People rally around symbols. All too often groups of people are unable to correctly express their political feelings or ideological inclinations; so they cling to symbols in desperation. Flags and emblems, represent collective hopes, fears, aspirations, and feelings differently depending on who you ask and how you’re feeling that day. The Christian cross can be a comforting sight for those in a devout protestant community, or a disgusting symbol for Christian atrocities in their numerous invasions of the holy land.
With the recent Charleston shootings (and the shooters identification with the Confederate battle flag) we are reminded once more about the power of symbols in our political world. Once more we have been forced to explain ourselves and re-draw the lines of battle. Who supports this flag, and if they do, what does it represent?
Here is a lovely flag which at one point represented the wholesale slaughter of entire civilizations (mongols)
The killing of innocents praying at church has lit a fire under the feet of those who identify with the confederate flag, to have another person use this symbol for evil appears to our southerners a betrayal. Akin to stamping the Christian cross on a doomsday cult, whose leader shortly kills all his/her adherents in an orgy of violence. Devout Christians will claim firmly that the cross does not represent violence or such hatred, obviously, others will disagree. The point of these discussions is not to determine who is right or wrong, it is to discover what people feel about their political world.
In doing so we hope to get a glimpse of our countrymen’s ideology. That ever elusive golden egg we can never seem to find. Because it is only by knowing where we all stand currently that we can ever hope to move forward as a society. If everyone keeps their racist, misogynistic, utopian, or freedom loving opinions a secret; we lose out on valuable data. This exchange of political information, this removal of information asymmetry, is the most important development of the information age.
With this information we can have functioning democracy. A government which genuinely represents the opinions of those it represents, because those “plebeians” actually express them. Without it, we have a system destined to disappoint and potentially fail. It will forever be a system of the mob oppressing another mob, because our fellow citizens don’t even understand what other citizens truly believe.
This is a Forgone Conclusion
In the end, as it should be known by now, people will flee from this flag. Those with power (rich, northern liberals) see the flag as evil, and thus will have it extinguished through any means necessary. As the heightened media attention (and collective shaming that mob rule brings us) and demographic changes of the south (African Americans now make up a sizable minority of the population), will shun those who cling to this flag into silence. But in this temporary moment we as a country are witnessing a rare, spectacular occurrence; truth.
Our once silent southerners get an opportunity to express their views on a national stage (surely to be ridiculed and immediately silenced, but it’s better than nothing). Currently only blogs and small internet communities serve this essential role.
If we want to learn about our political world we have to listen to people you think of as your inferiors. As an admission, I do not care if the confederate battle flag is objectively a racist, evil banner. Even if this opinion can be proven as fact, it is beyond irrelevant. First because symbolism is in constant flux and secondly because it breeds elitism. Which I detest to the extreme.
It soars to the skies as pointless drivel which serves nothing other than to embolden the creator with a sense of moral superiority (my symbols/idols are morally pure and untainted, you should be ashamed!). It is fantastical, self-serving drivel, and will get no sympathy from me.
You Cannot Destroy Ideology Through Silence
If you want to feel better about the moral superiority of your political opinions watch another history channel ‘special’ on the European theatre of WW2. That’ll satiate your unending lust to feel politically superior long enough to entertain the fact that neither you, nor anyone, else has objective answers as to what the solution to our existing woes are (we all have ideological opinions and thoughts on what it should be, but they cannot be ‘proven’ as one can ‘prove’ a scientific phenomena).
Perhaps if people got tired of inhaling the fumes of their own self righteousness long enough we would be capable of moving the dialogue forward. Away from oppression and shame and more toward opening a forum to understand how people actually view the world. Oppression and shame can come AFTER those opinions have been shared, not before.
If we force the south to shut up about their true feelings of the flag, we lose any knowledge we may gain from their perspective. Perhaps it is their disenfranchisement within the Union as a whole, a symbol for a form of republican politics which is ignored, or a need to be proud of a once glorious past (ignoring the disagreeable parts). I will not know, for I am not a southerner. And I am hindered in my attempt to learn because my fellow northerners are ravenous in their attempts to silence contrary opinions.
Although to their credit, I expected nothing less.
Forcing everyone into silence does not stop racism or sexism, we need them to speak from time to time to understand where we are, and how far we’ve to go.
If you want to destroy Nazism you have to understand why people are Nazis. If you want to obliterate southern nationalism, you have to listen. So if you are capable of steping off your pedestal for a few moments and actually learn something, then keep the flag flying for a while longer, we may end up hearing something useful from the shouting that ensues.