George Washington rallied behind our beloved mascot of the Colonials.  Then someone declared it meant celebrating the colonization of other people, as opposed to resisting such occupation.

The petition read: “The historically, negatively-charged figure of Colonials has too deep a connection to colonization and glorifies the act of systemic oppression.”

It is nothing of the kind.  The Colonials reflect our history as one of the oldest universities in the country founded at the direction of George Washington.  Washington called for the establishment of a national university and left funds for our charter in in his last will and testament.  President James Monroe approved the charter in 1821.  It was meant to be a new university that reflected a new nation.  This country was founded by colonials who forged a new vision for democratic process and individual freedoms.

Former Hatchet reporter Andrew Hesbacher, along with Rachel Yakobashvili and Emma Krasnopoler started the campaign.   Hesbacher is quoted as saying “Colonialist, terrorist, murderer. In a lot of places that’s what colonials mean to people.”  Of course, that is the value of learning about the true meaning of terms.  The thirteen colonies were the seedlings that grew into a new Republic.  This school reflects those founding members of our nation.

Many people objected that an initial vote to change the name was held with little notice and relatively few students voted. Even then it was close. The university then created a committee to study the issue, which seemed to avoid inviting those of us who had long argued in favor of the name. That followed a panel of discussion that notably omitted anyone arguing for the Colonials. It was clear from the outset that the name would be dropped.

Now Massachusetts is arguing the same ahistorical point. The sword accompanied the Latin motto “Manus haec inimica tyrannis ense petit placidam sub libertate quietem.”(“This hand of mine, which is hostile to tyrants, seeks by the sword quiet peace under liberty.”) Again, it was a statement against British rule. Rather than educate people on the origins and meaning of symbols, particularly the sword over the figure, it is now a racist symbol by acclamation.

Massachusetts has a rich history that helped shape this Republic and its ideals. It is part of our shared history; we are all beneficiaries of the patriots that rose up in the Bay State. The flag is part of our collective history. It is a shame to sever another symbol from the founding period without a full and honest discussion on the Massachusetts seal and flag.

The fear is that, once a movement coalesces around a racist claim, many fall silent out of fear of being tagged or attacked. We have seen that happen on many campuses. I hope that this will be different. Many of us are open to hear why this image is racist and now intolerable. However, the flag and seal should not be discarded in another mad fit of political correctness. For hundreds of years, this symbol and its precursors have rallied Massachusetts and served as a reminder of a shared legacy. We should give it more than a passing consideration in a rush to sanitize history.

138 thoughts on “The Massachusetts Flag Debate: History Deserves a Fair Hearing, Not Another Rush to Judgment”

  1. There is a movement regarding the California state seal. We wish to vote in favor of changing “EUREKA” to “BOHICA”.

  2. This gets repeated constantly – but has yet to be proven.

    On rare occasions – some of you making this claim – attempt to prove it.
    But your own evidence refutes your claim.

    The ways to get your comment deleted here are well known.

    Do not run affoul of the Word Press offensive word list.
    Don not provide more than two links.
    Do not exceed fair use allowances in the quotes you post.
    Do not engage in speech that is actually illegal.

  3. Jonathan: Judging from some of the comments on this blog you have support for your claim that the commonwealth of Mass. should not replace the state flag and seal. But some of these comments are bizarre in the extreme. Here is a sampling:

    –“Sam” thinks the people of Mass. are trying to erase “Americanism” (?) with “a tribalist culture of mass misery and suffering”. Whatever that means. Sam goes on: “those ‘noble savages’ were illiterate nomads…”. Nope. Every 9th grader knows better. Native peoples in America spoke 300 different languages before the arrival of European colonists. Minor detail.

    –“RTex” (aka T-Rex) thinks it’s all one big communist conspiracy: “Destroy the past and replace it. Part of the communist cultural revolution in Chyna”. RTex sees conspiracies everywhere.

    –“JWest” thinks the problem is that native peoples lacked that inventive spirit that was in the DNA of every Dutch and English colonist: “They [native peoples never built a single road or bridge in all the thousands of years they were in charge of the ‘land'”. JWest seems to think that Native Americans should have been more forward thinking and have made roads and built bridges for the colonists –to make it easier to decimate native villages. See what I mean about bizarre thinking?

    –“John Say” by far takes the cake. In rambling comments he seems to think majority rule should not govern the issue. He argues that since the right to vote is not in either the Declaration or the Constitution voting should not determine whether to change the Mass. flag and seal. John says “Voting is not Fundimental (sic)” in “protecting individual rights” and “trust’ in government. John and I go round and round about voting. I say it is a fundamental 1st Amendment right. He says otherwise. He apparently thinks that if the citizens of Mass. decide by a majority vote to change the state flag that should not decide the issue. John thinks government must have the “trust of the people”. How to determine that other then through elections John doesn’t “Say”. It’s a circular argument. If Donald Trump didn’t think voting was important why did he spend so much time and money litigating the 2020 election? And why did he desperately try to find 11,780 votes down in Georgia?

    But John Say is very clear on one point. He believes the 2020 election was rife with “fraud, the censorship, the lack of transparency, the lawlessness, the willful blindness”. By logical extension it appears Say thinks that because voting really doesn’t count and because the 2020 was a “fraud” the MAGA supporters were entitled to take the law into their own hands on Jan. 6 to protect “individual rights”. I don’t suppose Mr. Say would take the same position had things turned out differently and Donald Trump had won the election. Would he give those who voted for Biden the same right to storm the Capitol in protecting their “individual rights”?

    So you have it all on your blog, Jonathan. Conspiracy theories, racist tropes and all sorts of muddled thinking about the meaning of voting and majority rule. If you agree that voting and elections are essential 1st Amendment rights say that so there is no misunderstanding among some of your followers.

    1. What is wrong with the comments ?

      While I do not think they are the core issue.
      States can do whatever they please regarding their symbols.

      At the same time – the efforts int he last decade to rewrite history – to destroy sympbols and statues and … are an effort to rewrite and erase history.

      Massachusetts is free to chose to do so.
      And that would be a mistake.

      But real freedom includes the freedom to make mistakes.

      When we do not actually leanr from history and experience – we must learn more painfully through mistakes.

    2. “Sam goes on: ‘those ‘noble savages’ were *illiterate* nomads…’ Nope. Every 9th grader knows better. Native peoples in America *spoke* . . .” (Emphases added)

      “illiterate:” unable to read or write

      As in: A commenter who cannot read what another person wrote.

      “Sam’ thinks the people of Mass. , , ,”

      If you were able to conceptualize and were intellectually honest, you might see that I never said anything about the “people of Mass.” My comment was about the ultimate goals of the tribalist movement in America.

      Ever notice how the Left is like one of those shrunken heads worshipped by tribalists? Normal heads see ideas. Shrunken heads see people.

  4. I don’t even care or think about Indians anymore. The left has made it a crime in every way, so out of sight out of mind.
    Indians used to be so cool. Wampum, corn cob pipes, drums around the campfire with that certain beat everyone used to know, the fantasy tales of long lives way beyond normal years because “they used every bit of nature”, the hooting in raids on horses in the wild west shows…
    The demoncrats did this. The demoncrats did this with their hatred and whining and crying and outlawing everything related to Indians.
    The demoncrats have destroyed the very cool Indian cultural tales we used to have… now it’s just hatred and a stain that might get you in trouble. That’s what surrounds “Indian” now. I’m afraid to even type injun though I used to use it because it was cool, and it seems necessary because of the people from the certain nation over there that the brits used to rule.
    So, thanks for NOTHING BUT PAIN AND HATE demoncrats.
    You have destroyed the Indians legacy and stature.

  5. Jonathan: I know this is hard to believe but I may have been a little premature in previous posts when I said the first criminal case against Donald Trump would be by AG Fani Willis in Fulton county, Georgia–you know where Trump tried to get the Secy of State there to “just find 7,800 votes”. Trump is facing felony charges for election fraud in that case. But the NY Times and other news outlets are saying the first criminal indictment of the Trumpster may actually occur in NY.

    It should be recalled that the Manhattan DA, Alvin Bragg, began investigating Trump over those hush payments to Stormy Daniels several years ago. And it appeared that one point the investigation was pretty much shut down. But that investigation has been revived–a sure sign Bragg believes he has enough evidence to charge Trump. And now Bragg has offered Trump an opportunity to appear before the Manhattan grand jury. No doubt Trump will decline. But what is important is that prosecutors don’t normally make such an offer to a potential defendant if they don’t intend to charge him.

    So I guess it’s going to be a race to the court house. Fani Willis or Alvin Bragg? It’s anyone’s guess. But, at long last, let the games begin! I have a seat on the 50 yd. line. Anyone care to join me?

    1. Oh, yeah, you’ve got him now! The walls are closing in! Get ready for Trump’s perp walk! Moron…
      Prepare to be disappointed. My Shaudenfreude at your disappointment will be most delicious!

  6. My God, these people are bizarre. I’d bet that not a single one has any idea about heraldry, the system of designing and registering coats of arms.
    Every last one of these moronic efforts to destroy hundreds of years’ worth of history should be thrown out. It’s absurd.

    1. The 45 goals of communism require the revision of history and the removal of the statues reminding us of our founding.

  7. The best state flags have simple, wordless, uncluttered designs that serve to unite people around history and/or culture and/or geographic location. Among the best are those of New Mexico, Arizona, Alaska, and South Carolina. Most of the others could use some work.

  8. What liberals are really doing is -erasing- Native Americans and Blacks from our historical fabric. i.e. Soft genocide by Democrats.

    Land O’Lakes, Uncle Ben’s, Aunt Jemima… our family now boycotts and avoids each of those brands for their woke fascism.

  9. “. . . replace the seal and flag of the state . . .” (JT)

    The key issue to focus on is the *goal* behind the coordinated efforts to wipe out American history. From the curriculum to statues to songs to symbols, that effort is everywhere. What is their motivation?

    When your goal is to fundamentally transform a culture, one of the first things you do is wipe out in people’s minds any history of its past. The anti-Americans are in the process of doing that. (BTW, this anti-Americanism started in academia decades ago.)

    They detest American values, such as: Independence, individual rights, limited government, material prosperity, benevolence and personal happiness. It is hatred of, not love for, that drives the anti-Americans.

    What do they seek to replace Americanism with? A tribalist culture of mass misery and suffering. With them as the voice of the tribe.

    1. I totally agree with your last 3 sentences.
      A tribe used to be about injuns but the demoncrats destroyed that fun.
      The demoncrats destroy all the good natured wholesome Americanism that we used to be able to enjoy so much.
      To be so proud of, in all it’s aspects, even in celebrating and playing cowboys and/or indians.
      Anything you say or do is somehow turned into disrespect or some fake hurt by the demoncrats. Everyone is enjoying themselves in a good natured bit of whatever and the demoncrats step in and start screaming and tearing everything down and demanding criminal charges and expulsion and all the rest of their sick disgusting filthy vermin crud and wail and moan it must never be allowed again.
      I cannot stand them, who can ? I suspect no one really can.

  10. Can anyone tell me what law protects people from being offended? This debate offends me, so who do I sue for relief?

    1. the state flag and seal depicts a “colonializing and violent depiction that is really supporting the fact that white people are in charge of this world

      Well we kinda are. To the Victor goes the spoils. We conquered it , we built it , we own it ! 🤷‍♂️ They can call my comment whatever they like. But that doesn’t change the truth.

  11. What next? Change the name of the state? It comes from a native tribe that lived in the eastern part of the state. How many other states counties also carry native names?
    These people are morons.

    1. They are evil. This is a communist methodology. Destroy the past and replace it. Part of the communist cultural revolution of Chyna.

    1. Gates and his Floetis or whatever corp DLC thing it is want to vaccinate animals with mRNA and they have already been doing so. They probably have a shedding variant they want to use on the NYC rats for another pay out so the DM has to run the article so the funding gets shoved through.

  12. “Carlson on Democrat, Media Reaction to January 6 Videos: ‘It’s Not Outrage — It’s Fear, It’s Panic’”

    Hope is in the air !

  13. “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.”

    – Karl Marx

    It is 90 seconds to midnight.

    Do you know where your country is?

  14. The buzzards are coming home to roost in Mass. Massachusetts, founded by radical Puritans, has become totally Marxist going back to the 1840s.

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