Stupid symbols for stupid people

Expanded from the 12-12-2004 Daily Sparks Tribune
12-17-2004 Comstock Chronicle

What do the following have in common?

     1. Collyfornia Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger just vetoed a bill which would have banned sports teams from using aboriginal tribal images as mascots.

     2. For the second time in recent years, a local teacher has been censored for using Hitler-era German memorabilia as visual aids in a class.

     3. Eleven more states last month joined Nevada in passing constitutional amendments to regulate ownership of the word "marriage."

     4. Congress last week passed a Big Brother spy industry bill while outgoing U.S. Atty. General John Ashcroft gushed that "we are more free today."

     5. The City of Reno and the Club Cal-Neva are going to participate in flag burning.

ANSWER: All are exercises in emotional symbolism which, in the hands of blackguards and charlatans, becomes the most powerful tool for directing the dumb.

Don't step in that quicksand. You will be quickly surrounded by loudly rude and irrational people trying to outshout the others until their own thrashing shoves the muck down their throats as they sink into the oblivion reserved for the irrational.

Some have caved. Stanford University's "Cardinal" used to be the "Indians" after a brief flirtation with becoming the Stanford Trees. (I kind of liked that idea.)

I've never been a fan of the Club Cal-Neva's longrunning cartoon logo advertising "wild Indian slots." The artwork in question was largely stolen from the Cleveland Indians baseball team's "Chief Wahoo." Other than these, I've never felt offended by most of the Native American imagery I've seen used by athletic teams, but if tribal descendants were uncomfortable, I'd respect their wishes.

No more. Crusades against symbols are easy for people to hang their hats on because they are easily understood. You can motivate people to picket against the Yuma, Ariz., high school which nicknamed its teams "The Criminals" in honor of the town's principal industry, the state slammer.

Mathemeticians call it a binomial proposition: yes or no, pro or (sorry, Yuma) con, black or white. Reporters love it because they don't have to do any work to get their short-attention-span audiences to understand.

It's easy to write "protestors showed up in droves to oppose the surprising groundswell in favor of naming a new junior college's mascot 'The East L.A. Mothers.'"

That's simpler than writing "protestors showed up in groups of one and two to ask for a more literate discussion of the ramifications of a secret proposal by the undersecretary of the treasury to bolster the value of the dollar in international trade by limiting the importation of Chinese-manufactured sports team logos depicting Taiwan as a democratic place to live, work and play." (By the way, the big news out of China last week involved a boom in video games sanctioned by the government in which China obliterates Taiwan after the tiny island bombs Tiananmen Square. Lotsa symbolism there.)

As commentators across the political spectrum have noted, the whole gay marriage debate serves as a convenient motivator for the hatemongers when all it really comes down to is ownership of the word "marriage."

Former California Gov. Jerry Brown (such a master of symbolism that no less than Ronald Reagan adopted some of his techniques), once remarked that protestors were "just arguing over pieces of paper."

Always protective of what paper gets read in classrooms, local activists have succeeded in censoring a teacher's lessons about Nazi Germany. The crime for which the moonhowlers are demanding his firing: he left a flag bearing the swastika symbol hanging in his classroom for nine days. Nine days! Burn him at the stake and use the flag for kindling. (I will respond to usual automatic allegations of anti-semitism only from those who can prove they've raised more money to buy guns for Israel than have I.)

To all of those so concerned about symbols, please get over it and do something real. Arguing about mascots and artwork is a waste of time, energy and newsprint. People are going hungry and dying in the cold. Thousands are dying in wars of tribal greed all over the world. Land mines are blowing off little kids' limbs.

There is so much that needs doing rather than expend energy on mind control through symbols. That should be left for John Ashcroft's successor, whose first decision must be whether or not to uncloak the bare breast of the statue of Lady Justice at the U.S. Dept. of Justice Building. (At least the most vociferous boob is leaving.)

A couple of years ago, comedian Bill Maher remarked about the epidemic of toy U.S. flags sprouting from automobiles: "It really is the least you can do." Amen.

Instead of playing with symbols, go out and do something of substance to help your fellow man, woman, child or animal. Open a reservation casino and vacuum the white man's pockets the American way, through predatory business practices.

If you're really serious about swastikas, you may besiege teachers only after you've talked the U.S. Postal Service into removing the numerous swastikas which adorn Reno's downtown post office (built before Hitler came to power).

And about those tattered flags in downtown Reno: As I was taught in the Boy Scouts (before the paramilitary youth organization went the way of white sheets covering red necks), the proper method of disposal is to burn them.

Let me know when the protest is scheduled so I can make it point not to show up.

SEND IN YOUR NOMINATIONS. Please send me your nominations for stupid symbolism we can do without. This has the makings of a neverending feature.

Be well. Raise hell.


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Copyright © 1982-2004 Andrew Barbano

Andrew Barbano is a 36-year Nevadan, a member Communications Workers of America Local 9413 and editor of Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune since 1988.

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