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Symbols And Their Meanings

The human’s capability to insinuate things out of mere simple acts is one of their most distinguishing characteristics. Since the eventual formation of their reasoning ability, many activities and philosophy in life have been greatly reflected according to how they react to a particular stimulus. In modern times, this attitude of people towards their portrayal of how they feel and think about a particular concept may be justified by doing symbolic acts. “Symbolic acts can play an important role in bringing negotiations to a close. ” (Cohen 2003).

There are many types of symbols and symbolic acts which pertain to the natural tendency of people to represent what has already been accepted as right, just, true and moral. These symbols remain the most crucial aspects in which an individual or groups may be able to express their thoughts without actually targeting the main course of resolution for a specific problem. As what have been experienced in the past, symbols and symbolic acts provide a greater outlook for observers to accept what other sectors of the society are dealing with. How do symbols affect the perception of the entire society?

The social structure in which people, even with varying cultures, are very fragile in terms of being inflicted with ideology. As a matter of fact, ideology is the main component which can stabilize or ruin a certain community or nation. The acceptance of symbols and other forms of materials or actions pertaining to a single ideology can be easily translated to numerous forms of interpretation. Even though there is a single altitude of meaning for them, different individuals have different understanding of things around the surroundings.

One of the most disturbing kinds of symbolic acts is the burning of the wooden cross. In previous times, such acts were primarily initiated by the Ku Klux Klan in the 20th century to send a signal to whomever the members want to intimidate. This was especially true in devising a psychological influence to non-Caucasians. In Europe, particularly in Scotland, the burning of the cross meant the declaration of war. It was like a communication act to which other members of the commanded groups will be able to see to defend their respective areas against intruders.

Most if the time, the crosses were established at the top of the hills to capture the widest attention among the public. However, there were also times when the burning crosses of small sizes were carried out from one location to another within the town proper. It would be very obvious that some actual members of the KKK were descendants from Scottish immigrants. However, there have been no actual studies whether they were the same group which brought the tradition to America (Wikipedia 2007).

Why do many people get very disturbed when they see crosses being burnt? Generally, the moral attribute and ethical standpoint of individuals may be rooted out from what they actually believe in terms of religious affiliations. In a specific scope, the cross is, most of the time, associated with the Christian beliefs and how it actually represents the very holy presence of Jesus Christ. Apparently, the current statistics is still showing that majority of the world population are somehow affiliated with the Christian religion.

Thus, there would always be a wider scope of influence if one sees a cross being burnt. The psychological effects of such act may vary from one person to another. However, for most people, it would be very blasphemous if they will see the most crucial symbol of their faith being turned into ashes. “The cross is one of the earliest and most widely used Christian symbols. In the broadest sense it symbolizes the religion of Christianity (and so appears at the top and left of this page). More specifically, it represents and memorializes Christ’s death.

”(Religion Facts 2004). When something is burnt, there is always the notion of destruction and non-regeneration of the matter. Thus, if the Christian’s symbolic piece undergoes such state, it would be very insulting to the actual faith values of the Christians. Apparently, the proponents of burning a cross would want to send a signal that above all else, even at the very strength of the religious faith, nothing can be done. On the other hand, for those who are not really offended in terms of religious factors, a cross symbolizes punishment, intimidation and even death.

All rational people know that death is inevitable and most of them fear the day that it comes to their lives. Therefore, if someone sees a burning cross, the fear of death can be increased tenfold. The fire on the cross may well mean harsh or painful experience. It is always a disturbing scenario especially for people who are very conservative about the topic. In modern times, the burning of the cross has taken a much wider infliction of influence. Today, whenever a group of individuals who has a certain ideology against the government or a country, resort to the burning of the flag.

Just like the cross, a flag symbolizes the entire constituent of the nation and all the representative philosophy of the population under threat government which it represents. At some points in time, burning the American flag was the actual resolution of some people who are not merely satisfied on how the government was actually lobbying for social changes and resolutions. If a flag is being burnt, it only means that there is a level of disgust and non approval of the initiator to what the general foundation of the country has been implementing.

In a wider perspective, there are also some radical groups in the international community who have been initiating the burning of American flag. Apparently, what these groups want is to inhibit their message to the American government about its policies related to its responsibilities to the global social structure. By burning the symbol, it registers a certain perception of non satisfaction of the people behind it. For such acts, even the government was not able to make it clear whether flag burning is really a representative of the entire nation.

“A proposed constitutional amendment to allow Congress to prohibit desecration of the flag has fallen a single vote short of approval by the Senate, a squeaker that left unresolved a long-running debate over whether the flag is a unique national symbol deserving of special legal standing. ”(Herald Tribune, 2006). Symbolic figures and acts are some of the most high profile levels of communication. This may be centered from a very specific domain of the society to a global realm of international responses. Now, the question is what will be the actual results of these symbolic acts and the possible consequences which will unfold in doing so?

In the light of those who initiate them, the feeling of satisfaction and guarantee that their message is sent will be exponential. Since these activities are usually done in public, more people will be able to acquire the most significant part of the message. As for those who were able to receive the information, it would cater to their minds of curiosity why has there been a process of sending the significance. It would drastically alter their intention to exhibit and probably initiate change within the society.


Cohen, R. 2003. Article Summary of Symbolic Acts. Beyond Intractability. Retrieved November 16, 2007 http://www. beyondintractability. org/articlesummary/10124/. Herald Tribune. 2006. Ban on flag-burning falls a single vote short. Herald Tribune, June 28 2006, Retrieved November 16, 2007 http://www. iht. com/articles/2006/06/28/news/notes. php. Religion facts. 2004. Christian Crosses. Religion Facts. Retrieved November 16, 2007 http://www. religionfacts. com/christianity/symbols/cross. htm. Wikipedia. 2007. Cross Burning. Wikipedia-The free encyclopedia, October 17 2007, Retrieved November 16, 2007 http://en. wikipedia. org/wiki/Cross_burning.

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