Symbols … A symbol is a mark, sign, or word that indicates, signifies, or is understood as representing an idea, object, or relationship. Symbols allow people to go beyond what is known or seen by creating linkages between otherwise very different concepts and experiences.
I was struck by an interview between Fox television hosts and Trump’s former campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski regarding, of all things, upside-down Christmas trees. For some reason, the hosts seemed to feel that Lewandowski’s opinion was of the utmost importance on this topic …
“There’s a new fad, Corey, we’ve got to get your insight on this. The upside-down Christmas tree. You can buy it for a cool grand at Target. …Americans are burning to know what Corey Lewandowski thinks of the implications of such a fad.” – Fox & Friends host, Pete Hegseth. (Seriously??? I am an American and I don’t care a whit!)
“You know, I don’t even know what it means to have an upside-down Christmas tree. It’s like an upside-down world. It’s like Seinfeld, it’s like the bizarro world. Like, you can be a U.S. senator after groping people on, you know, a picture, and no one has any accountability for it. That’s what the upside-down Christmas tree means to me. I mean, it’s everything that is wrong. Look: we have traditions in our country that many people respect, that we should respect, that we’ve passed on to our children. Look, a Christmas tree is one of those traditions. And if you don’t want to participate in Christmas or Hanukkah, whatever your holiday is, you don’t have to. But I don’t even know what an upside-down Christmas tree means.”
Co-host Griff Jenkins had one last comment …
“Cory, can we put you on record that you will inform us immediately if you learn that the first family is turning their Christmas tree upside down?”
“I can be sure that the first family will not be turning their tree upside down. They like this country and our traditions.”
Ridiculous waste of time? Sure, but it also says something about our current situation. We have come to view the symbols of something as the very thing itself, as worthy of the honour, loyalty, worship or whatever we feel the thing represents.
Take, for example, the Civil War monuments that have recently caused such a stir. In the South, they are seen as a symbol of the south’s loss of autonomy, the loss of their rights to … well, to own slaves. Perhaps by some they are seen as symbols of a war hard fought by young men, many of whom lost their lives, but to others, to those who are conscious of a growing racist, white supremacist movement in the U.S. today, they are seen as a symbol of racism, a symbol of hate. One side wants them left up as a memorial, the other wants them removed from public arenas and moved to museums, or Civil War battlefields. They are nothing but concrete … a mere symbol. Removing them from the state parks and office buildings does not destroy anything, but may save lives and keep the peace.
Then there’s the U.S. flag. It is a symbol of what this nation stands for, of the values of this nation. There is no reason to stand or place one’s hand upon one’s chest to ‘honour’ the flag, for the flag itself is, after all, a piece of cloth. If a person feels that the nation no longer respects his/her values, then there is no reason to stand for the flag. There never was … those who say we must respect the flag are substituting the symbol for the thing. Don’t tell me I must respect a $16 piece of cloth. I respect the nation, but the symbol is just that.
And the Christmas tree, upside down, lying on its side, or placed right-side-up in a stand, is but a symbol of a holiday. Christmas to some Christians signifies what they believe to be the birth of Jesus Christ, but it is a tree, folks. Respect the tree by leaving it in the forest! Respect the holiday, if you celebrate it as such, by living your life as you should. More often, Christmas is celebrated as a secular holiday by most. It is even celebrated as such by Jews and Muslims, not as a religious holiday, but as a fun, bright, cheerful holiday, an opportunity to see family and friends gathered together and to spend lots and lots of money. My own family celebrates Christmas, again, for the lights, the baking, having friends visit, and just the overall cheerfulness of the season, not only the single day. I prefer my Christmas tree upright, but if others with to hang theirs upside down, so what???
I would have been content to leave Civil War monuments up until white supremacist groups began idolizing them and the symbolism became one of hate, stirring a pot that is already a bubbling cauldron. As for the flag … it represents this nation, but only as a symbol. If you want to show your respect for the United States of America, try picking up trash in parks and along roadsides, try helping people in need, try not judging people based on their race, skin colour or gender identification. Try honouring the spirit upon which the nation was founded, rather than raising seven different kinds of hell because some of us do not feel inclined to salute a piece of cloth.
Symbols are just that … they are a representation of something, not the thing itself. This is my favourite symbol, but I recognize that it is just that … a symbol of peace … something I hope we can find again some day, for we certainly do not have it today.