About Historic Symbols
By Roy D. Follendore
Copyright (c) 2003 By RDFollendoreIII
January 14, 2003
definition one may be considered to be "sententious" when you are
inclined to excessively moralize things and given to pithy aphorisms. I
don't have a problem with that. That is pretty much intelligent essays have
always been about. But being moral is not necessarily the same thing as
having a moral. I freely admit that I tend toward sententious ideas that I write
about and I think that in writing a degree of excess is far superior to a
vacuum. There is nothing wrong with having moral basis in your writing.
Having a moral to an essay is important. The moral is pretty much what
allows ideas to be uncovered and allows it to be told. But to be able to
effectively relate the moral of ideas you need to have symbols, even though some
symbols may not be liked very much. An essay writer is a kind of
storyteller and to have a hero or a storyteller needs villains. The Devil is the
ultimate villain and the extreme contrast in any story is of course the classic relationship
between God and the Devil. In a symbolic way, these two deities are the physical
embodiment of emotional love and hate. Within every morality play there is a
symbolic theme that uses the extremes of representation allowing us to easily
love one symbol and hate another. It is a tool that we see politicians and
news media use every day so that we can be pulled into their view of loving one
symbol and hating another without our need to think for ourselves.
suppose there are symbols I deliberately choose to hate if I really wanted to
dwell on morally narrow aspects of history. Long ago, parts of my family
lead the Revolutionary war. During the Revolutionary war the British
slaughtered Americans in Battle, raped our women, killed our children and burned
or took over their homes. My wife is part Native American. The U.S. Army
under the American flag drove her ancestors off of their land, and killed
thousands on the trail of tears. Then America slaughtered Native American women
and children at Wounded Knee. They pinned her people in prisons and what were
essentially concentration camps and then starved and froze them. I
probably have every right to be sensitive about flying the British flag on
American soil. But when you come to think of it, my wife probably has even
more right to be sensitive about the American flag than I do about the British
the surprising thing should be that from the strictly moral view should probably
be that neither my wife nor I harbor hate or animosity towards these symbols.
To the contrary, we both choose embrace them for their positive contributions
rather than the negative. For us the reason is as simple as the fact that life
is about acceptance, forgiveness of the past in contemplation of striving to
make a better future for all. The wholeness of time changes all of mankind’s
perceptions about the underlying morals related to historic events, though it
can never change the actual historic existence and consequence of events.
But some people do seem to want to try to hide, eliminate and rearrange history
for their own purposes and ends rather than accepting it for what it was.
It does not seem to make any difference that none of us were there during the
Revolutionary war or during the trail of tears. We also were not there
during the Civil War. We may either accept the historical motives for what
the people who lived then said they were or create historical fiction. We
can make believe that we understand what happened to people in historical
circumstance but it is not the same as being there. The fact is that
that there are people who dig up dead ideas in order to deliberately create
their own version of history. We live in a time of revisionist history
makers who place today's values on yesterday’s situations.
Americans fought each other on Matthews Hill at the First Battle of Manassas
they were fighting for something more than their flag. Most Confederate
soldiers in the Civil War fought because they felt they had to. These
common men believed in states rights and less centralized government. Most
Rebels could not afford shoes to put on their bloody feet, must less the money
to buy, feed or clothe slaves. By the end of the civil war there were good
reasons why the two sides respected each other. Soldiers eventually learn
to respect each other on the battlefield. This is the reason why in the
Civil War enemy battle flags were so important to capture and the reason why
reasonable terms were given at Appomattox, Virginia.
flag does not represent any single idea, and it does not really represent good
and evil like we are brought up to believe. A simply represents the
bravery of a culture to exist over a particular period of time. The flag
of the 13 colonies is an artifact representing the American history of the
period. Though it didn't last long as a symbol, it was flown during some
of the most courageous moments of our country. That flag was also flown as the
colonies displaced Native Americans from their land. The stars and bars of the
Confederate battle flag flew as symbol of only three short years. The
American flag flew many more decades over far more generations of slaves.
It should be clearly understood that the President of the United States
Government did not actually free the slaves until well into the Civil War, and
then only as punishment to the states that succeeded from the Union. The post
Civil War history of what happened to the slaves once the United States
"freed" under our American flag hasn't exactly been very nice either.
all due respect and sympathy to those who are "sensitive" to such
symbols and to loyal Americans who love our flag, no symbol is immune to being
abused. When the symbols of our United States were taken into the
slaughters of My Lai, or for that matter during the indiscriminate firebombing
of millions in the cities of Dresden and Tokyo, and particularly during the
atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, we were not exactly representing the
best of what our great country is about. Our American flag became synonymous
with Americas possession and indiscriminant use of weapons of mass destruction.
The moral of this point is not in the condemnation of our shared history but the
simple fact that the shining moment of our flag as a symbol is as a
constructive, not destructive presence. Americans prevail through our
adversity and our faults.
exactly the same reasons, when some enemy or protestor of the United States
policy burns an American flag for the news media, their act does nothing to
tarnish the sacrifice of the brave who have fought under that flag. Of course
our flag deserves respect but in the end it is what it is. Our flag is the
symbol of that indestructible engine that represents the inalienable right of
free speech and in a way even enemies honor the symbol of what it is through its
you truly consider the issue of our flag as a national symbol, perhaps that
first line of our pledge of allegiance has got it wrong. It is not the
flag to which we should pledge. Our flag is only a mark made of cloth. It
represents our national identity, our indestructible common belief in our
Constitution, and freedom provided through our State and Federal government by
the Constitution. That recognition that we are willing to fight for
those ideals we believe in our hearts to be right and just, is that which we
should pledge our loyalty. This pledge is not only about ideals but also the
recognition that our American policies will be flawed and we expect them to be
because we do not propose that our leaders nor our citizens to perfect Gods. The
pledge we make should be to our unwavering faith that we Americans can and will
correct our mistakes and through our living symbols never forget those events in
our common history that made us whole.
truth is that the America people have always fought and died in every
conceivable way over different perspectives of trying to do the right thing.
Our flag means that there are no shortcuts to the struggle for freedom.
Had our ancestors lost the Revolutionary War to England, we might have
eliminated slavery much earlier without the need for the Civil War. In
hindsight our American Civil War was an inevitable and necessary part of that
struggle. The civil war was not fought over the issue of slavery as much
as the best representation of freedom. The representation of Confederate
flags that are flown over State Capitals and over battlefields in this country
as a representation of our history are symbols of the inevitability of truth.
sententious individuals and politicians who choose to make a "moral"
point of attacking and erasing historic national symbols from public view are
through their actions choosing to raise symbolic meanings from the grave. They
should be careful for it is they who are attempting to breathe life back into
such symbols and make them something different than what they have become for
terms of the representation of what this country has been through, and
particularly with respect to the issue of slavery, the Confederate flag is best
stated as a monument to the bravery that went into a dying by both sides over a
flawed and failed ideal. At the same time, is a symbol representing the historic
lesson of the period when our nation reestablished unity and overcame diversity.
The stars and bars of the Confederacy were made red by the blood of the North as
well as the South. If Americans are not allowed to fly and prominently
display this symbol then we are being asked not to remember that lesson for all
that it really was. These are old wounds but they are still there.
The rational concern that politicians and the process of distant politics can
not be trusted to represent the rational and traditional needs of the local
citizen represents the class of moral issues which initiated the civil war for
sententious thought within this essay is this. If politically correct
revisionists are allowed to rewrite history then our future citizen will only be
able to see the lessons of our past in terms of black and white.
Copyright (c) 2001-2007 RDFollendoreIII All Rights Reserved