What good are symbols? According to one commentator, a symbol is an object, act or word that represents something else. It points beyond itself to reality. Whereas a sign represents reality, a symbol embodies it.
As I watched the opening ceremonies last night to the 2014 Winter Olympic Games. I took great note of all of the many flags that passed by on the screen. How the flags have changed over the years. The hammer and sickle of the old Soviet Union is gone. Now, in its place, are many new flags.
As I compared the symbol of the united States, I was struck by something rather unique in our American flag. As all of the other flags passed by, I noticed many with three bars of three distinct colors. Some had crosses. Some had other emblems of the nation prominent on the flag. I have no doubt that the colors represented certain ideals for the country as did the various emblems. Each symbol represented a unified vision of and for the nation as a whole.
And that is where I found the American flag to be unique. The American flag does not represent unity. It represents diversity. In our American flag, we have thirteen strips for the original thirteen independent, sovereign colonies. We have fifty stars for the present fifty sovereign states. Certainly, these elements are in and on one flag, but that one flag champions the states. No other flag that I noticed last night was similar in its expression of diversity, of divisions, if you will.
Diversity is a good thing today. We champion our diversity in business and industry. We say we champion diversity in our points of view. We need to reflect on the reality our flag embodies for our states in diversity.
Many say that the War Between the States brought the debate over national sovereignty to an end. I dispute that theory. A war by its very nature engenders the idea of two or more separate powers seeking separate goals. The result of a war is a conquest of one independent power over another. Upon such conquest, the victor has the right to dictate the terms of surrender of the other sovereign, including the surrender of that sovereignty.
But if the War Between the States brought the debate over national sovereignty to an end, why wasn’t our national symbol changed? In the aftermath of the War, there was certainly opportunity to change that symbol. The federation adopted new amendments to the U.S. Constitution to embody new rights and certain new philosophies. However, since that war, the federation has added new states and new stars. But the symbol that embodies America’s reality has not changed.
Chief Justice Roberts has written, “In the typical case we look to the States to defend their prerogatives by adopting ‘the simple expedient of not yielding’ to federal blandishments when they do not want to embrace the federal policies as their own. Massachusetts v. Mellon, 262 U. S. 447, 482 (1923). The States are separate and independent sovereigns. Sometimes they have to act like it.” This idea is embodied in our Constitution and our flag.
Missouri has started down the road to waive the flag. It has started to act like a separate and independent sovereign in adopting the Missouri Healthcare Freedom Act. It is moving forward with other initiatives on the Second Amendment and on federal healthcare laws. It should do the same on Common Core on education and on the carbon dioxide we exhale. Only by exercising these prerogatives will the states return to the independent sovereigns that deserve stars on our flag.
 Andrew E. Hill, 1 & 2 Chronicles (NIVAC; Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003), 247.