EN NEII DEITSCHI FAAHNE
A NEW PENNSYLVANIA DUTCH FLAG
The design of the flag is included with this post, and quality versions are already available for download and for free use (with no revision or edition) on social media. The physical flags are available for purchase, and we are still sampling larger flag options. Rachel Yoder and I are holding onto the intellectual and physical rights to the flag for a period of three years, by which time the meaning and the purpose of the flag will hopefully be well enough known within our communities. After that time, we will allow the flag to go to the public domain. We have begun discussions of Pennsylvania Dutch history over on the Deitscherei Facebook group, and, since I don't want that group to compete with this one, I invite Kolby Howell to work with me on the development of Pennsylvania Dutch history awareness projects and products. Our history helps to explain why we are still a distinct ethnic group even after our culture's demise was predicted hundreds of years ago.
This new Pennsylvania Dutch flag is the result of interactions with three focus groups, the largest being on Facebook. The Facebook focus group included a diverse cross-section of the Pennsylvania Dutch community. People of different religious identities, political affiliations, sexual orientations, and gender identities were included in this group. Additionally, it was important to include potentially dissenting perspectives, so this group, in particular, included interested parties who had expressed concern about the idea of the development of this flag. The purposes of the focus groups included the need for more inclusivity in our ethnic symbols and the desire to simplify the presentation of the symbolism on our ethnic banner. This was a grassroots effort triggered initially by an idea and creative concept expressed by Robert Lüsch-Schreiwer and put into digital artwork by Deitsch Folk Artist and designer, Rachel Yoder. Rachel did this work pro bono for the love of our Deitsch community. Of the six designs presented in Draft Round 1, the majority of all of the focus groups voted for Flag #1, which was amended based on member feedback, and the current flag (commonly referred to as the Rosette Flag) was the winner. The challenger (the Tulip Flag) is being held in reserve for future use in a different capacity.
We understand that the grassroots effort might not be recognized by everyone and that people feel an attachment to the first flag. This is understandable, and, since there is no Pennsylvania Dutch government to make binding decisions, there will be variations in the levels of acceptance of this new flag. We do, though, request that this flag be given due consideration, and we encourage those who have an allegiance to the first flag to consider keeping it present as a reminder of the labor that went into its development while accepting the new flag for the features that are described later in this statement.
Additionally, the development of this new flag has inspired ideas to advance awareness of our own history within our communities. We invite academic institutions to participate in this effort, though we also recognize that school curricula can be very rigid. Over time, many of those polled in our focus groups have recognized the need for advocacy groups that can work to create more opportunities for the advancement of our language and culture. Thanks go to all who participated in this effort. We hope that everyone will continue the efforts to reinvigorate our Pennsylvania Dutch heritage!
One of the things that can be simultaneously challenging and liberating about being a culture with no central authority is that there can be many streams of influence on cultural identity and production of cultural materials. This is the case with the Pennsylvania Dutch culture, and it might be one of the reasons that we are called a "persistent minority." Predictions of the demise of our culture and language have been proven invalid time and time again since the Early Republic era. There are more speakers of the Deitsch language today than there were in 1980, and interest in the cultural values and history has spurred many people in the current generations to explore and to embrace their heritage zealously, but events of the early 20th century led to purposeful efforts to weaken the Pennsylvania Dutch culture (see Notes at the bottom for more information about the ending date of the Great Migration and anti-German hysteria prior to World War I). Despite all of the predictions and the shifts and challenges that all Americans have experienced over the last 100 years, we are still here!
Our ancestors' early arrival during the Colonial Era put them on the frontier and resulted in engagement with the Susquehannock that was starkly different from the way the English interacted with them. The same applied to interactions with the Lenape after William Penn's death in 1718. The end result was essentially the establishment of a Pennsylvania Dutch homeland after the Susquehannock fled (due in large part to the Paxton Boys incident) and the Lenape were forced out of Pennsylvania as punishment for being on the losing side of the French and Indian War (which would not have happened had the colonial government not swindled them on multiple occasions). This homeland, or Heemet is a large, non-contiguous region even today, and many parts of it are shared with our fellow Americans of many ethnic and cultural backgrounds.
In 1989, the first Pennsylvania Dutch flag was developed by Peter V. Fritsch at the behest of the Groundhog Lodges. It was a momentous development. The flag featured some of the contributions of the Pennsylvania Dutch to wider American society and also featured things that are associated with the Pennsylvania Dutch culture. I do not want to disrespect that flag because time, creativity, and love went into that effort. However, times do change, and cultures do evolve. Some of the symbols set the context of the flag in one religious context, which is admittedly an important component of life for the majority of Pennsylvania Dutch people. However, it automatically excludes those who are of a different belief system. The white background led to the flag appearing dirty very quickly when being flown outdoors, and many people polled in our focus group found the inclusion of so many features to cause the flag to be too busy. Additionally, the general feeling was that the flag was for the Heemet, and opinions from the Diaspora indeed suggested that they did not feel that the flag represented them.
As a persistent minority, we Pennsylvania Dutch share many cultural markers regardless of religion or location (communities turn up in many states and provinces as well as in Mexico and in several countries in South America). The attempts to suppress the culture impacted those in Diaspora more easily than it did those in the Heemet. The Diaspora is often left out of the discussions of the future, yet the thirst for connection to the culture is just as strong in those areas. The term "Deitscherei" was coined (full disclosure: by me) in 1986 to distinguish Pennsylvania Dutch Country from Germany. Prior to the introduction of this new term, most people were using "Deitschland" for both or they were using English to talk about our region here. The word Deitscherei has taken root and is even being used increasingly in video games that involve fictional war and mapping scenarios. This term is important to the significance of the new flag and is featured directly on it.
“Mir sinn die Deitscherei” (“We are [Pennsylvania] Dutch Country”). Where this flag is flown is Deitscherei because we carry it with us wherever we go. The Diaspora is as much of the Deitscherei as Lebanon County is, and we must recognize that our migrations and historical circumstances have led to diversity within us. There are people who are culturally Pennsylvania Dutch who might not have any ancestry from our original lands. Shared values and experiences are features of the evolution of our culture, and they have forged a bond among us. This flag is the flag of anyone who shares that bond.
I have purposely omitted an English translation from the design because I believe that Deitsch must be afforded space in which it stands on its own. Part of the flag’s purpose is to provide opportunities to teach the slogan and to explain other aspects of our cultural heritage and of our living, vibrant culture.
The double-headed Distelfink is still of one body, and the two heads can represent different things to different people. It is important to note that questions or concerns had arisen in the main focus group about whether it might have been rooted in the double-eagles of the Byzantines, Habsburgs, or Freemasons. The answer is no. This symbol was chosen because it can represent all of us; the meanings are open to interpretation by the viewer. Some examples of the interpretations of the meaning of the two heads are the following (this list is not exhaustive):
- Plain and Fancy
- Heemet and Diaspora
- Christianity and Urglaawe
- Spiritual and Agnostic
- Urban and Rural
- Past and Future, with the Heart being the Present
This the symbol does turn up in Plain sectarian works such as quilts. Two proposed version of the flag had the symbol surrounded by a circle. This made it appear more like a hex sign, which might result in some discomfort among the Plain members of the community, thereby impacting the symbol's ability to represent all of us in some way. Many Plain sectarians do not take on an identity with a flag or symbol, but it was important to the focus group that we took their beliefs and values into consideration so that the flag is inclusive to any who might take interest in it.
The use of purple in Deitsch art often calls to the sacred, the mysteries of existence, and to the totality of the self or the soul. The totality is of particular importance, I think, because we are looking to represent the totality of the Deitsch nation, which includes people of all sorts of backgrounds, religious identities, ethnicities, etc. That which brings us together is sacred. That which brings us together also ties us to those great mysteries. Purple is not a color that appears on many flags that represent a people, and, speaking personally, that is another attraction to me. Plus, the contrast make the colors in the symbol really pop.
COPYRIGHT AND NEXT STEPS
The development of this flag took a significant amount of time, and the end result is something that will build recognition over time. It is not limited just to display on cloth; there are several important formats in which we would like to set the flag for wider accessibility. We need protected time for some of these, and we also want to be sure that the meaning of the flag becomes known as the flag itself becomes accessible. As such, we need to contain the right of production for profit to a few outlets until we are able to create the flag in the formats desired. At the end of three years after the date of this statement, we will relinquish all copyrights and allow the flag to be developed freely as part of our national expression. As of now, the image may be shared -- but not altered -- on social media as long as there is no use of it for profit by unauthorized parties.
The next step is going to be having samples created by a few different outlets, including established flag-makers in or near the Deitscherei. We will post when the flags become available. Please note that the flag is oriented in a portrait, as opposed to a landscape setting. This was the result of the splitting of the slogan into two segments. It is serving as an assertion that we Deitsche follow our own ways, but we will also work toward creating a landscape version. Because the slogan being split was among the most-cited suggestions, we will need to do some investigation on balancing the size and quality of the symbol in a landscape setting. For now, the flag is oriented in portrait.
The ending date of the Great Migration is debatable. The onset of the Napoleonic Wars in 1803 disrupted (but did not halt) the migration flow from all of the German-speaking lands. The Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation was dissolved in 1806, leaving behind turmoil that likely spurred even more people to want to leave. The successor, the German Confederation, was not established until 1815. Although the German Confederation was a strong alliance, it became, perhaps, as much of a political mess as was the Holy Roman Empire due to the problems in its very structure. The German Confederation experienced revolutions and changes that attempted to bring about the creation of a nation-state but fell short of that goal. It is widely accepted that the establishment of a German nation-state did not happen until 1871. This means that the Pennsylvania Dutch left before there was a German nation-state. Many of our forebears came from other lands that have never been part of Germany (Switzerland being a prime example). By 1915, we had long been a distinct ethnic group, and loyalties were to home and community, which were primarily established in the United States and Canada. From the time of the sinking of the Lusitania (May 7, 1915), the United States had seen a rise in anti-German sentiment, and this spilled over onto the Pennsylvania Dutch. Most of our forebears had no connection to the German Empire, and the family lore of many -- if not most -- Pennsylvania Dutch clans paints a very unpleasant picture of life prior to the migration. Indeed, we were the first people to come en masse to the Colonies as refugees. Many were fleeing the decaying feudalism and religious persecutions that were hallmarks of the era. The ravages of the Thirty Years' War (which is still one of the most destructive conflicts in human history, resulting in a loss of 20% of the European population, with some areas seeing up to 60% loss). The destruction made life unbearable, so the forebears heeded William Penn's call to the make the dangerous journey to his Colony. In some cases, entire villages quit the land that they had lived on for centuries because there was no other hope left for them. Some had suffered as Redemptioners in order to find a better life. In other words, there was no basis for loyalty to the Kaiser, so (as is usually the case in these situations) the anti-German rhetoric was targeting innocent people.
The ramifications of this hysteria cannot be understated. It resulted in efforts to dismantle the culture. German could not be taught in schools (a great many educational institutions in Pennsylvania were founded by Pennsylvania Dutch people). Outright oppression often results in backlash, so the efforts undertaken were the use of the legal system and the news outlets to frame traditional practices in contexts that would be subject to Blue Laws. The messaging in schools was that the traditional ways were backward, thereby reinforcing the stereotype of the Dumb Dutchman. The generation born in the interwar period felt a pressure to abandon the language and to take on an "American" rather than a "Pennsylvania Dutch" identity (the two do not have to be mutually exclusive, but historical facts should never be allowed to interfere with a good fear campaign). Even when I was boy in the 1970's, we were told that the accent would be a hinderance to our success in life. This process began to reverse itself in the 1980's, and now the demand for Deitsch classes exceeds the number of classes available.
There are prices to pay for not learning the lessons of history. Colonial history is very poorly taught in the United States. The Pennsylvania Dutch played key roles in many events during that period and through the Civil War, and we always followed our own ways. Since our history is not given proper coverage in most schools, it is up to our communities to produce resources. If you have never heard of the Germantown Anti-Slavery Protest, Cresap's War (also called the Conojocular War), or Fries's Rebellion, you might find Pennsylvania Dutch history to be far more interesting than the stories of simply getting off of a boat and immediately farming land and living happily ever after!