To the Editor:
The following letter was sent to state Sen. Julian Cyr, D-Truro, and state Rep. Dylan Fernandes, D-Falmouth.
Friends (Quakers) of Martha’s Vineyard Monthly Meeting have asked me to send you the following minute resolving support of legislative effort to change the seal and flag of our state.
Minute 2018-11-11.4 – Massachusetts seal and flag. Friends are grateful to Cambridge Friends for alerting us to the long-languishing legislative effort to change the seal and flag of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The imagery placing placing a disembodied arm holding a sword over the picture of an indigenous man is an embarrassment to the state.
The hand and sword refer to the motto, ‘Manus haec inimica tyrannis ense petit placidam sub libertate quietem’; properly translated: “This hand [of mine], [which is] hostile to tyrants, seeks by the sword quiet peace under liberty.”
Friends decry the use of weapons of war but understand that in the spirit of the American Revolution this motto referred to the King of England as a tyrant and asserted the independence of the colony. However, the juxtaposition of images necessarily evokes a very different nonverbal message about genocide in the Massachusetts Colony and in the Commonwealth that it became. That this evocation is unintended and accidental, forgetful of that shameful history and oblivious to its more covert continuation into the present, is itself a further injury, to which is added the insult that the image is of an Ojibwe man, not native to Massachusetts.
We support efforts to change the seal and flag of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and will identify particular means to do so. The present seal does not represent who we are nor the best of our state.