Friday, September 8, 2006

Symbols and Meanings

Growing up in San Antonio, Texas, my favorite show as a kid for a long time was The Dukes of Hazzard. I remember playing with my toy car model of THE GENERAL LEE! and making that thing jump over all kinds of stuff like carpet runners, G.I. Joes, and occasionally my mothers foot as she was trying to cook something in the kitchen. I have a deep affinity for that car.

As one may remember, the car a Dodge Charger with an orange base coat, a "01" racing letter ingon the sides, the doors were welded shut like a race car, "Gernal Lee" letttering on the roof surroung a Confederate Flag (CF). As a kid I didn't think anything of the CF because as far as I knew, it was just like the Ameican flag except a different design and it was on my favorite car - THE GENERAL LEE! Now that I am older and have had people attempt to institutionalize their own thoughts into me regarding the CF, I came to the conclusion that I still love my favorite car - THE GENERAL LEE! regardless of how much other people want to construct a deeper, racially fueled meaning into the CF being painted on the roof.

This got me thinking of a few things. Symbols and meanings.

The American flag. I'm expected in school to pledge allegiance to this.

I Pledge Allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty, and justice for all.

All hell. So, the intent was that if I pledge allegiance to the flag I turn pledge allegiance to the Republic (notice, not a democracy)? So, if I burn the flag, I burn the Republic as well? If let the flag touch the ground, I let the Republic touch the ground? I can go to jail for that?! But...isn't it already on the ground? Ahhh...head cream headache-like!

The point of the diatribe above is that I've never equated the two. I remember doing the pledge of allegiance as a formality to get on with the rest of my day at school, not as something I took to heart. I'd look around the room at times and see people with their hands over their hearts, mouthing the words in a very unfelt action, doing homework form the night before right before it's due, yawning or talking to their friends, or just doing nothing at all and stare straight into space. I concluded from years of institutionalized observation that most of us could care less about the American flag and its meaning.

Is brandishing an American flag patriotic? Is it showing your love for a country? Is it representing yo' 'hood? If the answer is yes to all of that, then is it also representative of the person holding it? If one believes that bearing a certain flag marks you as a certain kind of person, could it be argued that the kind of person holding the flag exudes some kind of meaning into the flag as well? What does it mean when I'm holding an American flag versus and illegal immigrant? Or maybe a skinhead holding the flag? Or the President? Or Al Quaeda?

When I see:

I see history and childhood while others see racism and rednecks. I'm not offended when a flag is burned or sported. As much as I would like to say I'm beyond meanings with symbols, I get jarred a bit when I see a Nazi flag being flown and make my own conclusions. Even when I watch academics discussing Naziism and WWII in a museum of war relics, it still makes me wig out a bit. My "It's Just a Flag" argument is stopped dead in its tracks.

Perhaps society can remember these items in their contexts and conjour meanings without bringing emotional baggage along in the future. It'll allow us to move on as a society. For example, I would venture most people are not offended by this:

Currently listening :
Ultimate Waylon Jennings
By Waylon Jennings
Release date: By 23 March, 2004

No comments: