Here’s an easy thing to write: America is the best country. I love it. We have malls and several movie theaters. I’ve never been, but I hear that the Grand Canyon is very impressive. There are many places to eat, some of which are very good. We even have a place called Office Depot: It’s an entire store devoted to office supplies, if you can even believe that, and if you can’t believe it then just trust me, because I have been there several times. One time, I was at the Office Depot near my house and a woman asked if I needed help with anything and I said, “No, thanks,” and she was like, “Well, if you do just let me know. My name is Sheryl. I know where everything is in this store,” then she laughed and walked away. There are, like, at least 40,000 different things in Office Depot and Sheryl knows where all of them are. Sheryl is very impressive, as is America.
Here’s a harder thing to write, and to confront: America does not have the best flag.
It’s a good flag, sure. A very good flag, even. And I appreciate all of the symbolism that’s tucked into it (the stripes for the colonies and the stars for the states). And I feel a certain and discernible amount of patriotism and pride whenever I see it somewhere, especially if it’s an impressive place, like on the moon or the back window of a Jeep Rubicon. It’s definitely my favorite flag. But, objectively, it’s not the best flag. That’s the main thing that I’ve realized these Olympics.
There are 205 different countries that sent at least one athlete to participate in the Olympics, and each of those countries has a flag, and several of them are better than America’s flag. I suppose that’s a fair trade off. We are the best country in the world, but we do not have the best flag, like how the 2004 Detroit Pistons were the best basketball team in the world, but did not have the best player.
These are the Olympic flags, ranked best to worst.
Easily the best flag. It has a golden eagle on it, and let’s be clear here: When I say “golden eagle” I’m not describing the eagle as golden, as in his color is gold, as in an eagle that is of a yellowish color. “Golden eagle” is his actual science name. Golden eagle.
Think on it like this: Gold is the most impressive kind of metal on the periodic table, and eagles are the most impressive birds, so putting those two things together is like if there was a thing called a “hurricane lion” or a “lightning bear.” So that’s one great thing about the Mexican flag. And were the flag simply a golden eagle and nothing else, it’d have finished high on this ranking — top 15, maybe top 12. But there’s more to it: In addition to having a golden eagle on it, the golden eagle is standing on a cactus (the most valuable and versatile member of the plant family) while killing a rattlesnake (the venomous villain responsible for more snake bites in North America than any other snake). Mexico’s flag is a hero golden eagle tucked between green and red. If you read it from left to right, the green is saying, “Keep it moving, because something incredible is coming,” and then it’s the best bird standing on the best plant killing the worst snake. Then it’s red, and red means stop, so it’s like, “Stop right here. Did you just fucking see the middle of this flag?”
It’s a perfect flag.
I respect the straight-arrow strength of this flag. There is no pretense. It’s just a single red dot on a solid white background, like aiming a laser pointer directly at the center of a person’s forehead, which is quietly a very aggressive move.
(Bangladesh has a similar flag, except instead of an all-white background, it’s an all-green background, which makes it feel far less intimidating. )
The only things I know about Albania is that its movie bad guys are super into human trafficking, and that its flag has a double-headed shadow eagle on it, which is terrifying. That seems like more than enough for me to know that I could never survive in Albania. The double-headed shadow eagle is the kind of shit that you dream about in your worst dream. Putting it on a flag is an ultra-aggressive move. Albania ain’t a destination for me. A different bird, then maybe. Guatemala has an especially friendly looking bird on their flag, as does Kiribati. I’d for sure survive in either of those places. Not Albania, though. I have so much respect for Albanians.
4. United States
We could learn a lesson from our Albanian friends. Imagine 50 nightmare birds instead of 50 stars. All those country songs about the American flag just got way more interesting.
It’s like there was a meeting and the person in charge of the meeting was like, “We’re here today to determine what should go on our national flag.” Then some guy in the back was like, “What about 50 leaves in a circle?” And a woman a few rows ahead of them was like, “No, no, no. How about a tree?” And then a guy on the left side of the room was like, “I like boats.” And then a different guy on the same side of the room was like, “Hey, oars are cool.” Then a woman different from that first woman was like, “How about two men, one browner than the other?” And then a different guy in the front row was like, “Let’s not forget saws and axes.” And that first person in charge of the meeting was just standing there, taking it all in. Then he was like, “You know what? Fuck it. Put it all on there. Meeting adjourned.” It’s the same way they made the cover for Willie D’s Controversy in 1989.
7. Dominican Republic
It has a machete on it, and also half of the flag is red, which represents “the blood spilt by Angolans during their independence struggles.”
I think that’s Aquaman’s trident. Any flag with a superhero’s weapon on it gets at least a top-20 finish.
Very solid flag. No weak points. No timid parts. Great showing from Jamaica.
33. Malawi (Big fan of any flag ballsy enough to add a sunrise.)
Palau’s flag scores well because of the Wes Anderson color palette. If Palau ever decides to put a picture of Edward Norton in the center of it looking forlorn and semiconfused, it’s automatically a top-10 flag.
(This Wes Anderson–to–Edward Norton Moonrise Kingdom joke is the whitest joke that I have ever made. I am very proud of it. Thank you.) (It might actually be the whitest thing I’ve ever done, in general.) (One time, I rode a snowmobile. That’s probably the second-place thing.)
40. Trinidad and Tobago
42. Kiribati (This flag is adorable.)
43. China (With the exception of North Korea, Asian countries are very clutch flag designers.)
It’s like the U.S. flag, except minus 49 stars, which makes it 49 places worse.
Egypt has a golden eagle also, except Egypt’s is an eagle that is golden, which, I mean, if I’d have seen this before seeing the actual golden eagle on Mexico’s flag it’d have been a lot more impressive. Seeing it after, though, is a pretty big letdown.
Also an eagle that is golden, same as Egypt’s, except this one has two heads. I don’t know. It feels like Montenegro is trying too hard. I saw a guy who was wearing suspenders at the mall a couple of weeks ago and I was like, “Okay,” but then I noticed he was also wearing a belt and it was just like, “You need to chill, dude.” That’s like what this flag is. Started out a little bit cool, but mostly ended up pressing.
81. Tonga (The cross represents Christianity. The white represents purity. The red represents the blood of Christ. Bunch of party animals, the Tongans.)
82. Czech Republic
This flag is very artsy. I respect the bold black stripe very much. Not a lot of flags could pull it off. Yemen and Iraq, for example, both of which also feature a bold black stripe, finish way further down the list because of weaker, less intriguing color schemes. Shoutout Link, the all-time greatest Estonian.
Guatemala starts off very aggressively, with the two guns and the two swords, and if it stopped there, the flag would have scored much higher because flags of aggression are always en vogue. But things turned whimsical with that very delicate and cartoony bird, so it lands in 121st place.
180. Papua New Guinea (Definitely one of those situations where two groups of people couldn’t decide what the flag should be so they compromised and one group got to design one half of the flag while the other group designed the other.)
195. Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea)
196. Saint Lucian
197. Greece (Very disorienting.)
You’re making your flag and you can put basically anything you want on there. And you want something that is strong, but not overbearing; attractive, but not dismissable; smart, but not ostentatious. It can go a ton of different ways. Pick any animal. Pick any weapon. Pick any color. Pick any symbol. All of everything is available. It’s all there for you. And you settle on … a leaf? Not even the whole tree? Trees are strong. Trees are noble. Trees are useful. Leaves are like the fingernails of trees. Fingernails are great when they’re attached to your hands. I can’t imagine my life without fingernails. Separate of the the hands, though — fingernails all by themselves? Nah. No good. Doesn’t help anything. I’m willing to bet there’s never been one single time in all of history when someone found a detached fingernail and was like, “This is a good thing.”
“Hey, I planted a tree in your front yard.” Oh, wow. Thanks so much.
“Hey, I scattered some leaves around in your front yard.” What’s your problem, man?
“Daddy, can you build me a tree house?” Sure, son.
“Daddy, can you build me a leaf house?” Dude.
Canada: Great country, worst flag.