Coastal Post Online

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November, 2003

Deadly Symbols 
By Guy Meyers
   Many peace-loving, one-world seekers object that refusing to honor or respect the symbols-flags, anthems, pledges, oaths, etc. is going too "far." It is extremism.
   This may, indeed be a form of extremism, but is not extremism called for where we would like to eradicate every trace of cancer in the body?  Should we be content to leave a small number of growing cancer cells in an afflicted organ in the interest of moderation?
   To end racial segregation in a community is it enough to legally require equality of opportunity in employment, voting, housing, etc.?  Should we continue to tolerate public expressions of racial superiority and prejudice? Or is all prejudice-racial, sexual, religious, etc. to be stamped out?
   The very objection to desanctifying its symbols reveals nationalism's region of greatest sensitivity.  Under these symbols lie its deepest roots, from which sprout all its poisonous fruit.
   Symbols communicate emotions, not ideas, not intellectual messages. That is why any attack upon, or glorification of, symbols stirs feelings of anger or reverence.
   We may argue intellectually why world community with world law is preferable to the sovereign nation-state system, but we communicate nothing whatsoever if there are no listeners. Why should anyone listen who is content with things as they are, with doing business as usual?
   An attack on symbols, the emotion bearers, is an interruption of business-as-usual.  The anger and outcry aroused draws attention to the issue, to the previously ignored message. As it is debated it is considered, reconsidered, and re-evaluated. That is exactly what is now required to deal with the deadly disease, Nationalism.
   Only those who are afflicted with this disease, who see the nation and its symbols as somehow more sacred than a city, province, or other community, and for which human life must be sacrificed-only these will be upset at the de-sanctifying, dis-honoring, desecrating of national symbols.
   While we may sympathize with their discomfort, we see that it is the disease of nationalism, inherited through tradition, that is the true cause. Equally upset were those steeped in the tradition of white superiority when forced to deal with racial integration.
   An operation to remove an infected organ or limb was once a painful procedure. Fortunately, there have been developed anesthetics that prevent, or minimize the pain involved.
   We who would excise nationalism from the body politic are simultaneously challenged to accomplish this with a minimum of hurt feelings. We can and will make an effort to reach out to our opponents with gestures of goodwill and friendship. We must see them as fellow humans, brothers, sisters, fathers and mothers, hurting from the breaking of an addictive tradition.
   We have in common our love and deep concern for our children-for all children. Have we not at some time experienced the pleasure of holding a precious infant boy or girl in our arms, watched with delight a toddler, admired and encouraged a teenager, been proud of a young man or woman?  Can any artifact, be it a flag or  a ritual, or even our idea of a nation, equal the feeling, the deep knowledge of the sanctity of human life? 
   As we recognize the sanctity of all human lives we can accept no excuse to destroy some in order to uphold a nation. Our livelihoods, our harmless traditions, our freedoms can best be preserved by the creation of a community without national, racial, or religious divisions. To the establishment of such a community, with its more inclusive symbols, let us turn our commitment and loyalty.

 

 

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