An immigrant group based in Bern has called for the emblematic white cross to be removed from the Swiss national flag because as a Christian symbol it “no longer corresponds to today’s multicultural Switzerland.” Ivica Petrusic, the vice president of Second@s Plus, a lobbying group that represents mostly Muslim second-generation foreigners in Switzerland (who colloquially are known as secondos) says the group will launch a nationwide campaign in October to ask Swiss citizens to consider adopting a flag that is less offensive to Muslim immigrants.
Here we have, in a nutshell (it seems to me) Europe's current cultural problem. They're desperately trying to find a continental identity, and just as desperately attempting to keep their distance from the one and only thing that historically united them in a cultural sense—the Christian religion. If Europe is not the home of Western Christendom (excluding the Americas), then what in heaven's name is it?
A phenomenon I noticed in my most recent trips to Norway was what seemed to me the increasing popularity of Norwegian pennons, rather than flags. The national flag, ever since independence in 1910, has been a matter of tremendous importance to Norwegians. Even Norwegian Christmas trees are frequently decorated with garlands of paper flags. Norwegians fly their red, white, and blue banner at every opportunity, for birthdays, weddings, and whenever American visitors come to call.
But there's this design problem. The Norwegian flag is a blue and white cross on a red field (like all Scandinavian flags, it gets its basic form from the Danish dannebrog, the oldest national flag in the world). And more and more Norwegians are not only indifferent, but actually hostile, to the cross and all that it implies.
So you see more and more of the pennons—triangular banners with only a horizontal blue strip, bordered with white stripes. The same colors without the religious symbol.
I asked a Norwegian relative once whether the purpose of the pennons was to avoid the cross. He said no, it was just a festive banner.
But it's not hung like bunting. It's flown from a flagpole, like the national flag.
Maybe it's time to retire the crosses, after all. Nobody seems to like them anymore.
It'll make a transitional stage, before they're all replaced with crescents.
Lars Walker is the author of several published fantasy novels, the most recent of which is West Oversea.