08 August 2014

The Meaning Of Symbolism

. . . is often in the eye of the beholder.

Kevin Levin recently used an intentionally provocative image of a Confederate battle flag for some red meat impact. I believe he got the reaction and attention he wanted. Fair enough. That use of the CBF is despicable. But  when another reader points out that the U.S. flag has also been used for less than honorable purposes, Levin excuses it stating:
The difference is the stars and strips (sic) is my flag and everyone else (sic) in this country. . . . There is a reason why the individual in this photograph is holding a Confederate flag and like it or not that reason goes back to the founding of the Confederate States of America. That history is etched in stone.
Yeah, well the same could be said about the U.S. flag in regards to its symbolism at certain events and political rallies, e.g., There is a reason why the individual in this photograph is holding a (U.S. flag). So, at the very least, his logic is flawed. And, one could certainly argue that the U.S. flag's history is also "etched in stone." But with all the revisionist history going on these days, that' not really a problem. And what does Levin mean when stating "the stars and strips is my flag"? Is that "difference" supposed to mean absolution for any perceived symbolic sins associated with "the stars and strips"(sic)? 

And Levin might want to rethink the "everyone else" (sic) assertion about the U.S. flag, particularly in many corners of academia:
The American flag is an unwelcome sight on many campuses. On September 11, a Lehigh University administrator became so infuriated at an American flag displayed on a campus bus that he ordered Old Glory to be taken down around campus. Similar scenes played out at Arizona State, Marquette, and Holy Cross. A year later at Berkeley, organizers of a 9/11 "Day of Remembrance" initially forbade patriotic songs, replaced planned red, white, and blue lapel pins with white ones, and excluded the American flag — until the school's administration overruled them in an attempt to curb bad publicity. "The flag has become a symbol of U.S. aggression toward other countries," graduate student organizer Jessica Quindel contended. (Source.)
 
So, many see the U.S. flag as a "symbol of U.S. aggression" while others like Levin (and myself) view it as a symbol of freedom. Similarly, there are those of us with Confederate ancestors who see honor for the original symbolism of the Confederate soldiers' flag, which is why the CBF still flies over many Confederate veterans' graves throughout the South. This sentiment was expressed nicely by former Senator James Webb:
. . . we are also the caretakers of the memory, and the reputation, of those who performed their duty—as they understood it—under circumstances too difficult for us ever to fully comprehend. No one but a fool—or a bigot in their own right—would call on the descendants of those Confederate veterans to forget the sacrifices of those who went before them or argue that they should not be remembered with honor.

And that would include the flag they fought under.
Arlington National Cemetery
By the way, I fully support Professor Bill Ayers' right to desecrate and dishonor the U.S. flag, though I find that despicable and disgusting as well.

5 comments:

Eddie said...

Detroit integration protest. Which flag?

http://www.reuther.wayne.edu/files/images/2819.preview.jpg

Little Rock protest. Which flag?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Little_Rock_integration_protest.jpg

Boston protest. Which flag?

http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/editorial_opinion/oped/articles/2009/01/31/its_time_to_end_busing_in_boston/

olesonms said...

Mr Williams
As always you are a voice of thruth and reason.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Yes Eddie - despicable as well. Levin has actually shown the Boston image before. But the focus is the CBF, though it all fits into Levin's self-proclaimed worldview of being an "activist historian" and "enemy of American Exceptionalism."

ropelight said...

The Dixie Cross is certainly a proud and an exceptionally compelling banner. It's striking saltire design and bold primary colors command attention and make it easily distinguishable from the Stars-n-Stripes even though both flags share many of the same elements.

The Dixie Cross was adopted out of necessity to prevent confusion during the smoke and fog of battle. The South's official flag early in the war, the Stars-n-Bars, which intentionally resembled Old Glory to signify the Confederacy's residual affection for the Union, proved so similar to the Stars-n-Stripes that during the July 21st 1861 Battle of First Manassas (the Union called it Bull Run) soldiers on both sides mistakenly rallied to the opponent's banner.

During the long and divisive war the Dixie Cross served it's purpose well, battlefield confusion was kept to a minimum, although isolated acts of fratricide continued as they do to this day.

Confederate soldiers quickly developed a personal affection and a lasting reverence for their unique battle banner even imbuing it with spiritual significance, and Union soldiers won more Medals of Honor for capturing one in the heat of combat than for any other specific act.

Unfortunately, the Dixie Cross has been improperly appropriated and misused by terrorist hate groups to intimidate former slaves, and to signify opposition to civil rights and social integration.

However, the Confederate Battle Flag (CBF) has also spontaneously appeared on the battle fields in every major armed conflict where men of the South (who loyally serve in the US armed forces in much greater proportions than men of any other region) now proudly serve under the Stars-n-Strips.

So, although little can be done to prevent the hate mongers, fools, and misguided whiners from continuing to misuse the CBF in illegitimate ways and for their own dishonorable ends, yet after nearly 150 years the flag endures as a potent (worldwide) symbol of independence and willingness to stand against overreaching authority. The louder and more shrill the attempts to drive the Dixie Cross from the public square become, the deeper it's enduring meaning grows in the hearts of brave and independent men.

PS: I don't recognize Bill Ayres' right to dishonor the US flag. He can do it, it's not against the law in the country he openly despises, and although guilty as hell and thanks to the laws of the country he seeks to destroy, he got away with violent acts of domestic terrorism on a technicality, he can certainly be called out for the unpatriotic cowardly weasel he was then and remains so now.

Too many young Americans fought and died in an unpopular war for the flag he's standing on and were subsequently treated with contempt when they returned home by enemies of the people like him who never served any purpose but their own hateful collectivist creed.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

"I don't recognize Bill Ayres' right to dishonor the US flag."

I understand completely and I, at one time, supported a const. amend. to outlaw U.S. flag desecration. As I've grown older and drifted more toward libertarianism, I tend to recoil at government making any symbol sacred (though it is to me personally) to the point that "desecrating" becomes criminal.

I'll be posting something soon that will highlight some of your other comments.

Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment.