Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day 2010

US FLAG at Beginning of Civil War

Memorial Day was a holiday born in the tragic wake of the US Civil War. The flag you see to the right is the Fort Sumter flag that had a very interesting and distinguished look.

During this war the North would fly three official versions with a different number of stars. The US flag was christened with 34 stars with Kansas, 35 with West Virgina, and 36 with Nevada. All three states were divided geographically by the Mason Dixon Line.

An interesting event that takes place ever Memorial Day is the Indy 500 in Indianapolis, Indiana. This greatest race in motor sports was dedicated to the Civil War. Coincidentally the modern beltway around Indianapolis straddles the Mason-Dixon line, I-465, the traditional cultural divide between the North and South.

There is an ongoing debate on what to call this war. Some historians refer to it as the War Between the States, which was literally true for the Northern States at 100% equal latitude with Europe and Southern States at 100% equal latitude with Africa. However of states that were eye to eye with both Europe and Africa (by latitude) it can be called the War Between the Counties.

Coincidentally the presidents who led their respective nations in war both came from Kentucky. Lincoln was born in a county at a purely European latitude, Hardin County on the boarder of Indiana. While Jefferson Davis was born in a county that shares a latitude with Africa, Christian County on the border of Tennessee. Thus from Lincoln and Davis' points of view it literally was, a War Between the Counties as it was for many families who lived in boarder states along the 38th parallel. Although Kentucky is completely below the Mason-Dixon line she is cut by the 38th parallel.

Nearly 101 years later another civil war would bring our civilization to the brink of Nuclear War, the Korean Civil War. It was the last major Earth War before the advent of the space age in 1957. The common element between this US Civil War of 1861 and Korean Civil War of 1951 was the 38th parallel north. After Japan was defeated in WWII, Korea was divided at the 38th parallel north.

Generally in American memory the mention of the Korean War almost instantly causes most people over the age of 35 to recall the TV series M*A*S*H, and a footnote that the series ironically lasted longer than the Korean War.

Flag of North Korea
The Korean War was a proverbial conflict of the North versus the South or brother versus brother. However in one perspective it was also a War Between the Nations or rather a Global Civil War. The wounds of this conflict still linger. Last year I was fortunate enough to visit the DMZ and sensed a deep sadness, that is buried deep in Korean Consciousness. Koreans have a tendency to hide their emotions and often have difficulty expressing hard emotions. Even though things were warming up between the North and South, there was an untapped sadness in the air that seemed to lurk in the background and melted my heart in a still yet understood necessary melancholy. I suppose only patience, love, and gratitude may undo the emotional knots that have festered for so long in the dark.

As for my flag symmetry idea I have bonded North Korea with the capital Flag of Malaysia. Their parallel colours are red, white, and blue in horizontal patterns. A national flag bonding with a sub-national flag kinda' breaks the rules. This does not happen often, but weren't rules were meant to be broken? Especially when its time has come.

Flag of Malaysia's Capital District

Korean people like Malaysian people have been divided by greater powers that be. The Malay people were divided by Europe in the colonial age. The Northern Malays became Malaysians were colonized by the British, while the Southern Malay's were adopted by the Dutch became Indonesians. Indonesians and Malays are of the same ethnic family, speak the same language, and are mostly Sunni Muslims. But since the Malay people were divided before an awareness of Malay Nationalism, there was no need to unite into a super ethnic Malay State.

Indonesia has many other nationalities but the majority core power ethnic belongs to the Malay-Indonesians, likewise Malaysia is also a diverse nation with strong presence of non-Malay Malaysians, mostly from China and India. Malaysia and North Korea are at the north and south ends of East Asia, nominally they are people who fit the Mongol-Chinese phenotype yet their faiths or rather philosophy to life goes against the dominant grain of American thinking: Marxism and Islam.

Korean Nationalism had already formed when powers that be divided the peninsula. Unfortunately Korean opinion in the matter, was hardly consulted. It was fated that the North was to be allied with the USSR while the South was to be allied with the USA. Koreans were destined to bear the brunt of Cold War political tensions. The hatred of the left and right wings of the Western World were shoved down the throat Korea and would continual seethe unto this day.

Like the border states of the US Civil War that crossed the 38th parallel, Korea was destined to fall under the dreadful curse and paradoxically hopeful blessing of civil war. Just as the US border states along the 38th carried the heaviest emotional scar of Civil War for a Nation, Korea too would carry the most burdensome bounty of the Cold War for our World.

Confederate Flag at Surrender

The North Korean flag like the Confederate flag are important and fundamental echos of our collective past and present, of a tragic past that should not be feared nor forgotten. Of the present they offer insight of the tragic yet hopeful drama of our people. These flags should be properly respected given their just duties.

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