Just when the world was moving towards acceptance, the road became rocky. Hate has been festering again throughout the world, and especially in Germany, where nationalist populism, Euroscepticism and intolerance have been surging. Paradoxically, last month was the thirtieth anniversary of the reunification of East and West Germany after a long period of unpleasant division.
To celebrate this and promote its importance, the German Free Democrats parliamentary group and agency, Heimat Berlin, have deconstructed the German flag and are asking Germans to create their own – a unique snapshot of a changing and more inclusive nation. Because, according to the group, being proud of the German flag in 2020 means reshaping it in the image of the more diverse country it now represents. This entails finding a way to show that today’s Germany is made of thousands of different combinations of values and identities.
Unity Flags aims to highlight the achievement not only of reuniting East and West, but also major gains in progressive movements of racial justice, gender equality and religious freedom. The flags represent the vast variety of German values today.
Some of the new flags created already and circulating on social media combine the German tricolour and flags around the world with colours and symbols representing Black Lives Matter, LGBTQ+ pride, Hinduism, Buddhism and peace. They show that a flag is more than a symbol – it can be a statement flying in the face of injustice and division.
The heart of the campaign is the flag generator, with which the flags of 193 countries can be freely combined with flags of federal states, symbols of gender diversity and religious freedom in a way never seen before. The initiative invites everyone to “Show the world who you are. Create your own flag.”
“Undeniably, there is no other European country with more historical baggage related to national pride than Germany. But equally in no other European country is there more scope for an open-minded debate on what nationalism means in today’s society. The strength of this idea is to create a more liberated, open-minded and diverse take on society and its symbol, the flag,” commented Tom Hauser, executive creative director, Heimat, the originator of the idea. “It shows the country as a sum of all its parts, every one of which valued equally. This statement celebrates the open-mindedness of modern German society.”
Not everyone has taken to this statement so positively. Predictably, the backlash has been swift and loud, if not profound. “The Bundesflagge is black, red, gold. Deal with it” is a typical response. But its detractors only appear to have generated more buzz for the movement, sparking an open-minded debate on what nationalism means in today’s society. Well-known members of the German Free Democrats parliamentary group have joined the movement, participating across social media with their own flags in a show of support. Most important, though, is the enthusiasm for supporting German Unity Day that the campaign generated.