The U.S. flag displayed during Vice President Mike Pence’s trip to Brussels has 51 stars. The New York Daily News described this as “a minor mishap,” pointing out that the flag had the usual 13 stripes.
The 13 stripes represent the 13 original British colonies, all of which became states of the Union when the United States was formed.
The stars represent the current states. At the moment, we have 50 states in the U.S., which is why the United States flag has 50 stars.
Once Puerto Rico becomes a state, there will be 51.
The design used in Brussels is what ABC News called “the (yawn) standard” option, the one which will probably be used when the United States gains its 51st state. The image was projected on the wall; it was not a physical flag. This may explain how the nonstandard flag ended up being shown. A technician unfamiliar with the U.S. flag may have chosen the image without realizing that the flag chosen was a little different from the current official flag.
The EU Council hasn’t explained how this happened, but this event demonstrates that adding a star to the flag will not be a problem. No one on either the EU or the US side noticed the difference for five hours.
Some Twitter users suggested that the EU was making a subtle point about DC or about Puerto Rico, two parts of the United States which have been working toward statehood. Certainly, for the United States to own a territory for more than a century without giving its people full rights and responsibility under the U.S. Constitution is an embarrassing situation. Maybe our EU neighbors were giving Vice President Pence a nudge.
Even if it was a technical error, it makes its point.
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