Monday, July 20, 2015
Monday Musings: Symbols under fire
In the wake of the shootings in Charleston, S.C., the Confederate flag is under attack. Now, I’m not a southerner and really have no opinion of this flag, but to many, it represents support of slavery—specifically, black slavery. Do only racists fly this flag? Maybe. I can’t say for sure. But another side of this is that some people view this flag as a symbol of freedom from government control. That sounds credible to me. Would getting rid of this flag stop racism and violence directed at black people? Probably not. Racism is something that needs to be stopped at home.
The problem I have with the call to get rid of the Confederate flag is that this isn’t the first symbol to be twisted into something evil. I can think of at least three that have suffered this fate—the swastika, the pentagram and the cross.
The swastika is an ancient symbol, dating back to at least the Neolithic Age, and possibly earlier, and is believed to be a symbol of good fortune. It is more common in India, its name comes from the Sanskrit word svasti (sv = well; asti = is), meaning good fortune, luck and well-being. The right-hand swastika is associated with the Hindu god Vishnu, is a symbol of the sun and the Hindu sun god, Surya. The symbol imitates the sun’s rotation. The left-hand swastika (sauvastika) is associated with the Hindu goddess Kali, night and magic. It’s not considered “evil” and this form is more common in Buddhism. The swastika is also associated with the worship of Aryan sun gods and this may be why the Nazis chose it for their symbol. Whatever the reason, they turned the swastika into a symbol of evil.
The pentagram has a long history. The word “pentagram” is of Greek origin, but it’s possible the five-pointed star dates back to ancient Mesopotamia at Ur of the Chaldees. In ancient Greece, it had metaphysical associations. To the ancient Celts, the number 5 was sacred and this is revealed in Cormac’s Cup of Gold. Early Christians associated the five-pointed star with the Five Wounds of Christ. At times it represented the senses and the elements. Nowhere is it considered an evil symbol until The Inquisition when it was judged a demonic symbol.
We forget that the cross, another sacred symbol, used to be shunned as a representation of suffering thanks to the Romans and their penchant for crucifying their enemies.
So, is it fair to proclaim the Confederate flag an evil symbol and stop selling it in well-known stores like Walmart, Amazon, eBay and Etsy? Probably not. But as with everything controversial, it’s all about politics and being politically correct and not offending anyone. And I’m getting tired of it all. Maybe the Confederate flag has no place in government buildings, but to some people it has a deeper meaning that may or may not have to do with anti-black sentiments. I do believe people have the right to display their chosen symbols whether it’s a pentagram or a Confederate flag. What it comes down to is this: symbols have different meanings to each individual, and it’s not up to the government to decide something that should be a personal choice.
Kelley Heckart, Historical fantasy romance author
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