Thursday, February 27, 2014


Should Friendship Heights have its own coat of arms?  This author thinks so, despite the trifling caveat as to the propriety of doing that.

At the dawn of the 20th Century, two families owned large tracts of land from which Friendship Heights would come to be: the Elds and the Shoemakers.  A coat of arms, traced respectively, to British and German origins, is associated with each name:

      If these coats of arms are used as the raw material for creating our own design, we of course can be accused of falling into the common error of accepting these as family coats of arms. (See endnote.)  In fact, the Shoemaker and Eld individuals represented by these coats of arms may very well have been completely unrelated to the Shoemakers and Elds of early Friendship Heights.  Still, the symbols within these coats of arms represent laudable qualities that are worthy of our consideration.  Moreover, we might adopt them on the basis of a pragmatic rationale that makes it more logical to use these coats of arms rather than ones associated with surnames unknown to the founding and early days of Friendship Heights. 

                  We now proceed by combining certain elements from the Eld and Shoemaker coats of arms into a unique one to suit our purposes.  Here is the proposed coat of arms for the Village of Friendship Heights:


                  The background of the shield is silver.  Silver symbolizes nobility, peace and serenity.  These qualities undergird the Village of Friendship Heights.  It is a noble place, a refuge that is at peace with itself and the world beyond its borders.

                  The chevron signifies protection of one engaged in some notable enterprise or faithful service.  This symbol honors the enterprising early builders, the later developers, and community activists who all worked hard to preserve the integrity of the neighborhood.  The chevron is blue.  The color blue stands for piety and sincerity.  In this sense, the Village can be understood as a neighborly place where all co-exist together (as if under one roof). 

                  The tree symbolizes antiquity, life, beauty.  It is combined with the castle, which signifies strength and fortitude; a symbol of defense and of steadfast individuals.  To the Village this dual symbol has a double meaning: 

1) that the beauty of the natural landscape (its green spaces, the so-called Bergdoll tract, and the life-giving waters and farms, fields and fruit trees that once abounded here) is not forgotten despite the towering edifices, and

2) that its strength inheres in the well-grounded individualism of its people, molded as it has been over a century of persevering life’s challenges – a century that has witnessed two world wars, economic depressions, and socio-cultural changes, adversity and malaise.  Surrounding most of the castle is the color red.  Red is the military color for excellence and fortitude; symbolic of nobility, boldness and ferocity – qualities characterizing the travails of the past century that were distilled into the fabric of the community known as Friendship Heights.

                  The knight with battle-axe stands for strength, intellect, and authority exercised in the execution of one’s duty.  (The battle-axe faces away from the partridge, as if defending it.)  The Shoemakers were Quakers and Quakers are advocates of non-violence.  The meaning here is that a strong defense is predicated as much upon strengths of moral character and intellect, as it is upon the force of arms – arms used only to defend oneself or others.

                  The partridge is a symbol of truth.  This community is savvy about who we are as a people and about what is really going on in the world around us.  We realize the fragility of that truth and willingly stand up to defend it.  To do so is the noblest undertaking of all.

                  Depicting three devices on a shield brings a balance steeped in tradition. The tradition of the Village of Friendship Heights is, as the name suggests, friendship – as this tradition was then, it is now and ever shall be.

                  The family crest is situated on top of the helmet.  The four plumes (feathers) represent the four directions of the physical world – north, south, east and west.  The star in the center of the crest symbolizes spirit, hope, constancy and celestial goodness. 
                     Finally, the red, white and blue found both in the family crest and in the shield identify the Village’s colors with those of the American republic.
PROPOSED:  That the community members comprising the Village of Friendship Heights adopt the newly minted coat of arms, thereby embracing the foregoing symbols and identifying with the qualities that these symbols represent.                                                                                   

     Heraldry, an invention of European feudal society, is a formal system by which coats of arms and other armorial bearings are devised, described, and regulated.  Heraldic symbols can be used by being paraded about in colorful ceremonies.  When used in this way these symbols impart to spectators the character of those taking part, as defined by the composition of their coats of arms and other armorial bearings that are on display.  Similarly, when used on clothing or letterhead, for example, a coat of arms acts as a kind of icon, logo or branding instrument.
        Strictly speaking, and contrary to popular belief, a coat of arms was (and still is) bestowed by a sovereign upon individuals only.  A coat of arms does not even belong to the rest of that individual’s particular family or its progeny, let alone to other families who happen to have that same surname.  And so, for purists, to consider assigning a coat of arms to an entity such as Friendship Heights probably seems a bit absurd.  However, symbols are symbols, whether they are heraldic or not.  
        The meanings that symbols have garnered over time are capable of evoking an immediate, primordial awareness in observers.  These symbols might be explicitly understood or only subliminally apprehended.  Either way, a coat of arms composed of a myriad of symbols is a collective construction conveying multiple meanings.  By so doing a coat of arms sends a powerful message. 
        To construct a coat of arms, therefore, is to construct a collective imagery that identifies its bearer.  It can be deciphered at a glance.   To limit such a useful device to the formal system of heraldry would be to reserve its use only to the elites of those nation-states who control the heraldic system.  In other words, to feel inhibited from using heraldic devices would be to abdicate one’s own sovereign power to the state; it would be an overt admission of the inferior position of the individual to that of the state.  This nation was founded upon the inviolability of the individual – the only source from whom the state derives its power.  To deny oneself the innate value of the image as portrayed in a coat of arms is to deny one’s own sovereign liberty.  And so, to randomly choose symbols common to heraldry in order to design a homespun coat of arms is a noble act undertaken by the sovereign self.  Such an act typifies the fiercely independent character of those who claim Friendship Heights as their home.

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