by Matt Bourque
As the new Maine Legislature begins its work of improving our state, and Maine’s bicentennial edges closer, an interesting bill proposed by Janice Cooper, D-Yarmouth, could possibly help Maine’s image abroad and boost our economy.
LD 687 “An Act to Restore the Former State of Maine Flag” seeks to replace the current Maine state flag with the original flag flown from 1901 to 1909. Our original flag is simple, prominently displaying a pine tree and star on a beige background. This design is a far cry from our current flag, which resembles many other state flags such as New York, New Hampshire, Minnesota and a host of others.
Maine has an image. We are portrayed as a rural vacationland nestled along the coast away from the bustle of the busy cities which sprawl across the United States. We are the last outpost of simple living, surrounded by sparkling lakes and deep forests. We are distinct. However, we lack a unifying symbol which we could rally around domestically and also spread the image of Maine across the country. Adopting a distinct flag could help boost our image, and subsequently, our economy.
Some states, and many American cities, have adopted unmistakable flags which positively portray their characteristics and are recognizable at first sight. There are few Americans who would not recognize the unique design of Colorado’s flag or the striking power of Chicago’s city flag. These flags serve both as a rallying point for their citizens, but also as a symbol their residents carry with them as they travel within the United States and across the world.
Of course, adopting a new state flag is not without its difficulties. Two obstacles face its implementation, namely the cost of replacing the flag and determining the legitimacy of the new flag. The cost to instantly replace all current state flags with new ones would be high, yet if older flags were phased out over a period of time, money earmarked for the purchase of new flags could be spent at no extra cost to the taxpayer.
Most importantly, however, is determining whether the Maine people want a new flag to represent them. The old flag, despite resembling many other U.S. state flags, has been flown for over 100 years and many might still remain attached to it. If a new flag were to be used to symbolize our Maine, it must be accepted by a majority of the Maine people.
Maine is unique and we deserve a flag which best represents us. The simple pine tree, a nod to our nickname as the “Pine Tree State,” and the blue star symbolizing our motto “Dirigo,” would serve us well as we continue to improve our tourism industry and seek to diversify our economy to be more competitive on the American stage.
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