You can tell a lot about people from the symbols they choose to attach to their bodies, their cars and their homes. In the Sixties, a generation wore long hair and tie-died clothing as the symbols of revolution. In the Eighties, Yuppies (Young Upwardly Mobile Professionals) turned to pricey brand labels and t-shirts from vacation spots intended to show their status and wealth. Today, those symbols have been replaced with symbols that establish our class status, religious beliefs and political leanings.
For example, anyone displaying the Gadsden (Don’t Tread On Me) flag is likely to belong to the Tea Party. A Stars and Stripes decal on a car almost always indicates a conservative. How angry the driver is may be indicated by an NRA insignia or a leftover “W” or Romney campaign sticker. A somewhat more subtle conservative indicator is the fish or cross symbolizing Christianity. An Obama, Hillary or Elizabeth Warren sticker indicates a Democrat. A rainbow or a = indicates a GLBT supporter. And a peace sign or “Coexist” almost always indicates a liberal.
“What do moderates display?” you may ask. The obvious answer is, “It really doesn’t matter, because they essentially no longer exist.”
So what brought us to the point where ordinary people feel it necessary to display their political or religious beliefs? After all, weren’t we all told by our parents that there are two things never to be discussed with strangers? Those are, of course, religion and politics. Obviously, we’ve transcended that advice out of, what I believe, is a sense of tribalism. The same sort of tribalism that causes someone to wear their school colors, the logo of their favorite NFL team, the branch of military in which they served, even the insignia of their military unity.
I would also suggest that the display of some symbols indicates a sense of superiority. What other purpose does it serve to display a bumper sticker warning others that the driver is subject to sudden rapture? Do you really believe that the rest of us are grateful for the warning? No, you want to tell us that you’re better than us. In other words, I contend that it’s a sign of self-righteousness. The kind of self-righteousness that Pope Francis addressed when stating that one doesn’t have to be Catholic or Christian to be redeemed; that one’s unselfish deeds is enough. If that’s true, and I believe it is, there should be no reason to show your religious beliefs.
And what is the purpose of displaying a decal of the flag of the United States? Are we to believe that its bearers are more patriotic than those who don’t? It certainly can’t be a mere label. We already know that there’s a good chance that they’re American because that’s where they live! I suspect that, like the religious symbols, the flag is displayed in order to assign a sense of self-importance. To me it attempts to say, “Because of my (conservative) political beliefs, I’m a true patriot and you’re not.”
In my opinion, we would all be better off if we threw away the partisan symbols and replaced them with a symbol of the Earth. That would indicate that we believe in true equality for all people; that we share a reverance for each other and the place where we live; that we have compassion for all sentient beings and we’re committed to protecting them.
Now that’s a sentiment I’d be happy to display!