There have been numerous letters recently debating the “meaning” of the so-called Confederate flag (more historically, the battle flag of the Army of Northern Virginia). Various writers have contended that the flag means one thing or another, and the one thing and the another appear mutually exclusive. Why? Because people don’t understand the difference between signs and symbols. A sign has meaning in and of itself. A “Stop” sign means “Stop!” But a symbol gains its meaning from the individual, not the symbol itself. I am a Christian. I usually wear a cross. To me, the cross means salvation. But to someone whose land has been destroyed by people brandishing a cross, it means hatred and oppression. To many, the U.S. flag means freedom. But to people whose democratic government has been overthrown in favor of totalitarianism by the CIA in our name (it has happened), it means anything but. Thus, the flag in question. Its meaning is literally in the eye of the beholder. Does it mean slavery? Yes. Does it mean heritage? Yes. Both. But not to the beholder. Symbols are like that.
Robert Andrews-Bryant, Boise
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