In defense of the Bear Flag
Re “Time to get rid of the Bear Flag,” Opinion, June 14
The Bear Flag, in spite of its origins, is a striking symbol of a diverse and constantly changing state that needs strong symbols to hold it together as a political community. While Southern states’ flags based on Confederate banners can easily bring racism to mind, our Bear Flag is likely to evoke two positive ideas.
First, nature, and the need to protect it, is represented by the California grizzly bear, a subspecies extinct since the 1920s.
Second, California’s long tradition of political innovation within the federal system is suggested by the word “Republic.” What James Bryce wrote in “The American Commonwealth” in 1888 still holds true: “California, more than any other part of the Union, is a country by itself ... it has grown up in its own way and acquired a sort of consciousness of separate existence.”
The Bear Flag flies over public buildings in every corner of the state. Long may it wave.
Alex Abella’s suggestion that the Bear Flag be abandoned was made without acknowledging the obscenity of having as the emblem of our flag a creature that we drove to extinction.
The absence of actual grizzlies in California adds to his summary of greed, exploitation and slaughter in our shared history.
In considering a change to our flag, our state might be well served by looking at circumstances in which our natural wonders have been saved and revived.
Replacing the grizzly bear with a California condor, sea otter or, more seriously, a sequoia would affirm the best of California.
Leave our California flag alone.
Yes, the state flag represents our early history, the context of which Abella mostly leaves out. But it also represents the people of today: industrious, progressive, creative and innovative, a diverse group of people who have produced one of the strongest economies in the world providing technology, entertainment and sustenance.
It’s too simplistic to misuse the California flag as the symbol of shame for what he calls a “band of thieves, drunks and murderers.”