Human society is built upon our reverence or repulsion for symbols: the Roman Fasces, Jewish Star of David, the Christian Cross, the Muslim Crescent, the Nazi Swastika, the Communist Sickle and Hammer: emblems, tattoos, medals, logos, slogans, names–KKK, YWHW, Jesus, Allah, God, Khrisna, Buddha, flags… you get the idea.
The use of symbols have been effectively used throughout history to profoundly move the human species for good or for ill.
How must the hearts of the German people swelled with pride when thousands cheered Adolph Hitler before a theatrical backdrop of the spread-winged Teutonic eagle flanked by huge vertical banners displaying the twisted cross of the Swastika at the Nuremberg and Munich rallies. Just as Americans feel heart-swelling pride at our war monuments to fallen comrades and heroes on the mall in Washington D.C with the stars and stripes waving as symbols of our struggles to preserve our principles of liberty and freedom for all. The Congressional Medal of Honor, and other medals given to commemorate bravery or selflessness, are symbols of our regard for the deed performed. Intrinsically they are of little worth, but what they represent is priceless.
The Flag of the United States of America is our symbol of freedom for us and for others. Yet it is hated by others almost as much as it is revered by us.
It was under this banner that our government confiscated the land and property of the original inhabitants of this continent. It was the flag of the United States which fostered a genocide of ethnic cleansing that gave precedent to mass exterminations in other areas under other governments. It was under this banner that hundreds of thousands of human beings were removed from their ancestral homes and “given” “guaranteed” lands “forever” in Indian Territory. Yeah right! They heard that before. It was land that no white man wanted, until just a few years later they did want it and so the Oklahoma land rush took it from them, and then on the remaining land oil was discovered so they wanted what was under it too.
Once the vast continental lands were appropriated by the superior European master race, and the indigenous savages exterminated or subdued, another race, considered inferior and subordinate, was needed to do the physical toil of yielding the riches of the soil. So Africans were wrenched from their homelands by Arab Muslim traders and packed upon slave ships operated by the Catholic Spanish and French, and the Protestant Dutch, and English to serve their Christian masters in America.
For many, many years American slavery was condoned and even protected under the aegis of this starred and stripped banner, even while the polemics and politics raged on. Under the Confederate Stars and Bars, the South only protected slavery for four years. Then came Reconstruction, Segregation, Civil Rights, riots and rancor that persist to this day. Yet it is under this bloody banner that many have given their lives for the principles it symbolizes. American representative democracy does not guarantee perfection, only improvement. It’s up to us all to adhere to those principles in order to make it work.
When Spain gave the vast Louisiana territory back to France, and then France, under Napoleon, sold it to Tom Jefferson, they hauled down the French tricolor in the Place des Armes (Jackson Square) and raised in its place the banner of the United States, things really began to change for the people of Louisiana–particularly the Indians, and then the Creoles noir, Creoles blanc and the Creoles de couleur.
Next time: The Creoles and the Kaintuckiens, neutral grounds, wealth and the transfer of power, white gold, king cotton, slavery, politics, agribusiness and industrialization of the plantation system, new technology,—all next time on American Influence.