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A flag for North America?

A flag is a symbol of a common identity. Almost every type of actor in the international system has a flag: States have flags: international organizations have flags– everything from the UN to NATO to the EU to the WHO to the ICRC; subdivisions of States– like Provinces, Länder, Counties, etc.– have flags; trans-state religious organizations have flags.  And we could go on.

My great friend and Georgetown colleague, James Raymond Vreeland,  is now proposing that North America have a flag. Over at The Vreelander, he writes:

In a multi-polar world, regionalism may become the key to global governance and prosperity. For all of its current troubles, the European Union and the Euro are here to stay. The Chiang Mai Initiative is the latest in overlapping institutions in East Asia. South America already has a customs union in Mercosur, and there is talk of their own new Banco del Sur. For the United States, our best hope for a regional future is making NAFTA better and building fair cooperation with our neighbors to the north and south.

I like the idea of closer ties to Mexico and Canada. As improbable as unity may seem for us three today, our prospects are certainly brighter than one would have imagined for France and Germany in the first half of the last century. War torn and bitter for decades, look at them now – united under one flag of Europe. A united North America is our future – perhaps distant – and it’s never too early to start dreaming of greater unity and prosperity together under one North American flag.

So that’s where I decided to Google-image “NAFTA flag”… YIKES! The image I found – a blending of the US, Mexican, and Canadian flags – looks like somebody’s nightmare. I am, of course, teasing – I appreciate the effort. And it is perhaps reflective of the fact that NAFTA has a long way to go before it brings about any unity to our region. But to forge a new North American regional identity, we need a new flag, not a blending of our current national flags.

If we are going to dream of a future together, we need a new symbol of North American unity – one that reflects our past, present, and future as a new unified region. We can all keep our old national flags, of course, but for the region, we need an original design.

So, I’ve decided to try my hand at a flag for all of North America. Here’s my proposal:

The triangle symbolizes:

  1. The greatness of the pyramids built by the native people of the Americas in Mexico long before the days of colonization
  2. The three sides represent the three core members of our regional cooperation, beginning with NAFTA: Canada, Mexico, and the United States
  3. Most importantly, a resemblance to the North American geographical territory, which is narrow in the southern tip of Mexico, and wide across north of Alaska and Canada

The color recalls the gold of the past and the prosperity of the region’s future

The blue background:

  1. Complements the map interpretation of the triangle: recalls the Atlantic and Pacific oceans which surround and unify us
  2. Blue signifies trust, unity, and loyalty

Some final thoughts – while I justify the blue and gold in terms of our own North American past, present, and future, any similarity to the European flag is not a coincidence. I think that Europe has led the way on regional integration and serves as a model for the world. Personally, I do think 12 stars is overdoing it a bit. I like the simplicity of design on a flag. The one I propose here reminds me of the minimalism of the Japanese flag. This simple design is still distinctively ours: the use of the triangle is original and fitting for our three countries and for our North American land mass. Using a symbol that represents our geography is inspired by the flag of the Gambia. Note that there’s room for Central America and the Caribbean to join some day – but we’re not adding more sides or more stars – let’s keep the design simple: the triangle represents North American unity.

So there it is. Let me know what you think. And if you like it, please forward this to others who might be interested…

What do you think?

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Welcome! Who am I?

Anthony Clark Arend is Professor of Government and Foreign Service at Georgetown University and the Director of the Master of Science in Foreign Service in the Walsh School of Foreign Service.

Commentary and analysis at the intersection of international law and politics.