Friday, July 14, 2017

Symbols Mean Things

As human beings, I think personal identity is an important thing. It is why religion is so important and why we create exclusive clubs, and put so much importance in professional sports and local high school athletics. In the United States, this idea of personal identity, answering the question "who am I?" is wound up in the dual question of "what is America?"

We tend to answer these questions with a variety of easily accessible categories with easily displayable symbols and themes. For example, an Irish Catholic American hockey fan from Boston may display shamrocks, rosaries and crosses, Boston Bruins logos, and American flags to show pride in his identity. The definition of a person, therefore, can be displayed in a series of recognizable logos, designs, colors, and symbols.

The one problem with summing up personal identity through symbols is when anti-intellectualism begins to blur the lines between what the signifier wants to say about himself, and what the symbols are actually signifying. A very good example is the redneck culture clinging to the Confederate Battle Flag as a symbol of freedom, good ole boy country living, and Southern Pride, when in fact it is a symbol of armed treason against the United States in response to northern states pushing for an end to slavery.

In response to this, I often find myself saying things like "that doesn't mean what you think it means", mostly to myself when I see stupid memes, or bumper stickers and flags hung from houses (or the backs of pick-ups). Here are some other examples...

Before I start, and before I get a large amount of hate mail from keyboard cowboys, I do understand how difficult being a police officer can be, or any public authority figure, for that matter. Most police officers are good people, I'm sure. Realistically, not every cop out there is a terrible person. Generalizations are indefensible. This isn't a police-bashing post.

This particular flag is used, presumably, to show support for law enforcement. Lately, it has been popping up probably in response to the Black Lives Matter movement. I personally do not see why it would be necessary unless you feel the need to show how much you don't support Black Lives Matter. But, let's just assume the person flying this flag really does support the police with no other agenda or desire to signify something else entirely.

The symbol, as shown above, is a combination of the flag of the United States of America, and the Thin Blue Line. The Blue Line is an analogy coined in the UK. Specifically, the police are the thin blue line separating civilization from anarchy.

On the surface, combining the two symbols together appears to be an homage to American law enforcement. However, I would argue it is a symbol advocating for martial law, one nation under the thin blue line. The American flag is a symbol of the Republic. and the Thin Blue Line is a symbol of Law and Order. Put them together and you have a symbol for a Law and Order Republic.

The emergence of the popularity of this symbol in conjunction with the Black Lives Matter movement aimed at police reform, ending racial profiling, and holding the police accountable seems more than mere coincidence. If the response to the goals of Black Lives Matter is to throw blind support behind law enforcement, the only conclusion that can be made is they support an untethered, self regulating law and order establishment, in short, an America ruled by an overbearing authority.

It's either that, or just plain old American racism.

I hate this symbol. I have a problem with any home made sign or bumper sticker telling me what to do. But this one I find extremely problematic. Perhaps it is just a cute way for parents to show everyone else driving behind them that they just had a baby, and they're super proud of it. I suppose that is a weird way to show narcissism. 

What I see, though, is a yellow street sign. Diamond shaped yellow traffic signs designate caution. They are posted to give warning to drivers with the expectation of slower, more cautious driving. So, this placard then would mean "there is a baby in my backseat, you all need to drive more careful". 

I call bullshit. First of all, don't tell me what to do, you aren't the traffic commision. Second of all, I didn't decide to have a kid, you did. it's your responsibility to keep it safe, not everyone else's. No one should be expected to modify their lives because you wanted a family. Third, your choice to procreate is a terrible reason for me to want to drive safe. I already figured out while driving I can only control my own driving, and no one else's. I have my own reasons to not drive like an idiot, I don't need your reasons also. 

Just as an aside, I also hate those "drive like your kids live here" signs, or those neon plastic children that look like they're about to jump into traffic. I am driving like your kids live there, like a normal driver not worrying about stupid little people running into traffic. Be a parent, keep them out of the street. Also, those plastic children are a distraction. 

This is a pile of poo. Let's get that out of the way real quick. It's not whipped chocolate frosting, or soft serve ice cream. This emoji is the shit. Literally. Like all things seized by pop culture, this thing has been put on all sorts of merchandise, including plush hats. I don't just mean the emoji is embroidered or reproduced on a hat. The hat is a giant poop that you can put on your head. I've seen kids wearing them. This means they probably got them from their parents, who either don't know what it is (plausible), or are okay with their kids walking around as literal shit-heads (actually, that is pretty hilarious). 

As a recap, conclusion, closing, or whatever, I'd like to see more people take time to understand the things they are trying to say, or advertising with the symbols they choose to promote, as unambiguously as possible. It's probably too much to ask at this point, but a little time and research into things could save a few dirty looks from the public. We don't all have to be Professor Langdon to understand symbolism, just take a few minutes to Google some things. 

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