The neocon philosophy has many glaring weaknesses. One of them is the placing of symbols over substance. Remember the campaign ads of Reagan and his “Morning in America”? Then came Bush’s “Willie Horton” and more recently Obama’s lack of a flag lapel pin.
What these have in common is the glorification of symbols at the expense of facts.” Morning in America” with flags waving and happy little white faces beaming , freshly scrubbed and clean. What the REAL America was supposed to look like. Then came Willie Horton. Dark. Criminal. Black. No need to explain. He was the essence of evil. That evil loosed on the world by Democrats like Dukakis. Both of these campaign ads were effective. Both worked. Both distorted reality.
Then, of course , there is the flag. Even the flag pin itself has achieved some semblance of holiness to the far right. The lack of a flag pin on a politician’s lapel is tantamount to treason ! A disqualification for public office.
What is a flag pin? Really? A cheap piece of plastic or toxic metal painted with stars and stripes. Gaudy. Most likely made by child labor in some factory in Asia. A piece of junk. But it symbolizes the flag. And here is where the neocons go off the deep end.
The neocons, as I suggested in Paper#1, are lost in delusions. Their attachment to and misunderstanding of symbols, like the flag pin, reinforces that point. In their world view the flag is not a “symbol” of the United States, it IS the United States. So wearing a cheap foreign made flag pin identifies a politician as a patriot. Conversely, not wearing one means the politician must “hate America”. There is a logic to that, if you accept their faulty premise.
How many times have we heard some neocon pundit or politician pompously declare that “American soldiers died for that flag”? Utter nonsense. Silly and childish. Except within the narrow confines of neocon logic, where it makes sense. Symbols become reality. In fact no one has ever died for the flag. Thousands have died in wars, either wars of defense or wars of occupation. True. And the flag has been used as a banner for those wars. True enough. But soldiers do not die for it. They may die for freedom or for oil or to spread democracy or for corporate greed, but the flag itself is simply a prop.
It is this confusion of symbols with reality that leads neocons down logical dead ends. Example. The flag is sacred. Anyone who honors the flag is therefore a patriot. Anyone who does not pay lip service to the flag is anti-American. If Adolf Hitler pranced around with a flag pin today the neocons would proclaim him a great American patriot. If Jesus of Nazareth arrived on the scene and refused to honor the flag he would be condemned as a communist.
Does the flag stand for something? Yes. Generally, to Americans it stands for freedom and democracy. To many Latin Americans and Asians it stands for brutality and death. A symbol may have many interpretations. This is not to deny the significance of the symbol, but understand that it is only a symbol. It is a design on a piece of cloth. No intrinsic value.
The neocons have tried to convert what should be a symbol for freedom into a religious icon. A sacred object to be venerated and worshiped. It is a misunderstanding of the fundamental difference between the symbolic and the real. No different, really, than the fundamentalist Muslim response to offending the Koran. Both put the value of inanimate objects above the value of human life and freedom. Both would jail those who refuse to deify symbols.
This is just another one of the fundamental weaknesses of the neocon philosophy. The triumph of symbols over substance.