Big Battle Over Symbolism

“Symbols are a means of complex communication that often can have multiple levels of meaning. This separates symbols from signs, as signs have only one meaning.” [1]

Symbols like the Confederate flag have multiple levels of meaning. To put a symbol in words detracts from meaning. Words cannot completely describe a symbol.

Nonetheless people have been doing this, saying the symbol of the Confederate flag means “hate” or the symbol of the Confederate flag means “heritage.”

I don’t know if it was Michael Moore or President Barack Obama who first launched the attack on the symbol of the Confederate flag. On June 26, 2015, Obama delivered a eulogy at the College of Charleston, in Charleston, South Carolina, according to the White House’s web site. “Remarks by the President in Eulogy for the Honorable Reverend Clementa Pinckney” is the title given to the eulogy by the Office of the Press Secretary. [2] In that eulogy, Mr. Obama said, in part:

Removing the flag from this state’s capitol would not be an act of political correctness; it would not be an insult to the valor of Confederate soldiers. It would simply be an acknowledgment that the cause for which they fought — the cause of slavery — was wrong — (applause) — the imposition of Jim Crow after the Civil War, the resistance to civil rights for all people was wrong. (Applause.) It would be one step in an honest accounting of America’s history; a modest but meaningful balm for so many unhealed wounds. [2]

This was said by the U.S. President on June 26th. However as early as June 19, 2015, filmmaker Michael Moore said it was time to tear down the Confederate flag flying outside the South Carolina state capitol. [3]

So it is either Michael Moore or President Obama who has great power over stores such as Wal-Mart. On June 22, 2015, Wal-Mart said in a statement that it was removing “all items” promoting the Confederate flag for sale from its stores and its web site. [4]

Passions were aroused over the symbol! On June 28, 2015 even the local newspaper, which I call The Clem Kadiddlehopper Special, weighed in on the issue with an editorial. And amazingly for The Clem Kadiddlehopper Special, their editorial did not take the safe side on the controversy. Wrote John Foreman, president of The News-Gazette, Inc., the Confederate flag is a symbol. It suggests different things to different people. Foreman dared to express sympathy for those who are irritated about the attack on the Confederate flag. “Symbols are complicated things,” wrote Foreman. [5]

Well this is mighty amazing for The Clem Kadiddlehopper Special, which usually tries not to offend anyone in their editorials. For once, Clem had beaten me to the punch, in that it had figured out symbols have multiple levels of meaning back on June 28th.

Reuters is now reporting about a “backlash” beginning against the attack on the Confederate flag. A “backlash against its banishment from public landmarks across the South” is picking up steam. “That flag has a lot of different meanings to a lot of different people,” said David Stone, thereby underscoring the multiple meanings of symbols. [6]

I am a Yankee from the North. I think Abraham Lincoln was correct about wanting to preserve the Union. Yet even I somehow am feeling like I want to go purchase a Confederate flag! This feeling is hard to explain, since symbols have multiple meanings and defy words.

Maybe it’s that President Lincoln wanted to go easy on the South. If he had not been assassinated, the “Reconstruction” would not have been so harsh as it was. Andrew Johnson, who succeeded Lincoln in office, tried to follow Lincoln’s conciliatory plans, and for that Johnson almost got impeached. Wooed by both political parties, Ulysses S. Grant was “surprised to find himself such a good Republican.” (It might be in Grant’s memoirs where he said this.) Grant became President and the “Reconstruction” continued. Claude Gernade Bowers (1878 – 1958), an American historian, Democratic politician, and President Franklin Roosevelt’s ambassador to Spain and Chile, wrote The Tragic Era (1929). The book attracted wide attention for its attack on the Republican Party, which Bowers believed humiliated the South and corrupted the North during Reconstruction. [7]

Bowers – a Democrat – described how the South had been scapegoated. Union Leagues had been formed in the North during the Civil War. The Union League, circa 1867, “dispatched agents to turn the negroes against the Southern whites and organize them in secret clubs.” These “Freedmen” (freed slaves) were to be “taught to hate – and teachers of hate were plentiful.” The “passions, cupidity, [and] hates of the negroes were being aroused and constantly fed.” [8]

At one level of meaning, the Confederate flag became a symbol of resistance against hate. The “negroes” had been “taught to hate” by Reconstructionists and the Rebel flag symbol, in one of its meanings, signifies resistance against Reconstructionist hate mongers.

In the eulogy delivered by President Obama on June 26th, he urged, “an honest accounting of America’s history.” Was that just talk? If not, then can we discuss exactly why Abraham Lincoln was murdered? He wanted to go easy on the South, but a faction of his own party sought vengeance. (Background: Union Traitors Killed Abraham Lincoln, Ersjdamoo’s Blog, July 4, 2015.)

——- Sources ——-
[1] “Symbol”, Wikipedia, July 13, 2015.
[2] “Remarks by the President in Eulogy for the Honorable Reverend Clementa Pinckney”, The White House, Office of the Press Secretary, June 26, 2015. https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2015/06/26/remarks-president-eulogy-honorable-reverend-clementa-pinckney
[3] “Michael Moore says tear down Confederate flag in South Carolina”, By Ron Fonger. mlive, June 19, 2015. http://tinyurl.com/prodjrq
[4] “Walmart: No more items with Confederate flags”, by Ed Brackett. USA Today, June 23, 2015.
[5] “How we react to symbols,” by John Foreman. Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette, June 28, 2015. Page C-2.
[6] “Confederate Flag Supporters Rise Up to Defend Embattled Symbol”, Reuters, July 13, 2015 12:04 IST.
[7] “Claude Bowers”, Wikipedia, July 13, 2015.
[8] The Tragic Era, by Claude G. Bowers. (1929).

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About ersjdamoo

Editor of Conspiracy Nation, later renamed Melchizedek Communique. Close associate of the late Sherman H. Skolnick. Jack of all trades, master of none. Sagittarius, with Sagittarius rising. I'm not a bum, I'm a philosopher.
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