POSTED: July 25, 2020
I am always amazed at some things can be abbreviated in some way and we instantly know what the person is talking about or what the image represents. Sometimes it’s a logo or an acronym but very few things have as many layers of symbolism as a flag. History, culture, pride, or shame all get jammed into a piece of fabric.
The current wave of anger over the Confederate Flag in the (formerly) United States is about half a century overdue of course, but it is somewhat wrapped up in one of the elements of what the Stars and Stripes are – freedom, independence and liberty. Those three words have a different meaning for many in the United States. They once meant, and I believe still do mean for many Americans, the positive and aspirational elements that we all associate with those words. But for some, and for a few generations in some cases, those meanings have been turned around and re- expressed as the freedom to act personally, regardless of how it affects others, the independence from the public interest and public health and safety, and the liberty to express various forms of hate and intolerance.
English, like most languages is a living thing and it grows and evolves with us, but this set of reinterpretations of these positive notions are very damaging. And it is those interpretations that allow the idea of the right to fly a Confederate Flag to persist as long as they have. We all understand why it is illegal in Germany (and most other places in the world) to fly a Nazi flag, or to display a swastika. It is because they recognize the horror of what those symbols represent and the associated stress for many who were directly affected. For some Americans today the Confederate flag carries no shame, only oppression by the “liberal” majority who have imposed these values on them. So removing the flag has not ended the racist nature of what it represents but is a step in the direction of delivering the message that those racist views and actions will not be tolerated. Better late than never I guess.
But, that is not the flag that this piece is about! No, the flag I am talking about is one that I designed many years ago and one that symbolizes something the opposite of the Confederate Flag. To understand its purpose you need to go back to my earlier posts explaining my life with Justin, Amy and Sven. If you have not done so, this would be a good time to make yourself a coffee and then sit down to the archives from my posts in 2017 regarding the activities the three of us were up to for about a decade starting in the mid 1990’s.
Those activities were illegal in some jurisdictions, and certainly needed to be below the radar everywhere as we were transporting dissidents, journalists, and some people who only were guilty of being gay in places where that could get you killed. We were taking them to safer long term locations. It seems simple enough but at times the stakes were quite high and to do this well we often used safe houses. Our most common ones were housing that could be large enough to conceal people for a day or two and that could move on the water – live-aboard barges mainly. These were often just moored in one location and just used as safe-houses but other times were actually moved from place to place where we would take our cargo out when under a bridge, and have them get on another boat going the other direction to hide their whereabouts.
Our little team was tiny. Justin, Amy Sven and me. And my role was not an active one. I just kept some aspects of the boat functioning and did the food and the laundry, while they did the operative stuff. So with only three of them operating in the shadows their visibility after a bit of time was tough to keep under wraps. The solution was to use them as decoys and to use other means of identifying ourselves or safe-houses. Cell phones were popular at that point but the amount of cyber tracking by various countries was rampant, so cells were used as a decoy or distraction, not as very useful communications tools.
So that’s where the flags came in. They would identify the safehouse and would only be up for short time when the person needed to find us. I had a couple of small ones made up that Amy or Justin would pin to their satchels or packs as well that just looked like flags from trips, when our cargo would need to find them in a crowd. We used five flags over the years, not including the first one I made. That first one, Amy asked me to make up and I thought it looked great but learned pretty quickly it could be confused with a flag from one of the Soviet Block countries. So it got pitched.
The next one I made is the one I am going to talk about today. Amy wanted something that looked familiar enough to not arouse suspicions but different enough to not be confused with a flag of a particular state like my first one did. So I got some old really dark jeans from Sven and an old canvas trench coat from Amy in yellow and used a green canvas bag and came up with the flag below.
I don’t have the actual flag anymore as it is on the bottom of the Baltic Sea (to learn more about this check out the archives from my posts in 2017) so what you see here is from my memory. Over the years, as each of the flags secret became compromised we retired it, but used it as a decoy at times. I think because of this one being the first one we used, it was my favourite one but at some point I will show you one that I designed and we used for a while that is reminiscent of my BeBe’s native Brittany.
So why have I been off on this chatter about Flags? Well part of it is the whole Confederate flag thing, and the other is that this flag is one of the first products we are going to offer for sale! If you read my posts here often you will know that the decisions I made earlier in my life regarding financial planning, and the future in general were not been particularly good ones. Sometimes I would get a little money ahead and get En Plein Air painted or other repairs or improvements to her, or go to see a dentist. The reason is that this old boat I have is pretty tired and has serious needs, so while I make some money from taking out tourists most of that money goes back into just keeping En Plein Air above water, figuratively and literally, and not for improvements and not for much of a luxurious life myself.
When Jim and I discovered each other again in the neurologists office it was clear to him that I needed to start doing some charter work with En Plein Air, maybe offer some cooking classes and that I could also sell merchandise to people who are turned on by my life story. So on the production of merchandise originally I had the idea of getting Janice to show me how to stitch up some T shirts and then to silk screen some images on them but the whole process is rather involved, time consuming, costly and hard to do when you don’t have much space, or a sewing machine or any skills. So I have instead found a place who will produce to our design a variety of products and instead of having to stock a bunch of different sizes I have gone with things that are one size fits most!
So the starting point is this Safe-House flag! Janice and Jim (well Janice mainly) became so enthralled by it they painted their house in Key West the same colours. they had to go through lots of approvals to do it but in 2018 they changed to a yellow, aqua and navy blue theme. Check out the image below.
And there is another crazy bit I should tell you about the flag.
Jim decided when in Russia recently to proudly display the first one of the flags in Red Square. Janice snapped the photo here just before they were whisked away by the travel coordinators they were traveling with before the security forces came down on them. A little “good friction” is good in these matters. Russia is back to openly taking away gay rights, pushing on its neighbors borders, and now seemingly embracing going back to having a Tsar!
And on the theme of getting the flag “out there”, The image below is of Janice in Nyhavn, Copenhagen.
Beyond the flag in two formats, I am also offering two sizes of aprons, so you will be sylin in the k’tchin…
At this point you need to envision me in the Long Apron, moonwalking across the deck swinging my arms outstretched in the air and a large ladle in one hand and spatula in the other!
So that’s it for my intro to THE DJANGO STORE. Go over to the Categories section on the right and check it out.