Fourth of July week part 1: Fly the flag.
It is now showing on Turkish television, and I am wondering if you have watched it.
As part of the comedy, chief geek, Doctor Sheldon Cooper, presents a series within a series, with his webcast "Fun With Flags." He is ably assisted by his girlfriend Amy, as they seek to impart such non-scintillating knowledge as: What is the only flag that isn't rectangular? What animal appears most on flags? What animal appears second most on flags? You get the idea; it is funny precisely because it isn't funny!
Come Fourth of July many Americans will be flying the "stars and stripes" or wearing red, white and blue to celebrate the anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. I have been visiting in Philadelphia where the events of 1776 happened, and I had the opportunity to visit the Betsy Ross House and learn a little more about the history of the US flag.
The flag that we have today is similar to the original flag in that it has 13 red and white stripes that represent the original colonies that broke away from the British and became the first states. On the blue rectangle are 50 stars that represent the current number of states in the union.
The original flag had just 13 stars, as there were just 13 states. One design, by Francis Hopkinson, had stars with six points, arranged in lines. The Betsy Ross design had stars with five points (like today) but arranged in a circle, a bit like the European Union flag. We were all taught at elementary school that Betsy Ross was a widow in Philadelphia, living near Independence Hall, and she was a well-known quilter. She was asked by a committee including George Washington to make a flag in June 1776. Whilst historians question some of the details of this story, it is known that the "Betsy Ross" design of the flag was used in the early years of the new country.
The Turkish flag has similar symbolism and importance for Turks. Just as I was taught about the meaning of the "star spangled banner," Turkish children are taught that during their War of Independence, Mustafa Kemal AtatE-rk saw the moon and a star reflected in pools formed of the blood of slain soldiers. He resolved that the flag of the free and independent republic should be a white crescent and star on a red background.
All around the world flags are given great respect. The burning of a flag is a sign of great insult. Also, people take care to make sure that their flag does not touch the ground. But, did you know that the rules in Turkey are stricter than those in America concerning respect to be shown to the flag?
In the US it is possible to find all sorts of items with a flag on them. From T-shirts to mugs, from key rings to tote bags, the stars and stripes adorn many objects. The same is true of Turkey. But, while in the US you can buy a cushion, shorts or even running shoes with the flag design on them, this is not possible in Turkey. For, to the Turks, to sit on the flag is a sign of great disrespect.
Even worse is to step on the flag. For this reason you will never see a Turkish flag painted on the sidewalk, or decorating shoes. I love the city of Chicago, and a friend who knows this bought me a pair of flip-flops from there. The shoe part of the flip-flop, the bit you step on, has a wonderful design with the word Chicago printed on it many times. You will never find flip-flops like that with ystanbul or Ankara, for to the Turks treading on something or hitting it with the bottom of your foot or bottom of your shoe is a huge insult. Do you remember the television news footage of people beating toppled statues and pictures of Saddam Hussein with their shoes? It's the same idea.
Also, if a Turkish flag gets torn or it begins to look a bit ragged and threadbare, it must be taken down and replaced with a new, pristine one.
Interestingly enough, both the American national anthem and the Turkish one start with declarations or wishes that their respective flags will fly forever. Let's fly the flag!
CHARLOTTE MCPHERSON (Cihan/Today's Zaman) CyHAN
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