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A nation of laws, of men, or of symbols?

February 25, 2008

America is becoming self-consciously over-symbolized.

For instance, Ron Paul’s message to return to the objective law and principles set forth in our founding Constitution appeal to approximately 10% of the population. Appeals to symbolic abstractions, i.e., “change,” “hope,” and “victory” charm the masses. “Universal” is out there, but its appeal is dicey.

People who dislike thinking like symbols because they are interpreted subjectively, according to individual experience, while at the same time being universally understood. Symbols are great language replacements. And that which replaces language, replaces thought.

My neighbor, a former Republican, whatever that is, voted for Kerry in 2004 and will vote for Obama in 2008. I asked her why.

“I like Obama,” she said.

“What do you like about him? What issues does he articulate that resonate with your thinking about how the Republic should be governed?”

“I just like him.”

Senator Obama, wittingly or not, has managed to transform himself into a symbol, and, it seems, a likeable one to a large number of people. People express worry about him being assassinated. Why? Because he’s black? No, because he represents hope to people who are preoccupying themselves worrying about him. He has become a symbol of hope–hope people fear will be snatched away “again.”

With all due respect, this sort of wayward thinking makes me nervous. When I give the reason for my hope, that reason is in the promised coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, for resurrection and judgment. Senator Obama is not the reason for my hope. Even Ron Paul is not the reason for my hope.

Don’t get me wrong: if any candidate, or President, were actually assassinated, it would grieve and offend me viscerally, regardless of whether I shared his values of governance. Why? Because it would be a symbolic insult to the Republic. And because violence and death and such manifest disrespect for any God-placed sovereign are actual facts, not symbols, that offend me viscerally.

It isn’t like this is the first time an election has been low on thought and big on symbols. Bumper-sticker mentation, sadly, is what people are willing to commit to the sustenance of the government they have the privilege of electing. It’s just that I am always reminded how sad it is that we refuse to grow up and take responsibility for fulfilling one of the first principles of first-grade grammar: “A sentence expresses a complete thought….

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2 Comments
  1. February 25, 2008 10:38 am

    “A sentence expresses a complete thought….”

    What a radical and quaint concept. Of course, many now consider it (if they consider at all) merely a working hypothesis.

    “Change,” “hope,” and “victory” sound much more pleasant than weeding. But weeding is what we really need to do.

  2. February 25, 2008 10:47 am

    I deployed the chickens, who have no concept of change, hope, or victory, to weeding detail at 09:15. They remain occupied and are advancing toward the herb garden, which has significance to me that transcends the symbolic.

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