Changing the Flag

person showing usa flag
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I sometimes think the real reason that Puerto Rico or Washington, D.C. is not admitted to the union as a new state is because it would mean changing the flag. Changing the flag has two big problems. The first is rebranding. The second is that it is a huge undertaking.

The last time the flag was changed, to my knowledge, was back in 1959 when Hawaii was admitted as the 50th state. For more than six decades, the Stars and Stripes has fluttered with fifty stars. It has instant brand recognition and marketing people don’t like tinkering with brand recognition. Remember New Coke from the 1980s? No? That’s because it failed and Coca-Cola tried to wipe that branding debacle from the face of the earth. (They did this by rebranding Coca-Cola as “Coca-Cola Classic”.)

Have you ever looked at the pattern of stars on the flag? There are alternating rows of 6 and 5 stars, five of each, which add up to 50. Where would that extra star go? You could have 3 rows of 17 stars or 17 rows of 3 stars. Since both 3 and 17 are prime numbers, I don’t think you could do any better than that. For that reason alone, I think the powers that be would need to admit both Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C. as states. At least then we’d maintain an even number of states.

Even more than brand recognition is the task of updating all of those flags. I can’t conceive of the logistics that would be involved in such an undertaking. Start with physical flags. They are easy enough to produce, I suppose, but how does one go about estimating how many replacements are needed? Next, official images of the flag online. In theory, all government websites point to the same cached flag image, but I suspect things weren’t planned out that well. I’m doubtful that a reference exists to where the flag is included in all government websites and official documents.

And what about text books, dictionaries, almanacs, and other printed media where images of the flag still exist? Certainly the Internet and digital media has replaced a lot of these, but I still have a current dictionary on my bookshelf, and each year I get the latest edition of the World Almanac.

It would mean two more state capitals to memorize. I wonder, what would the capital of the state of Washington, D.C. be?

When Congress meets behind closed doors to discuss statehood for Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C., I suspect that their conversations really center around these questions. How would we rebrand the Stars and Stripes? How can we implement such a massive change? Because really, what other legitimate reason might there be to not admit these two places as states?

Written on March 28, 2022.

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