I used to think that removing confederate symbols was in some way destroying or rewriting history but then I though, “Huh, You know what we don’t see any? We don’t see swastika statues around; not even the Hindu, Buddhist, Jainist, nor the Native American swastika.” We also don’t see statues or displays of pentagrams around much anymore. We removed those for the most part and yet we still know what they were. We know the weight they carried through news, textbooks, history courses and online resources such as wikipedia.
Power in Symbols
Good or bad, there is power in symbols. A symbol doesn’t care what its intention originally was. People, groups and society in general assign power to objects until they become a battery to charge beliefs. These beliefs can be beliefs that benefit others (good beliefs) or beliefs that hurt others (bad beliefs).
The swastika was originally a religious symbol of many peoples the world over. In some areas of the world, it still is. It remains a sacred symbol of spiritual principles in Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism. In the Western world, it was historically a symbol of auspiciousness and good luck. It was not until the 1930s when the Nazi regime came to power when its meaning changed.
The pentagram is now widely considered a symbol of ‘evil’ by many religions, including Christianity. The fact is that the pentagram was once a sacred Christian symbol. It represented the five wounds of Christ. Today it is considered a sacred symbol among the Wiccan religion.
We no longer perform the “Bellamy Salute” when saying the Pledge of Allegiance because of its similarity to the “Sieg Heil” of Nazi Germany. Civilians now remove their head cover and place their hands over hearts. Some stand with hands at their side when saying the Pledge or during the singing of our National Anthem. Military members perform a military salute during these activities.
How the Meaning of Symbols Changes Over Time
I bring up these historic examples because I want to demonstrate how a symbol can change over time. This directly relates to what is going on now. We are not erasing our history by removing monuments of generals and leaders. These people fought to leave the United States; to keep their economy, an economy which relied heavily on slavery, the way it was. Yes, they fought brave and strong for what they believed, but in the end, they were rebels. They wanted to break up the United States and create their own country with a major chunk of the pieces. Today we would call that treason.
A Reason for Removing Confederate Symbols
Statues and flags of the confederacy have become magnets for people of hate. People like the white supremacist who gathered in Virginia for a white pride rally. These symbols have been growing in strength in the last few years and not in a good way. Perhaps, like the swastika and the pentagram, we should abandon these symbols as well. We should not abandon them through violence or vandalism, but through a legal process. Lets let the majority agree on what they symbolize and what should be done with them. Perhaps removing confederate symbols is the appropriate thing to do. They are not serving anyone any good anymore; they are only bringing trouble.