“What’s that flag mean?”
“Is that a Ukrainian flag?”
“Is it for football?”
I’ve been asked a thousand questions about the flag that hangs on my living room wall by everyone that walks in. It’s rarely recognised, and if it is its assumed to be ‘some Russian thing.’
I like the question. I like answering it. I change my answer dependent on who I’m talking to. I explained to my best mate yesterday that the flag means that she shouldn’t have to worry about a house, and a job and bills. That in an ideal world we would share it all out equally and everyone would have what they need and give what they’re able.
I tell my mates boyfriend that it’s a USSR flag – the flag of the Soviet Union because I know that he thinks himself a bit of a history buff and he will ask me why I’ve got it on my wall. Back to answer one.
I tell next doors kids that it’s the flag of the greatest story ever told, and how kids just like them wear that little ribbon on the corner every May to celebrate how they beat the worst baddies the world ever acknowledged.
I tell lots of stories about this flag, and there is always, always one. This one is my landlords handyman who’s been doing loads of work on my house, he’s about 50. He recognises it, but he doesn’t know why I’ve got it. He doesn’t ask though, he just looks a bit bewildered. Over the next few days he drops comments, “I dunno you bloody communists” he says laughing, trying to wind me up but I know the reason he’s saying it is he doesn’t understand how the things he has heard of communism are appealing to a 26 year old single mum, and that’s what I’m banking on.
I goad him into asking me questions about it, I encourage him to challenge the things he has heard of communism with common sense and facts. After a week he doesn’t look at the flag on the wall anymore. He accepts my explanation, it makes sense to him. He might not agree, but it doesn’t seem like mad cult anymore. It’s not anymore out of place or prominent than my kettle to him now.
And this is exactly the reason why it is important to hold to this symbology. It has been smeared for decades all over the world as a dirty, horrible thing. A hammer and sickle to some people now comes with a warning, a little alarm, like when you see a Germanic looking eagle and you have to double take and see if it’s one of those eagles.
But I don’t represent anyone but myself. I’m not a leader of anything, not a member of much. So although some people may be a little put off, more than anything they are curious as to why the person that I am in my every day Birkenhead slum life has got something like this, and when they ask it gives me a chance to undo some of that damage. It gives me opportunity to dust off that hammer and sickle and wipe away some of the mud that covers it now.
We should not discard our emblems which have given so many hope and freedom, we should not hide them away in shame at what other people may think. We should not pander to the idea that there is something wrong with being a communist. It is not a dirty word. And we know this, we know this is fact and we know the propaganda we are up against.
Those conversations won’t happen unless we hold to it, we would not compromise our ideals or our beliefs to compensate people who don’t agree. The hammer and sickle is the representation of a lifetime of struggle for what is right and good. We should not compromise on that either.
Give yourself opportunity to talk to people about what it is and what it means. Be open to their criticism, and arm yourself with the knowledge that validates your right to proudly display it. People want to know about what and why you believe in things, they will never ask while its collecting dust in the bottom of history’s wardrobe.