Skip to comments.8 Historic Symbols That Mean The Opposite of What You Think
Posted on 07/02/2010 12:05:55 PM PDT by RightCenter
If you want to motivate people, you don't rely on logic and reasoning. No, what people need is a symbol. A slogan, a flag, the face of a hero to stick on a T-shirt.
So what do you do if the real world doesn't provide you with something people can rally around? You just make that shit up.
Despite anarchists' general failure to unite long enough to make any meaningful progress against their ideological enemies (democracy, capitalism, communism and Internet forum moderationism), they do have a few running themes and symbols in common. One of the most prominent symbols is the 17th century English revolutionary, Guy Fawkes, whose famed exploit was his attempt to blow up Parliament in order to destabilize the British government.
The comparison is probably most recognizable to popular culture as the basis of the graphic novel/box office catastrophe V For Vendetta, in which a dude dresses up like Fawkes and brings down an evil dystopian theocracy. In recent years, through some bizarre online game of Chinese whispers, Fawkes has also come to somehow represent Internet teenagers' struggle against Scientology.
While anarchists may be right that Fawkes was the only person ever to enter Parliament with honest intentions, they've forgotten what those intentions were. Fawkes wasn't trying to destroy an evil theocracy, he was trying to install one.
Fawkes was a fighter for Spain and the Catholic Church. His goal was to end the slightly more egalitarian Protestant revolution in England by restoring Catholic domination. If the Gunpowder Plot had actually succeeded, Britain would probably look less like an anarchist commune and more like the fascist police state Alan Moore warned us about.
The Inverted Cross
Satanists, heavy metal bands.
Modern Satanism walks the narrow line between bona fide religion and juvenile attention-seeking farce; like the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, but with a lot more chains, hair dye and self-mutilation. Generally intended as a giant middle-finger to Christianity, Satanists deliberately adorn themselves with symbols that they think will inspire random people to try to give them a stern talking to.
One of the most popular Satanist symbols is the upside down cross, the reasoning behind which seems obvious enough. With the possible exception of that pentagram thing with the goat's head inside it, the inverted cross is the most immediately recognizable symbol of defiance against Christianity. It's certainly the easiest to tattoo onto your own face.
That's pretty hardcore. But there's only one man on Earth who is death metal enough to have an inverted cross carved into his own throne.
If those Satanists had paid attention in Sunday school, they would probably realize that the inverted cross is actually the personal trademark of Saint Peter, the first Pope, and one of the most revered figures in Catholic lore. When Peter was martyred by crucifixion he was said to have requested to be crucified upside down because he didn't feel worthy of dying the same way as Jesus. As a result, many dyed-in-the-wool Catholics actually consider the inverted cross to be a more acceptable thing to attach to your tacky jewelry than a regular right-way-up one.
By wearing an upside-down cross, Satanists are unwittingly showing humility and unworthiness before Christ. That makes about as much sense as a neo-Nazi sticking it to the Jews by swearing off pork for life. Take that!
Leftists and socialists.
Go to any college campus and you'll find plenty of Che Guevara T-shirts amongst the student body, especially in the social sciences department. Ask a cultural studies major with a minor in White Guilt about Che and you'll hear how he was an anti-imperialist hero. Ask them about Che's time in Congo and you'll probably get a blank stare.
While the Motorcycle Diaries and other pop culture representations have covered Guevara's early life and the Cuban revolution, it wasn't until 2001 that Cuba finally released for publication The African Dream, Che Guevara's diary of his failed attempt to export the Cuban style revolution outside of Latin America. Che's Congo adventure, which he himself called an "unmitigated disaster," was the tragic result of his attempt to force Cuba onto places that aren't Cuba.
Che sauntered into Africa after the assassination of Congolese independence leader Patrice Lumumba. Using the political tragedy as a rallying point, he hoped to launch a people's revolution. By "people," we mean "Che Guevara's people," because although the local rebel leaders considered him a white guy and didn't take well to him barking orders, Che insisted on leading the project with a bunch of his own Cuban mercenaries. His lack of faith in the Congolese people being able to learn how to operate guns makes scholars think he just "sounds pretty much like an old-fashioned racist."
But he looks so open-minded on those T-shirts!
Libertarians, Glenn Beck.
Glenn Beck has recently found a soul mate in Thomas Paine, the Founding Father known for his Revolutionary War tract Common Sense. So much so that he's gone so far as to rewrite Common Sense for the modern era, essentially stuffing words hand over fist into the mouth of a centuries-dead political philosopher for the soul-shriveling disgust Beck knows Paine would feel about Barack Obama.
Libertarians and tea partiers are so enamored by their new ideological BFF that they've taken to dressing up like him on YouTube and spouting off about the evils of taxation, weak foreign policy and too many brown people.
But Beck and his minions could probably benefit from actually reading some Thomas Paine. The guy whose 17th century ghost waxes emotional about 9/11 and congressional pay raises on the Internet is also responsible for these ideas:
"Pay as a remission of taxes to every poor family, out of the surplus taxes, and in room of poor-rates, four pounds a year for every child under fourteen years of age." Thomas Paine, The Rights of Man.
Huh, that sounds like the child tax credit created under the Balanced Budget Act of 1997, signed by. . .
"It is painful to see old age working itself to death, in what are called civilised countries, for daily bread... pay to every such person of the age of fifty years ... the sum of six pounds per annum out of the surplus taxes, and ten pounds per annum during life after the age of sixty... This support, as already remarked, is not of the nature of a charity but of a right." Thomas Paine, The Rights of Man.
An entitlement paying old people to support them for not working? That sounds like Social Security, passed by...
"There could be no such thing as landed property originally. Man did not make the earth, and, though he had a natural right to occupy it, he had no right to locate as his property in perpetuity any part of it." Thomas Paine, Agrarian Justice.
It almost sounds like he's about to say we should all share in the wealth or somethi-
"Create a national fund, out of which there shall be paid to every person, when arrived at the age of twenty-one years, the sum of fifteen pounds sterling, as a compensation in part, for the loss of his or her natural inheritance, by the introduction of the system of landed property." Thomas Paine, Agrarian Justice.
Holy shit! That sounds a lot like...
Texans, underdogs everywhere.
The Alamo was the site of the last stand of several influential American frontiersmen like David Crockett and Jim Bowie, against an overwhelming force of Mexican Troops. Though a loss for Texas, it inspired the revolution that finally led to their glorious independence.
As the Alamo's website puts it, "People worldwide continue to remember the Alamo as a heroic struggle against impossible odds - a place where men made the ultimate sacrifice for freedom." And what a freedom it was! Except for the 5,000 or so slaves who could now legally be declared personal property.
People who say "Remember the Alamo" conveniently neglect to remember that a considerable factor in the Texas Revolution was that dastardly Mexico decided to outlaw slavery, and that didn't wash well with the American slave-owning population, who needed them black folk to pick their cotton while they laid back on the porch sipping margaritas from coconut halves.
Hell, if you want an inspirational symbol for standing up for freedom against overwhelming odds, how about John Brown's Raid on Harpers Ferry? John Brown was a radical militant abolitionist who launched a real last stand for liberty in 1859. Taking along 20 other men, including freed slaves, he raided the federal arsenal at Harper's Ferry. By seizing the nation's supply of guns and ammunition, he hoped to initiate a slave revolt and uprising. As seen here:
Despite evidently being 12-feet tall and made of bronze, Brown's mission failed and he was later executed for treason, becoming a symbol and martyr for the struggle against slavery.
While we're on Texas...
The Slogan "Don't Mess With Texas"
Texans anywhere outside of Texas.
We've all been there: One night you're sitting at the bar getting trashed and trying to make eyes with a hot blonde at the pool table when you're interrupted by a guy who, despite the fact that this is New Jersey, is dressed in boots with spurs, leather chaps and a cowboy hat.
He saddles up to the bar, orders some obscure Texas beer he knows they don't have, and settles for a Bud Light. You try to ignore him, but he insists on striking up a one-way conservation about his life in Texas and how great the state is. By now that hot blonde has already left the bar, while the unaware Texan tells a story about the Texas Rangers and ends the story saying, "That's why we say 'Don't Mess with Texas'!"
While he thinks he sounds badass spitting out that tired line, the fact of the matter is he might as well be saying, "Give a Hoot, Don't Pollute."
The phrase Don't Mess With Texas is trademarked by the Texas Department of Transportation as part of their anti-littering campaign started in 1986. If anything, that proves that the only people intimidated by that phrase are Texans, thanks to the Department of Transportation's first strike penalty of sending a litterbag to the offenders.
And, while Texans hope the rest of the world doesn't know about the origins of the phrase, there are a few who remember the last time someone actually messed with Texas, which was the Union in the Civil War. Texas was on the losing side and fell without having many significant battles or any Union troops in Texas at the time of surrender.
The Slogan "40 Acres and a Mule"
Activists for Reparations.
You've surely run into this phrase somewhere, depending on what type of activists you hang around and what rap songs you listen to. For instance 40 Acres & A Mule is the name of Spike Lee's production company and record label, and the phrase turns up in songs by Kanye West, Nelly and countless others.
It's a well-worn symbol of America's struggle with racism--the broken promise by the U.S. government to issue freed African slaves each 40 acres of land and a mule after the Civil War. The idea is that 150 years after the end of slavery, African Americans are still waiting for that goddamn mule.
What many don't realize is that, rather than some unfulfilled land/mule redistribution program to make up for that whole slavery thing, "40 Acres and a Mule" was really just a temporary solution by a single military general who wanted some way to get all these freeloading black people off his back.
While General William Tecumseh Sherman's war tactic of simply marching across the continent and destroying everything he saw was pretty effective in shutting down the South's ability to supply itself, it also left a lot of freed slaves standing around smoldering ruins and wondering how they were going to eat.
As a result, many slaves had no choice but to follow the army. The logistics of supplying and protecting a large number of freed slaves was slowing Sherman down and cramping his style, so he hatched a plan to provide them all with 40 acres worth of whatever land wasn't apocalyptically devastated by his passage. This also doubled as an ample opportunity to get rid of his excess mules. Unfortunately, this was just a wartime measure--after all is said and done, taking people's property and handing it to other people is still unconstitutional.
The closest thing to an official free land program that freed slaves were really offered was the Homestead Act, which gave away 160 acres of federal land to anyone willing to improve it. (The number of mules was never officially specified.) Of course, they had to steal this land from the Native Americans first.
Chief Crazy Horse
Misunderstood By: Clueless white people.
To their credit, white Americans really want to make reparations to the Native American people for that whole attempted genocide thing. One of the most potent symbols of our bourgeoning friendship with the First Americans is that of Sioux chief Crazy Horse, the Native Americans' greatest badass. So progressive is this message that a project is underway in South Dakota to carve an entire mountain into his likeness, so ridiculously huge that it's less than halfway finished after 60 years of work.
While their hearts are in the right place, the irony is that the statue, conceived by Polish American sculptor Korczak Ziolkowski, was intended as a response to controversy surrounding his other great sculpting project: Mount Rushmore. It kind of misses the point about why defacing mountains in the middle of sacred Native American territory is a bad idea.
Unlike us Euro-Americans, who think out national heritage sites like Gettysburg can be made better by putting a Wal-Mart next to them, Native Americans are pretty satisfied leaving holy-enough alone. As Native American actor and activist Russell Means said in an interview: "Imagine going to the holy land in Israel, whether you're a Christian or a Jew or a Muslim, and start carving up the mountain of Zion. It's an insult to our entire being."
The real kicker is that Crazy Horse refused to be photographed in his life, and was so adamant about it that no images of him are believed to exist. So, carving a 563-foot tall sculpture of him that dominates the Great Plains actually kind of serves as the most elaborate "fuck you" ever conceived by mankind.
You can read more from Philip at PhilipRodneyMoon.com
Wow, that;s good.
Yeah, I didn’t know that about Thomas Paine either...dang near sounds like a Marxist.
interesting, but a little off the mark at least where Texas is concerned.
Don’t Mess With Texas - it was indeed selected as a slogan against littering. But what makes it a powerful slogan is it plays to the broad concept at already exists, which is Texas has a State Identity that is very strong, whereas, most other states have lost the concept somewhere after 1913.
The Alamo - please, the author needs to do more studying and stop thinking he is the smartest guy in the room - he is not. Like most rebellions, there were many causes. Texas was very sparsely populated and following Mexico’s independence from Spain, immigration into Texas from the US into basically unoccupied land lead to the majority of people have US culture and expectations. There were issues with Spanish and US racism, cultural issues, economic issues as well as governance issues. Yes slavery was one of many issues. But this author is not being accurate by pulling out one issue from 50 and trying to make his point.
Some interesting information here but I don’t understand why the Crazy Horse monument is on this list. The author believes that carving the mountain was a bad idea and quotes Russell Means as evidence that all native Americans feel this way. I don’t believe that is correct. Either way, the monument doesn’t mean the opposite of what people think it does because everyone knows that it was created to counter Mount Rushmore and give Indians a source of pride.
IMHO what Paine was probably talking about was the “landed” aristocracy, IOW, not pro-Marxist and anti-capitalist, but instead anti-aristocrat. So that part of this author’s criticism is misleading.
Yeah, and apparently someone from Texas peed in his coffee.
All of Mexico was in upheaval over the abolition of the 1824 constitution. Some factions wanted federalism, others wanted dictatorship.
The revolt wasn't just about slavery, and Texas wasn't the only province in revolt. More than anything else, Texas wanted separate statehood from Coahuila, and a new constitution based on the old one from 1824.
IIRC, Thomas Paine is one of the Founding Fathers that liberals most admire.
Might be more appropriate as Europeans misunderstanding Indian culture and religion.
Indeed correct Paine was advocating redress from Grievances from England. Not a mode of law to be imposed by the citizens of an independent country on itself. I think the Author needs to re-read Common sense in its entiorety and just pull out selected quotes.
The central government of Mexico rescinded the lands granted to those who moved to Texas from the United States, intending to turf these folks off without compensating them for the improvements made.
Additionally the central government rescinded most rights of self-government in the state of Texas & Cohila, including trial by jury and the right to select local officials (including mayors). This led the Tejanos to make common cause with the Anglos. About one-eighth of the Alamo garrison were Tejano, as was one of the officers in the garrison (Juan Seguin — who was dispatched to carry a call for help prior to the final day of the siege), as were a company of the Texian Army at the San Jacinto.
Incidentally, the Texas War of Independence was the second of five revolts against the central government of Mexico, and the only one that succeeded in gaining independence for a Mexican state.
Heh heh heh... I just like that part. Land/mule redistribution program... ;D
Probably the Texan that sidled up to him at the bar. If that was me, I would have peed in his coffee too. Just sayin’.
Paine called for the French Revolutionaries to invade England.
“Yes slavery was one of many issues. But this author is not being accurate by pulling out one issue from 50 and trying to make his point.”
Tell me about it, I’m from the cradle of the confederacy, born, raised and picked cotton within ten miles of the site of the first secession meeting. Confederate veterans on both sides of my family tree. I laugh at the clowns who think Lincoln’s whole focus was to do away with slavery.
History lessons from a moron. The phrase is "sidles up to the bar." Back to grade school for the idiot that wrote that.
I think his only point is the irony of having big head of Crazy Horse when Crazy Horse himself didn’t want to have his picture taken. So, was he like Mohammad, then?
Some good mixed in with the some horridly biased retellings of stories.
For example, Fawkes is indeed an anarchist, of a very long standing type. The type that sees a period of anarchy as a necessary phase between governments.
Thomas Paine was also right, by natural law, in insisting that a civilized society has a duty to the most poor in it. In our American ideal, that is, by the intent of the Framers of the Constitution, that duty was to be carried out by the STATES, and the Federal Government had no authority granted it to do so. Grover Cleveland’s famous rejection of Congress’ attempt to provide federal relief after a drought in Texas is a noted example of that lack of Constitutional authority to provide such social distress or local emergency relief. It was usual in the times of the Founders for counties, towns and states to provide poorhouses, paltry sustenance doles for the extremely old or poor.
Not surprising. The Rights of Man calls for income distribution and The Age of Reason attacks the Bible.
Paine was very popular before and during the Revolution because of Common Sense and The Crisis, but became wildly unpopular afterwards because of his increasingly radical views. New York City named a street in his honor and then quickly re-named it.
Don't blame you. Lincoln made it quite clear that his overriding priority was to preserve the union, not end slavery. That did not necessarily mean that he favored slavery.
I was going to comment but saw yours. Right on the mark for what I would have said.
You complete me..... LOL
Thomas Paine went off his rocker after the Revolution- to the point that none of the Founding Fathers wanted to have anything to do with him.
The author misses the point that virtually everyone under Mexico's authority was a slave to a very despotic tyranny.
Bah! The real travesty is carving a massive monument in a mountain of someone whose people couldn't in a thousand years have done much more than scrape his stick figure onto the side of a rock.
it sounds better than Openly Mock Minnesota.
Interesting article. Naturally freepers have pointed out a few flaws. :-)
I objected to the notion that Tea Partiers and Libertarians are saying there's too many brown people. That's nothing but slander.
bump for later reading
“That did not necessarily mean that he favored slavery.”
No, it doesn’t mean that at all. By the time the fighting started some SLAVEHOLDERS didn’t favor it any longer, they didn’t know how to get out of it. After reconstruction the sharecropping system turned out to be much better for the large landowner. They could exploit both black and white without having to buy anybody.
I happen to be quite a historian and an expert on all Injun matters thanks to the couple of hundred horsepoop and gunpowder movies I watched as a kid. So take it on my good authority that many Native Americans thought being photographed resulted in the theft of their soul.
Well, Paine was also a hard-core atheist. And not the simple Jeffersonian kind, but the bitter against God and all things Christian kind. Pretending he was some full-blown Marxist is misleading, but if he’s included among the founding fathers, he’s definitely the most leftist of the lot.
I’m not surprised of that. I knew some people in Indonesian village also hold similar belief.
As to the Alamo, little pissants like him have been trying to insult the Alamo ever since it became a sin for Anglos to win a war. Santa Anna was part of a group that overthrew the elected President of Mexico. When he came to power, he dissolved the congress and set up a military dictatorship. So those EVIL TEXANS he's talking about who were so terrible because they rebelled against Santa Anna were rebelling against a guy who overthrew the ELECTED PRESIDENT OF MEXICO and had him executed. Santa Anna threw out the Constitution of 1824 (the original Texas battle flag was a Mexican flag with 1824 on it.) He invaded Texas, and executed the military prisoners who surrendered at Goliad, some 350 people. When he lost at the Battle of San Jacinto, he dressed as a private and hid in the marshes.
He also found time to try and launch an invasion of Cuba, but didn't have the money.
Cracked has a bunch of little twits who don't know sh#t from shinola that post these incorrect, nonsensical lists.
The rest of his article is about as trustworthy as the parts I bothered to rebuke.
I want to know how you get to declare a whole mountain “sacred territory”. My tribe declares all of Las Vegas to be sacred territory. For that matter, the whole continent is sacred territory to us. So get off.
I thought Jefferson believed in God, or at least a creator?
Isn’t that a pic of Crazy Horse in the same article though?
Well, I've always thought of a deist as a cowardly atheist who wants to have things both ways.
There seems to be a debate whether those pics that purported to be his is actually Crazy Horse or not. In any case, he —like many Native Americans— didn’t like to have his picture taken. So, to have a big head of his on a mountain would be ironical.
It is the same with Jefferson. It seems that he was in complete opposition to himself at times. I believe this is due to his being someone that truely wanted to examine things from all sides and the fact that he wrote constantly through his life. Opinions can change with greater learning. Jefferson, however, does not seem to have rejected Christianity as completely as Paine had.
As for Beck adopting Paine's views I think he said something about making an effort to take Paine away from the Left so they couldn't use him to taint the other founders.
I guess I’m ignorant as well.
Of the thousands of books I’ve read, I’ve never heard that phrase.
Considered me humbled.
You could be right about Paine. There was very much a class difference that existed in America, mostly perpetuated by the lack of education. Many of our pioneers and frontiersmen, lived off the land under conditions that were worse than those provided to slaves, but they had their freedom and that’s all they wanted.
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