By Marc Kelley
Syndicated by: Montana News
Today, more than ever before in the history of our country, people are offended. Offended by words spoken, which are protected by the First Amendment. Offended by our statues and monuments we erected over the past 250 years. Offended by the music we listen to, our country's borders and to a large extent our political ideology. All of these things taken together, represent the history of our country, as well as, the culture of our country, and if you are looking for something to be offended by today, you will surly find it.
The liberals would have you believe, their vision for our country, looks to the future and everything positive, while the conservative point of view looks to the past and everything which is negative. Many of our elected politicians will tell you, this political tug-of-war began with election of President Trump. However, once again, the swamp rats of Washington DC on both sides of the aisle, are lying to us. There are very few absolutes in this world; yet, history is replete with examples of how, when lessons are erased or forgotten, we as humans simply repeat the same mistakes. Much like the petulant child who must burn their fingers a second and even a third time, before gaining a worldly understanding, of cause and effect, many people today, in very short order, will have very sore fingers.
To make matters worse, we are failing on a grand scale in teaching our children to communicate. Face to face communication has been replaced by texting, emails and the cesspool of questionable behavior, known as social media. Many people no longer value direct human interaction; but rather, covet the number of friends they have on Facebook living vicariously for the number of thumbs up symbols their latest post received, as conformation of their status in life.
Since the beginning of time, man has used symbols as a means of communication. Symbols have been used to warn us of danger, as well as, to identify safety. Symbols take many forms: colors, gestures, sounds and images, all delivering a non-verbal message to those who encounter them. These messages have become part of who we are as a society and are often interpreted very differently, based on our education, experiences and our expectations, as we encounter them. When we see a red, octagon road sign at the intersection of a crossroads, most of us would not need the bold "STOP" lettering to know, it could be dangerous to simply ignore this symbol. By the same token, if we would be so bold as to ignore this symbol, we certainly may catch the meaning of another motorist "flipping us the bird", after jamming on their breaks to avoid a collision.
Symbols are a complex method of communication, and can often have multiple meanings. They are used as the basis for forming judgments, making sense of the world around us; as well as, a means to identify others who share our societal norms. As creatures of humanity, we often use symbols to express specific ideologies, cultural backgrounds and social structures. Yet, here again, a symbol is not an absolute message, but rather, it will be interpreted based on the teaching of individual culture itself.
Symbols can be separated into three basic subsets: ideological, comparative and isomorphic. Ideological symbols are often defined as religious or nation / state symbols and convey a complex message, suggesting " what is the right thing to do." Comparative symbols, i.e your number of Facebook friends, project messages of superiority or inferiority. Isomorphic symbols allow us to blend in with others of like mind or social position and allow individuals and organizations to evade social or political scrutiny. These symbols are rocket fuel to those individuals and companies, pushing the concept of "woke shaming". Giving justification to invoking the label of "evil", on anyone who would disagree with their idea of racial and social injustices.
We have become obsessed with symbols and the meanings we have assigned to them. The problem with this obsession, is one of interpretation. The same symbol can carry varying and distinct meanings to different individuals; again, based upon their education and cultural identification. Sadly, symbols are perhaps the easiest form of communication to pervert and maliciously malign with causes, movements and ideologies. No better example of this perversion can be seen than in the subversion done by the Nazi Party, to the ancient Sanskrit symbol, the swastika. For over 12,000 years this ancient symbol was used as an icon to convey "good luck and well being"; yet in a relative blink of an eye, in 1920, the symbol was adopted as the official emblem of the Nazi Party, changing forever, what was a good and honorable symbol, into one of hate.
Today, one of the culturally accepted norms surrounding symbols, is to attack, not only the symbol itself, but the person or organization who associates themselves with that symbol. You certainly do not have far to look to find a liberal to explain the meaning of the MAGA hat. This symbol is so hated by the left, it has become synonymous with racism, bigotry, xenophobia and inherent evil. Anyone caught wearing such a triggering symbol, is fair game to be attacked by the mob of the self righteous. On the other end of the spectrum you will find a very similar visceral reaction by conservatives to the desecration of our flag. Many believe anyone caught disrespecting our flag, is automatically guilty of treason and should be run out of our country on a rail.
The Old Testament introduced the concept. "lex talionis", the law of retaliation, an eye for an eye. Yet, here again, by ignoring history, we have lost sight of the lessons learned from this archaic concept. The study of theology teaches, the origins of "lex talionis", came about as the result of ideologies common to lesser developed systems of justice, as they struggled to address the appropriate punishment for the perceived wrongs of feuding tribes and nations. The concept of "lex talionis" was found to fracture the fabric of otherwise civilized societies. Human nature is such, when we feel attacked and injured, we will inevitably strike out with vengeful retaliation. Unconstrained by law and order, this retribution was often found to be a more heinous crime, than the original affront, which precipitated the reaction.
Symbols, monuments and icons exist for a specific purpose. Reminding us of our history, the mistakes made and the lessons learned from those errors. In the United States, we have this pesky document we call our Constitution, and within this document is found the Bill of Rights. Our Founding Fathers fortunately had the insight to address the very wrong doing they endured, which ultimately justified their picking up arms against the British form of governance. The Bill of Rights are not suggestions on how to govern; but rather, a guarantee to the people of our country. If a tyrannical government should rear its ugly head again, We the People, will have the means by which to fight. If we choose to ignore the history of our country, we will surly repeat our many mistakes. If we ignore these mistakes long enough, we will once again, embrace the concept of "lex talionis". Should that time come, our county will not survive as an intact Union; but rather, we will become segregated into tribes and factions, fighting for a reason which is no longer clear, knowing only, we hate anyone who does not display the proper symbols.