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Commentary

Should we redesign Michigan's flag?

Jack Lessenberry

Earlier this week, I received a couple indignant emails from friends who had learned that Rick DeVos, the founder of the magnificent international competition ArtPrize, was willing to pay three people $500 each to redesign Michigan’s flag.

Well, I was indignant too, but not for the same reason. They were upset because DeVos, one of the heirs to the Amway fortune, was offering so little.

“He can afford a lot more than that,” Becca said.

“Like his family hasn’t tried to buy the state already,” Tom chimed in.

Well, I don’t think that’s fair.

Regardless of whether you care for his father Dick’s’ views, 34-year-old Rick DeVos says he has no interest in politics. And he’s hardly cheap. He’s been a generous benefactor of the arts, mainly through ArtPrize, the stupendous annual Grand Rapids event he created seven years ago.

How many art competitions award more than a half million dollars in prize money?

ArtPrize doesn’t just enrich artists; it transforms all of Grand Rapids for more than two weeks every fall.

But my issues with DeVos have to do with my own aesthetic sense. My problem is twofold. I find that I am, in fact, mostly a cultural conservative.

Oh, I think you should have the right to marry whoever you want, and I don’t care what you inhale, as long as you stay off the roads. But I will never be reconciled to the designated hitter rule, and I still sometimes play my vinyl records.

They really do sound better and warmer.

And I don’t think anyone should go messing with Michigan’s flag.

DeVos told an interviewer that he hated “how ugly and non-useful the current Michigan state flag is.”

He called it “a big missed opportunity,” and said the flag needed to be “a powerful community design asset.”

Yeah? Well, guess what. I love Michigan's flag.

Yeah? Well, guess what. I love Michigan’s flag, which has been our official standard since 1911. I love its deep blue, and the cute elk and deer holding up the state shield.

I love the funky little eagle at the top, our state motto in Latin, and what I choose to believe is a rising, not a setting sun.

Michigan flag.
Credit wikimedia commons
Michigan flag.

The flag even has a man with a gun raising his other hand in a gesture of peace and friendship. Talk about something to span the political divide!

Seriously, it is a beautiful flag.

I did use to think we should change the state motto, “Si Quaeris Peninsulam Amoenam Circumspice,” which means, of course,” if you seek a pleasant peninsula, look around you.”

I thought it should be plural, until I realized you couldn’t possibly see both peninsulas at once unless you stood in the middle of the Mackinac Bridge.

There’s also something universal and anonymous about our flag; so far as I can tell, nobody knows who designed it.

Rick - most of us have a bad idea from time to time. The trick is to drop it gracefully and move on.

As for trying something new --frankly, most of the attempts I’ve seen so far look like eclectic quilt squares.

So Rick – most of us have a bad idea from time to time. The trick is to drop it gracefully and move on.

Which reminds me – I wonder if he’s ever thought of paying someone to rewrite the Star-Spangled Banner? It would be nice to have a national anthem we actually could sing.

Jack Lessenberry is Michigan Radio's political analyst. Views expressed in his essays are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Michigan Radio, its management or the station licensee, The University of Michigan.

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