On this date in 1634, Cecil Calvert, 2nd Lord Baltimore, sent the first settlers to his newly chartered colony, which he named Maryland in honor of King Charles I's Queen Consort, Henrietta Maria. Lord Baltimore himself was a Catholic, and wanted the colony to be a haven for his brethren, who were having a hard time under Protestant rule in England. Most of the settlers turned out to be Protestants, but the colonial government was dominated by Catholics. The two groups didn't always get along, but the Maryland General Assembly did manage to pass one of the first laws guaranteeing religious freedom in the New World, the Maryland Toleration Act of 1649. It only actually guaranteed freedom of worship to people who practiced some form of Christianity, ignoring Jews and Muslims among many other faiths, but it was a start.
Today, Maryland is the richest state in the country in terms of median income, yet our government has operated with an enormous deficit for the last several years. We're home to 18 colleges and universities, the National Institutes of Standards and Technology (the guys who decide what time it is, and how long an inch is), and the world renowned Johns Hopkins Hospital; we're also home to more crackheads per capita than just about anywhere else in the country. Our state capital, Annapolis, is home to the U.S. Naval Academy. We're the home of a Major League baseball team and two NFL franchises, yet our official state sport is the joust. During the American Civil War, Maryland did not secede to join the Confederacy, and 77% of Maryland veterans of that war, including a great-grandfather of mine, Daniel H. Shives, fought for the Union; yet you can't walk ten feet through Washington County without seeing a rebel flag being flown by someone.
So we, like the United States itself, are a land of contradiction. But in the midst of everything good and bad about my state, there is one thing that is undeniable, that no one can ever take from us. We might be small (only eight states with fewer square miles), we might be overtaxed (state income tax and a just-raised 6% sales tax), we might be crawling with drug addicts, and the Orioles might not have had a winning season in eleven years, but we've got the best-goddamn-looking flag in the country — nay, I daresay the world.
Look at that gorgeous son of a bitch, would you? Just go ahead and admit it, residents of other states: you're jealous. I'm not much of a flag person normally, but I know enough to know that our Maryland flag is the sharpest, most unique, most all-around fucking awesome one you're ever likely to see. The design is a combination of the banners of the Calvert family (the black and gold parts) and the Crossland family (Calvert's mother's family, the red and white crosses), and it's the only U.S. state flag to incorporate elements of British heraldry. That must be why it looks so fucking boss. Those Brits know their flag design. I love Old Glory as much as anyone — a grand old flag, she is — but on pure aesthetics, the Union Jack is much better. It's almost as nice as our awesome Maryland state flag.