Tuesday, July 7, 2015
Symbols and Perceptions
Recently there has been a violent reaction by many people as to what the confederate battle flag symbolizes. Sadly, this has all boiled to the surface after a shooting in a black church by a lunatic who posed in photos with the flag. Because of those photos, the debate on what the flag symbolizes has focussed not on what the flag symbolized during the Civil War, or what many Americans see it as a symbol of today, but on what the politicians in the 1960's saw the flag as a symbol of. The maddening head long rush to remove this "symbol of hate" is turning people against each other. Factionalization is rearing its head on this matter. Bringing intolerance from both sides, and leaving little in the way of compromise on the issue.
Political Correctness has seized on the issue of the Confederate battle flag as being evil. People caving in to peer pressure and attempting to remove the flag from the public eye. Even to the point of removing a television program because the heroes car has the flag on its roof. Even though that program was not an evil program, nor were any of the protagonists in it. It is the symbol that is suddenly so evil it must be removed from society. The very fact that this is about what that flag 'symbolizes' is divisive. It means different things to different people. No one can tell another what a symbol means to them. Because no one else knows how another person perceives the symbol in their own life, and what their experiences have shaped their own opinions to be.
If one individual places certain symbolism to a thing, that many others cannot agree with, that thing does not suddenly become a hate filled symbol for everyone. Were that truly the case, then the flag of the United States would have long ago been labeled as an evil symbol. Groups have over the years draped themselves in the American flag while espousing hatred and racial inequality. Yet Americans realize that it is only symbolic of such things to those groups and individuals. But because of the outrage connected to the shooting of the members of a black church by a white racist, emotions are overwhelming logic.
To me, the flag that is stirring up all this debate is actually more than one flag. The square flag with the red background and the blue "X" with white stars on it is the battle flag of the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia. The rectangular flag of similar design is the flag of the Confederate Army of Tennessee. Some see those two flags especially, as symbols of Americans fighting and dying for causes they believed in. There were several causes wrapped up into what are commonly called the "Rebel" flags. Racism was only a small part.
Today, many people look at those flags as a symbol of resistance to the control of a centralized Federal power over reaching and trampling on the Civil Rights of its citizens. Others see it as a symbol of having a self-sufficient rural independent lifestyle. Others still see it as a symbol of defiance against the establishment, and yes there are some who view it as a racist symbol thanks to the Ku Klux Klan and other white supremacy groups who have usurped it over the years. None of these perceptions is wrong. Just as none of the perceptions of it representing hatred and evil are wrong. They are personal perceptions of a symbol. What is wrong is trying to control how others see a symbol.
It is also rather amusing to me, that many of the same people who are so vociferously denouncing the symbol of the "Rebel" flag as a symbol of evil and hatred think nothing of wearing a Chez Rivera t-shirt and calling him an revolutionary worth admiring. Chez was a communist strong man who had no qualms about imprisoning, or killing, any one he deemed to be 'counter-revolutionary'. He trampled the Civil Rights of the citizens with total disregard. Ordered the execution of thousands of his own citizens. Yet his image is one to be raised up as an example of a admirable person by many of the same people pushing to remove the "Rebel" flag from our society as symbolizing hate and racism. I wonder how many citizens would approve of their children being taught history by teacher who openly praise and glorify a communist mass killer? To many, Chez is a symbol of the counter-culture held over from the 1960's. To many of the liberal left, the 1960's counter-culture is still something to be idealized. Reusing its symbols in the modern day amongst younger generations who have no idea of the meaning of the symbols from before. They place their own meaning to those symbols, and have no issue with doing so, as the symbols are held to be their own. However to even suggest that a symbol can have a different meaning to citizens now than it did in the 1960's will bring contempt and verbal attacks upon ones intelligence, or morality.
The double standards of many in this hostile dispute about the symbols of American history simply amazes me. To suggest the symbols that some do not support or agree with should be removed, such as the "Rebel" flag on the capitol campus in Charleston (even to the point of insisting the flagpole is somehow tainted and must also be removed), only further aids in the dissolution of Civil Rights of the individual. There was an option to put it to a vote of the citizenry whether to remove the flag from the capitol campus. Those Democrats so hurriedly trying to remove it strongly opposed the option of letting the citizens voice their opinion on the subject. The citizens couldn't be trusted to vote the way the politically correct zealots in South Carolina's legislature wanted? Is that the reason, or was it simply a disregard for anything other than personal feelings of their own?
Either way, I will continue to fly the "Rebel" flags I own from time to time when I deem it appropriate to do so. Just as I will continue to keep the Nazi flag my father brought back from World War II. I do not see it as a symbol of evil, but with the two bayonet slashes across the swaztika I see it as a symbol of freedom defeating an evil regime. It is all in the perception that makes a symbol a symbol. Good bad or indifferent. The more we try to nail the sandals of conformity onto the feet of those who think differently from ourselves, the more we will continue to fracture. The more we fracture and factionalize the further we move from the nation Dr. King spoke of on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial that morning in Washington DC.
Catch you on the road sometimes...