Facebook has asked users to show their support for France and the people of Paris by changing their profile pictures to contain an overlay of the French Flag. Facebook has added such a feature, which (in part) prompted me to write a blog post on flags, symbols and their meanings. Though some are criticizing Facebook for being too selective with their support, others are questioning whether adding this overlay is any support at all. So what does the French Flag really mean? Does adding the French Flag to your profile picture show support?
- A flag is a symbol. A symbol is something that represents something else. A represents B, but A is not B.
- This can be good because a symbol can communicate so much with so little. IE: Skull and Crossbones means deadly!
- This can be bad because a symbol can communicate so poorly. IE: Skull and Crossbones mean pirates, and pirates are cool!
A Show of Support
Does changing your profile picture to the French Flag really show support for France and the people of Paris? Well, yeah, it does. It obviously doesn't provide financial support or improve their infrastructure, but it does show a different kind of support. It show advocacy. It shows (as the campaign suggests) solidarity. It shows, to any who might see your Facebook profile picture, that you are aware of, concerned for and take the side of France in opposition to terrorism.
Upon considering the theoretical nature of this support, one might be tempted to ask, Does such "support" do any good? Here again, I say that it does a very specific kind of good. When faced with a trial (be it ubiquitous monotony or unspeakable tragedy) the burdensome temptation is always to assume you are alone—that no one knows what you are going through. Such support is a reminder that there are those who sympathize with your hurt and even those who empathize with your grief. It speaks the all important truth that You are not alone.
With the idea of symbols in mind, we should note that the French flag is simply three vertical bars of colors: white, blue and red. This, in and of itself, is a form of symbolism. There are many national flags that use these three specific colors (France, North Korea, Liberia and the good ole USofA just to name a few). With each flag, these colors are jam-packed with meaning, and with each flag, these colors mean different things. The meaning of France's TriColors dates back to 1789 (the year of the revolution).
In the french culture, white originally stood for purity; it was the color of the Virgin Mary. The country of France was dedicated to the Virgin Mary in 1638 by the reigning monarch Lois XIII. By 1794, (when the flag was adopted) white had become the color of French Royalty itself.
It is said that Saint (then soldier) Martin of the 4th Century met a beggar on the street to Amiens. With his sword, Martin cut his blue cloak in two, sharing equally with the poor man. A vision later revealed heavenly approval of putting into practice the benevolence shown in the Final Judgment parable of Matthew's gospel.
As is so often the case, the red of the French flag is for blood, but this blood was shed by the patron Saint of France himself Saint Denis. In the 3rd century, upon being martyred, Denis (so it is said) picked up his own decapitated head and continued preaching as he walked for about 6 miles.
The French Tricolor flag represents the purity of the French leadership reaching out in sacrificial benevolence and unyielding proclamation of the God of the Bible. Though the French people may have abandoned their heritage, it is worth remembering that, historically, France is a nation that holds in high regard men and women who served and died for the Christian faith. It would do us well to not forget that. It would do France well to not forget that. It is clearly something that ISIS has not forgotten.