Utah’s leaders and fans like to think of their state as unique. And, in many ways, it is. Some of them good.
But just try to pick our official state flag out of a line-up of all 50 state standards, and suddenly we don’t seem so special.
The Utah state flag is what vexillologists (folks who dig flags) call a Seal on a Bedsheet or, to be even more condescending about it, an S.O.B. Like the flags of Kansas, New York, New Hampshire, Kentucky and others, the Utah flag is a big blue field with the state seal in the center.
Those seals squish together various elements of each state’s history and ideals — pioneers, Lady Justice, Indians, sailors, miners, blacksmiths, anchors, pine trees, stags and beavers, to name a few. For Utah, it is an eagle bestride a beehive, the former a symbol of strength used around the world, the latter a representation of industry and cooperation, special to us, the Beehive State. All have meaning and value. But from many yards away, the way most flags are seen most of the time, none of that is discernible.
That’s why it is a good idea for state Rep. Steve Handy, a Layton Republican, to put forward a bill for the 2019 session of the Legislature that would create a state commission to consider a possible redesign of the state flag. Such a body would take suggestions from the public and make a recommendation in time to be considered by the Legislature’s 2020 meeting.
The standards set by standard experts are that a state’s — or a nation’s — flag should be striking, unique and simple. No words. Just an image identifiable from a distance and basic enough not only to be recognizable but also so that it could be drawn, from memory, by a grade-schooler.
One of the best examples of such a flag is that flown over the state of New Mexico. It is a yellow field with a red Zia sun symbol — drawn from the state’s Native American symbology — in its center. Also flown as good examples are Arizona’s — a star with 13 rays, for the 13 original colonies — and Colorado’s — a large C.
A much more striking flag for Utah could retain the beehive symbology. Or an image of Delicate Arch or other representation of its natural beauty. Or the Golden Spike that linked the nation’s railroads at Promontory Point, which might be attractive as next May is the 150th anniversary of that historic event.
We can keep the state seal, certainly, for more appropriate uses, such as official stationery, state vehicles and things people can actually see.
But, for a unique and memorable flag, well, let’s run some ideas up the flagpole and see what gets the most salutes.