BREAKING NEWS : Minneapolis cop who knelt on George Floyd's neck charged with murder Full Story
STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

America, its flag and a possible 51st star

What happens if the American flag needs to accommodate another star? Or five?There are various efforts across ...

Posted: Jul 18, 2018 11:55 PM

What happens if the American flag needs to accommodate another star? Or five?

There are various efforts across the country to create new states. In California, voters will see a ballot initiative this fall asking if they want to split into three. And in Washington, DC, 36 lawmakers cosponsored a bill that would grant statehood to Puerto Rico, while the mayor, Muriel Bowser, has called for the same for the District.

The American flag hasn't changed in more than half a century -- the last time stars were added was with the additions of Hawaii and Alaska, which were admitted into the union in 1959 -- and any update would be historic and controversial, and would spark a national conversation about American identity. A flag is more than just a flag, and we're a long way from any permanent changes.

The Eisenhower administration anticipated the need for a new flag as early as 1953, according to his presidential library. So did more than 3,000 people who sent their own ideas for a new one to the White House. Many of the designs played off the existing flag, keeping the stripes and rearranging the stars or adding various elements to the blue field.

A selection of 50 of these flags were collected for a book, "Old Glory," published in 2016. Kingston Trinder, Atelier Editions' publisher, said in a statement there were recurring themes throughout the archives, like stars and stripes, and a red, white and blue color scheme. There were a lot of eagles and topographical outlines of America, she said. Several spelled out "USA" with the letters overlaid and intertwined, "all bearing a rather unfortunate similarity to Nazism's swastika," Trinder said, and a reinterpretation of the Confederate flag.

But the final design didn't stray far from its predecessors, and Hugh Brady, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin, said he doesn't think it would be much different today. "I think the flag has achieved a status," he said. "It's almost untouchable."

It wasn't always this way. Flags were once more symbols of government than popular expression. America didn't even have an official flag the first year of its existence. The Second Continental Congress adopted a resolution in 1777 creating a flag, with the stars "representing a new constellation." And it wasn't until the Civil War that the flag began to take on the significance we recognize today.

"Once the Civil War begins, you see this emotional attachment to flags," Brady said. It became a unifying symbol, and one "sanctified by the sacrifice" of Union soldiers who fought and died under it. "It all becomes tied up in this emotional shorthand."

That continued after the war. Children and immigrants were "taught this patriotism of honoring the country, and the flag became a very powerful symbol in rituals to get people to do that," said Scot Guenter, a professor of American studies at San Jose State University.

The flag is complex in detail, but simple in design. It doesn't need exactly 50 stars and 13 stripes to be understood as American. An approximation can be scribbled with crayons by a child while artists can paint abstract reinterpretations. Its two components are distinct enough to be recognizable on their own. It's a flag that points to the past and future, with stripes serving as a reminder of America's revolutionary origins and the blue canton, with its built-in mechanism for updating to meet the needs of a growing country, open to the possibilities of tomorrow.

It's been turned into swimsuits, album covers and street art. Groups and movements have repurposed it with designs like the rainbow American flag for the LGBT community or the Thin Blue Line American flag for Blue Lives Matter. It's been planted on the South Pole in Antarctica and on the moon. It's been waved by Olympians. It's been draped over the caskets of members of our armed forces. It's a symbol that has tied Americans to their country, their history and one another, regardless of politics or geography.

The value placed on the flag can change, Guenter said. "It's like a barometer about a shared sense of community." Today, the flag's meaning is in flux. Patriotism is down, athletes kneel to protest police brutality and the President has sought to turn the flag into a partisan political issue.

Just like the last time America got a new flag, a new state would kick off a flurry of crowdsourced, citizen-made redesigns. But the Institute of Heraldry of the US Army, responsible for government insignias, seals and flags, would likely just rearrange the stars to make room for another. Though a new flag wouldn't look that different, a 51st star could still test Americans' shared sense of community, since the addition of a new state would disrupt the parties' balance of power.

"Any 51st state adding a star is going to have to deal with one side seeing that as representing not their version of America, but someone else's," Guenter said. "There's fighting over beliefs, I think, about what American means and where America should go in the future."

Clarification: This story has been updated to attribute a quote to Kingston Trinder, Atelier Editions' publisher.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 33068

Reported Deaths: 2068
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion9524558
Lake3494175
Cass15897
Allen141966
St. Joseph122134
Hendricks114268
Hamilton113292
Elkhart110128
Johnson1092106
Madison58459
Porter50522
Bartholomew49034
Clark47941
LaPorte42022
Tippecanoe3823
Howard37824
Delaware37636
Jackson3721
Shelby36822
Hancock32727
Floyd31739
Boone30535
Morgan27724
Vanderburgh2592
Montgomery23417
White2308
Decatur22431
Clinton2221
Noble20421
Grant19721
Dubois1903
Harrison18921
Henry16910
Greene16824
Monroe16512
Warrick16528
Dearborn16521
Vigo1538
Lawrence15223
Miami1401
Putnam1357
Jennings1294
Orange12422
Scott1203
Ripley1106
Franklin1098
Kosciusko1011
Carroll933
Daviess8416
Steuben812
Marshall801
Newton7610
Wayne756
Fayette747
Wabash742
LaGrange682
Jasper661
Washington511
Jay490
Fulton471
Clay461
Rush452
Randolph453
Jefferson431
Pulaski410
Whitley383
Owen351
Sullivan341
DeKalb331
Brown331
Starke323
Perry280
Wells270
Benton260
Huntington262
Knox250
Tipton241
Crawford230
Blackford222
Parke190
Spencer191
Switzerland190
Fountain182
Posey160
Gibson142
Adams131
Ohio130
Warren121
Vermillion100
Martin90
Union80
Pike60
Unassigned0161

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 33915

Reported Deaths: 2098
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Franklin5566253
Cuyahoga4211226
Marion264225
Hamilton2555135
Lucas2178240
Pickaway204836
Mahoning1397173
Summit1335172
Butler84728
Stark70591
Columbiana68451
Lorain66759
Montgomery63717
Trumbull55147
Belmont41212
Miami35230
Warren35119
Tuscarawas3373
Ashtabula32434
Portage31857
Medina31322
Delaware31013
Lake29012
Wood28246
Geauga27231
Wayne26049
Fairfield2515
Clark2345
Licking22210
Allen20632
Clermont2025
Mercer2016
Richland1933
Erie1656
Darke16221
Madison1487
Washington11819
Crawford1103
Morrow1041
Greene1015
Ottawa9312
Putnam8814
Monroe7512
Sandusky7211
Hocking694
Ross672
Jefferson662
Auglaize653
Huron561
Williams511
Hancock512
Union491
Muskingum480
Clinton430
Hardin420
Shelby403
Fayette390
Wyandot382
Logan370
Fulton370
Coshocton370
Guernsey340
Defiance332
Preble331
Carroll303
Lawrence290
Holmes291
Brown281
Champaign271
Knox231
Highland221
Seneca202
Vinton192
Ashland190
Athens181
Perry181
Henry150
Scioto150
Jackson130
Paulding130
Harrison100
Adams81
Gallia71
Van Wert60
Pike60
Meigs60
Noble50
Morgan50
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
Clear
70° wxIcon
Hi: 74° Lo: 52°
Feels Like: 70°
Angola
Clear
66° wxIcon
Hi: 71° Lo: 50°
Feels Like: 66°
Huntington
Broken Clouds
69° wxIcon
Hi: 72° Lo: 52°
Feels Like: 69°
Decatur
Broken Clouds
68° wxIcon
Hi: 74° Lo: 52°
Feels Like: 68°
Van Wert
Broken Clouds
68° wxIcon
Hi: 72° Lo: 52°
Feels Like: 68°
Scattered Showers & Storms Friday
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events