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Opinion: Utah’s state flag needs a simplified symbol

The best flags have simple, memorable and unifying symbols. If Utah can simplify and unify with a new state flag, it would be worth a change

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An American flag and a Utah state flag fly with Salt Lake City in the background on an overcast day.

An American flag and Utah state flag fly with Salt Lake City in the background. The Utah state flag redesign has many Utahns hoping for a simpler flag design.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

What do the flag of the United States, the British Union Jack, and the symbol of the Red Cross have in common?

They are simple enough for a child to draw from memory. Because of their straightforward nature, they convey powerful messages. If Utah wants to communicate a powerful message, it would do well to have a less complex flag.

Yet powerful symbols must be chosen carefully for they can exclude as well as include. A big red U for the new Utah flag would be simple and straightforward but excludes other Utahns who claim a shade of blue (or purple) for their football team.

Historic symbols are important, but they fail the people they represent if they are forgettable or divisive. Georgia’s state flag once incorporated the Confederate battle flag — a simple and straightforward but divisive symbol. The current flag still gestures toward Georgia’s Confederate experience, but also emphasizes its place as one of the original 13 states — a far more unifying historical fact.

In our time of division, Utah’s search for a powerful and unifying symbol is worthwhile. Questioning the past is not forgetting it, but rather an effort to find and preserve the best of it.

Jonathan D. Hepworth

Athens, Georgia