No seal of approval for flag


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.

Bruce Nevin



  1. Ok– I know Bruce– he is a fine person. he has all the qualities that any government could ask of a citizen.
    And his letter here has a significant amount of merit.
    So as a liberal, I was totally behind the state of South Carolina removing the truly offensive confederate flag from their statehouse– That they only acted after a horrific racially motivated massacre was less than impressive. When statues of confederate hero’s started being taken down, I understood that. When the town of Oak Bluffs remanded a conciliatory plaque honoring fallen Americans from public view to the halls of a museum, I disagreed , but I understood that it could be offensive to many people.
    So now, we have a heart felt comment about the the Massachusetts flag. And in reality, this has been a simmering issue for a while. Some could see the “disembodied arm holding a sword over the picture of an indigenous man” with the inscription that “This hand [of mine], [which is] hostile to tyrants, seeks by the sword quiet peace under liberty.” could be indicating the imminent demise of the indigenous person. Or it could also be interpreted as defending vulnerable peoples against tyrants.To have the image of an indigenous person on our state flag would seem to be an honor. I doubt the people who decided on this design intended to imply we should take the sword to indigenous peoples because they were “tyrants” . I read this , and started writing– I have done no research about this. I admit ( at this point) I am ignorant as to the “oranges” of this, but i am open to any comments— How about a civil discussion on this one ?

    • My impression is the crest and crest are distinct elements of a coat of arms, both feed the overall effect, they do not intrude on the other.

  2. No civil discussion. Once the camel has his neck under the tent you know what happens. All of this “” I am offended”” nonsense will continue its silliness.

    • If you’re not personally offended, then it’s silly? But getting upset over “Happy Holidays” and demanding “Merry Christmas” isn’t silly? It’s past time to right the wrongs that we know about. Do you know there’s actually argument over removing a Wittenberg Judensau from the facade of a 13th century church? Sounds like the OB plaques. When people know better they’re supposed to do better. Doing nothing after you know better is not okay.

      • Jackie the Wittenberg Judensau is clearly antagonistic to Jews as was Martin Luther for theological reasons not for racist reasons. Because that church is largely a museum now many Jewish church leaders think it belongs there as a reminder of anti semitism and do not want it taken down. We cannot erase all history and much of what went on in those days was the way the world worked and is a grim reminder of mans depravity. There should be a reasonable bar for claiming anti semitism and perhaps the Judensau should be taken down but should anyone disagreeing with Israels politics today be considered anti semitic—I think not or some of your neighbors at the Hebrew Center could be so labelled. Was Ben Gurion a terrorist or a freedom fighter and so on. History is replete with mans barbarism and continues to this day. If one thinks we are better today than we were in the past, just look around. By the way. It is not me being upset with Happy Holidays but rather the left being upset with Merry Christmas and attempting to change it.

    • Andrew–you say “no civil discussion” Imagine that coming from you.
      You criticize others for being offended by racist symbolism.
      Let me point out just a few of the things you are offended by:
      Anything or anyone criticizing trump
      Anything AOC says
      Anything Hillary says
      Happy holidays
      Climate scientist
      Advocates for a peaceful society
      people seeking asylum
      people using bathrooms of their choosing
      A mosque near ground zero in N.Y
      People marrying the person they love
      Legalized marijuana
      Voting rights for felons
      Anything with a “free”sign on the side of the road
      People who ride bicycles.
      Electric cars
      solar panels
      and on and on —
      I am offended that you are offended by anything good. Silly me —
      And by the way– the metaphor you mangled is about a camels “nose”.

        • Hear, Hear – The “standards” here are appaling, and. without doubt, inequally applied. Brennan should be ashamed. And relieved of this duty.

          Get on Gab, Andrew.

          • Andrew has railed against every single line I have up there.
            I am not attacking Andrew– just pointing out truth.
            Sort of like when trump calls the Duchess of Sussex “nasty” and then disputes it with a video of himself saying it.
            I am offended about that on many levels, as well as astounded that his followers don’t care if he lies to their faces. Andrew is offended by all the things I mentioned– He frequently comments here about what I think but I haven’t heard anyone calling for the editor to be “relieved of his duty” for publishing what are mostly untruths about my personal opinions. At least I can admit when I am offended.

      • dondondon. I am not offended by them I simply disagree. Big difference. Conflating disagreement with discrimination is a tactic those on the left constantly use. We are free to disagree , we are not free to discriminate and you need to understand the difference. I would rent you a room as a Pastafarian member of your church but I disagree with your following that religion.

        • so you “disagree” with people using a bathroom of their identified gender, , but others are “offended” by a plaque, or a coat of arms, or a president that lies every day. Where in my comment or in the letter above or on any comment on this thread do you see the word “discriminate” ?

        • Andrew could we stick with conflating disagreement with being offended ?
          We can talk about discrimination some other time.
          And by the way, I am not just a member of the Church Of The Flying Spaghetti Monster, I am a minister.

  3. Does anyone know the story behind the coat of arms? The man is armed but not threatening. Is he cautiously welcoming visitors?

    • Ense petit placidam sub libertate quietem. “By the sword we seek peace, but peace only under liberty.” That’s why there’s a ruffle sleeved arm grasping a sword above the shield. Arrow pointing downward is peaceful. And the man is Algonquin.

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