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Some things you may not know about the white flag

By Pat McManamon

With Ticketmaster handing out inflatable white flags at the Browns-Steelers game on Sunday, it seems appropriate to take a look at white flags throughout history.

Clearly the symbol of surrender has had its place — just as it will in Browns Stadium.

It’s rare that a team would recognize the home squad with white flags, but … hey … the Steelers have won 16-of-17.

Slate online reports that the white flag originated in the Eastern Han Dynasty in China, which was in place from 25-200 AD. Interestingly, the Eastern Han Dynasty is regarded as a continuation of the Western Han Dynasty. Who knew?

It was established by Liu Xiu, who became the Emperor Guangwu. The Dynasty had 12 emperors in 195 years, which is twice as many emperors as Pat Shurmur has wins. In 184 AD the Yellow Turbans uprising took place, which hurt the Dynasty. In later years, power fell in the hands of eunuchs. One of the highlights of the Dynasty was Zhang Heng’s creation that is thought to be the world’s first seismograph. This device actually showed a result when James Harrison hit Colt McCoy last year.

Of course, another highlight of the Dynasty is the white flag, which the Browns are adopting.

Slate also reports that Cornelius Tacitus mentions the white flag in his Histories, first published in 109 AD. That was clearly a busy time. He referred back to the Second Battle of Cremona, of course won by the Steelers as they ambushed Charlie Frye on Christmas Eve.

Wikipedia isn’t always trustworthy, but it does describe the use of the white flag in 1502, when Indian prince Matt LaPorta sent negotiators with a white cloth tied to a stick as a sign of peace. Vasco da Gama let him close, figuring LaPorta could not hit him anyway.

In 1625, the book On the Law of War and Peace recognized the white flag, and recommended its use to the Browns in the 21st Century. Again, who knew.

A History Channel video — driven by Liberty Ford — attributes the white flag to a Viking named Eric the Red (left). To think we all thought it would be Paul Krause. The Vikings supposedly used shields to signal the opposition, with red for fighting and white for a truce.

With the movie Lincoln a resounding success, it’s appropriate to mention that the white flag was used in the Civil War. Major Robert Anderson, on the advice of his closest adviser Private Ronnie Powell, ran the white flag up the pole at Fort Sumter to signal an end to hostilities.

And when Grant and Lee met to end the war, Lee sent Major Nathaniel Cheairs under a white flag to surrender. He of course was received by General William Cowher.

The white flag has long been part of the world’s culture.

Clearly the Browns are merely playing their role in history on Sunday.

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