This isn’t so much a blog post as it is a reposting of a couple comments I made today at other peoples’ blogs that I felt deserved the widest audience I could give them. My sincere apologies if you happen to have a weak stomach for all things regurgitated.
Subhangi, inspired by a post of Lauri's, wrote yesterday about some of the ways in which racial stereotypes are perpetuated throughout modern society and how people often damage the uniqueness inherent to their own culture by accepting and/or focusing too much on these widespread generalizations.
Here is what I had to say:
I think for me it comes down to the simple notion of love and hate – of motivations. Put simply, if you're singling out something specifically wonderful about a certain race of people, you honor that group by acknowledging what they have to contribute to mankind, but if you're selecting things you feel are bad and wrong, then you are using their culture as a weapon against them and your dishonor spreads to all of humanity. And as you've noted, it's no better just because it's packaged in a cute cartoon character.
On Flag Burning
KatieKat, having learned it’s illegal in her state to burn the American flag, wanted to know what others thought about flag desecration as it related to respect, patriotism, and freedom. I doubt my opinion will shock anyone who knows me.
This is what I wrote:
To my mind, the problem lies with symbolism or, more accurately, with the amount of importance some people tend to put on silly symbols. A recent example regarding the Catholic ritual of Communion illustrates what I mean rather well:
In an attempt to demonstrate just how silly (and, perhaps, how dangerous) baseless symbolism can be, scientist PZ Myers desecrated a communion wafer. To people like me, he was merely being mean to a cracker (albeit rather antagonistically). But to Catholics who have somehow become convinced the rolled-and-baked symbol of Christ's body actually becomes Christ's body, the act is akin to violent assault! The vocal response to PZ's perfectly inconsequential act was some of the most irrational and unintelligent crap I've heard in a good long time. He even received death threats… over a cracker… a symbol… a lesser representation devised to remind fractious humans that they believe in something bigger than themselves.
The fact is, the law wasn't written because it bugs people when a piece of colored cloth is set on fire, but rather because certain people are bothered by the symbolism of such an event. It's the message burning a flag sends that is reprehensible to them, not the loss of the flag itself. How dare anyone express such a negative sentiment about their homeland! But, see, if they make a law saying you can't say anything bad about America, it'll be thrown out as unconstitutional. Violates the First Amendment, right? So instead they take away your right to use symbolism to make your point. It's still a violation of the right to free speech, but it's convoluted by semantics.
In short, burning an American flag represents the very freedom the U.S. was founded on and if people valued other humans as much as they valued their insipid emblems and graven images, we wouldn't have any need to make such drastic statements in the first place.