by christie shumate mcelwee
“And when a small southern town finds a rope in a tree
We’re all once again trapped in the past”
~ The Age of Miracles by Mary Chapin Carpenter
flag (from Merriam-Webster.com)
1: a usually rectangular piece of fabric of distinctive design that is used as a symbol (as of a nation), as a signaling device, or as a decoration
symbol (from Merriam-Webster.com)
- : something that stands for or suggests something else by reason of relationship, association, convention, or accidental resemblance
- : an act, sound, or object having cultural significance and the capacity to excite or objectify a response
The meanings of symbols are often connotative in nature. What visceral response do you have to a symbol? Does it make you proud? Does it give you goosebumps? Does it fill you with dread? fear? pain? What emotions do you feel when you see the Stars and Stripes waving over a ball field? What goes through your mind when you see a swastika spray painted on the side of a building? How about a cartoon drawing of a depiction of a smiling Native American holding a tomahawk? A cross hanging in the narthex of a church? Or a burning cross placed in a yard?
Symbols are weighty in their power. They represent human relationships to cultural ideas. We are drawn and repulsed by symbols, but symbols change as society changes. Some are cast aside. Others torn down. Yet some continue to fly in the face of such change, screeching myths about heritage and tradition.
And when a noose is placed in the garage of a Black NASCAR driver, the power of the symbolism is on display for all to see. It says “Our flag is more important than your body.”
Throughout history, we have carried symbols into battle, fighting over land and religion and ideology. Each side believed in their cause, even if it was later deemed wrong.
What is happening now is a reckoning. We are attempting to face our wrongs and respect the pain of others. Flags, statues, and monuments are coming down. Demeaning stereotypes are being removed from products.
Yet…yet there is still more to be done: the name of a NFL team, a chant emanating from the stands of a MLB team, the state flag of a southern state, and many more examples of antiquated symbolism that no longer represents the collective ideas of its people.
And for every noose there are streets filling with peaceful protesters, rainbow Pride flags waving from porches, and a nine-year old child writing Black Lives Matter in chalk on her street. We are no longer standing still. This is the miracle.
Seems we’re just standing still
One day we’ll ride up that hill
In the age of miracles
There’s one on the way
The Age of Miracles ~Mary Chapin Carpenter