so many assassins,
but which one is yours?
mind your intuition
but i've said this before
i've adorned my skin with symbols and wings
and other helpful things
and the blood that i shed
was a warning in red
to remind me, to remind me...

burn your white flags, refuse to surrender
then raise your red flags to remember
to remember

hammers on nerve
fingers on bone
and though i have shed my skin
i can't tell if i've grown

burn your white flags, refuse to surrender
then raise your red flags to remember
to remember

i have poisoned myself for the last time,
for the last time
for the last time

Lyrics submitted by anastasia_gloom

Raise Your Red Flags song meanings
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  • 0
    Song MeaningI take it to mean that you should trust your feelings and instincts. I also think its a mantra to never surrender but remember what is in our past to grow stronger.
    Rockin500on December 13, 2010   Link
  • 0
    Song MeaningRockin500 is obviously correct about the meaning of the chorus, which not only states it agenda quite explicitly by saying "refuse to surrender" but also gives a very vivid description of how that refusal can be imagined. To recognize that image, of course, takes a bit of historical contextualization. In the days before instant communication (and in the absence of a Twitter "#Alamo - we don't surrender" option), communication was frequently visual. When there was a surrender pending, or one group was coming to parlay with another hostile group, a white flag would symbolize their peaceful intentions. Raising a white flag, then, became visual code for surrendering or being willing to compromise. A red flag, on the other hand, became code for refusing to surrender. As early as the middle ages, red flags symbolized a fight to the death. Over time, however, the red flag was adopted by mutineers and revolutionaries (especially French ones!) -- maybe in part because the penalty for treason is so often death, so there's really very little point in surrendering anyway. Red flags topped the barricades in numerous French revolutions, and was adopted by the Marxist/Anarchist Paris Commune, so that it eventually became associated with radical leftist and anarchist causes in general. That's why the flags of the Soviet Union and the People's Republic of China both have red fields. I'm not saying that the song is an Anarchist anthem, though I suppose that case could be made (after all, the punk movement has pretty strong roots in Anarchism!)… but it definitely stands on its own not just as a refusal to surrender but as an active symbol of rebellion and revolution. To raise a red flag isn’t just to refuse to obey–it’s to fight back!

    So why raise a red flag “to remember”? Well — calls to recollection are common in martial and revolutionary contexts. For example, Texan revolutionaries (way back when) used the total slaughter of the defenders of the Alamo as a rallying cry to raise troops and support for their rebellion against Mexican control. War cries such “Remember the Raisin!” (you’ll have to look it up...) have historically been used when a people feel that they are fighting a war that is justified by revenge or necessitated by self protection. In the words of another band, “We forgive as we forget.”

    In this case, the narrator insists on the power of memory in order to spur a continued revolution against the forces that are forcing them to self-destruct (re: “I have poisoned myself for the last time.”) -- in the future, this song says, we will not submit to our own destruction, but we will fight back.

    Well. I think that takes care of the chorus. Just in passing, I should add that I think the remainder of the song describes one way of creating a personal symbol of defiance that doesn’t depend on having an army at one’s back. (There’s not much point in going solo on a revolution, after all. You can wave all the red flags you want, but at the end of the day if a couple folks with guns seize a street or a school or a courthouse, they’re considered lunatics, not revolutionaries. It’s probably better not to go there.)

    So rather than raising a literal red flag or burning a literal white flag, this narrator describes how she has created an equally visual symbol of defiance out of her own body. I’m assuming we’re talking about tattooing here (because the “hammers on nerve, fingers on bone” line really seems evocative of tattooing for me), though it could equally easily be done with scalpels or branding irons… Anyway, she has literally “adorned my skin with symbols and wings and other helpful things” and in the process what was once (assumably) white skin has now become painted with blood as a “a warning in red” to remind her that she must not surrender and must continue to resist. This idea of body modification as a symbol of revolution returns when she says “I have shed my skin,” again referring to the physical aspect of body art while linking it to a political/personal image of revolution/ renewal that is symbolized by a snake shedding its skin.

    If you’ve ever seen any of the Ego Likeness art, which I strongly recommend, there’s a re-occurring image of a flag with a red field on which a black snake curls around a white egg. Of course both the snake and the egg also show up repeatedly in their lyrics. Snakes and eggs are both ancient symbols of rebirth generally associated with the goddess (though snakes were bisexual images, also associated with more masculine forms of healing/rebirth, as in the healing serpent Moses raises before the people of Israel to cure the plague, or the snakes associated with Apollo and Asclepius)… which is just to say that the image of shedding skin is important beyond the scope of this song and has to do with the full idea of rebirth — which is inherently but not exclusively a form of revolution.

    Overall, I consider this to be one of those great anti-hegemonic anthems about diverse forms of resistance and renewal which draws from the old-school feminist slogan that “the personal is political” …linking a battle for personal strength to historical issues of revolution, also explores the link between alternative body practices (e.g., tattooing or cutting) with the symbolic actions taken in other revolutionary contexts (e.g., raising a red flag).

    “Downal wyth Bluddy Behg Hid!”
    Otherwiseon December 19, 2010   Link

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