Friday, December 4, 2009

“Have You Forgotten?” How Iconography and Nationalism May Have Blinded Us.

Written: November 11, 2008

Do you remember 9-11-2001? I do. I was glued to the television, and absolutely nothing could shake me from watching those horrific scenes. My country and my countrymen were under attack! I attended all the rallies, candle vigils, and flag waving groups that I knew of. I didn't know what to do, but I was doing all that I knew how to do -- and so was everyone else around me.

Everywhere we looked we saw new slogans, new signs, and new flags waving. We beamed with pride for the goodness of America! The nationalism was remarkable! We were a unified country rallied against a common foe. We were fixated on the television -- every possible second -- to find new information. We knew exactly who had attacked us and exactly what we were going to do about it; in fact, the news reported on who attacked us within the second hour of the first tower being hit! That's American journalism for you -- quick on the spot with every substantial fact necessary to make completely accurate and specific conclusions. Even the left-wing celebrities booed unpatriotic dissenters who called for more information from the Bush Administration before we rushed into war! Bush's approval ratings were through the roof as he led our country forward in response to the most tragic attack of our lifetime.

This heightened nationalism lasted over 18 months! We didn't need to question a thing, because we knew exactly what was going on. Government transparency was at an all time high. We knew the secret inner-workings of every major political institution and what they were going to do. We knew who attacked us, why they attacked us, and what we were going to do about it. We knew why we were preparing for war, who we were going to attack, and how we were going get the job done. We knew it all!

Talk of dropping the debris from the fallen towers from US Military Cargo planes on Afghanistan was heavily purported and met with national pride! Take THAT you fundamentalist-Islamo-fascists! You pissed off the wrong country! "Don't **** with the US of A"!

Those damn-slobbery French bastards were cowards for not standing with us, and we knew they only stood against us! We cursed the name of anything "French". "Freedom" toast, "Freedom" fries, "Freedom" dressing, and "Freedom" bread -- we purged anything "French" out of our culture! We even put a bill before Congress to officially change the name of anything "French" to "freedom" in the United States! Take that you unpatriotic French scum! May the Taliban and Al-Qaeda kill you all in your sleep!

When a few unpatriotic "Ameri-can'ts" questioned the war, we associated them with those who "denied the holocaust" and who "allowed Hitler to take over Europe". Of course Iraq attacked us! In fact, Saddam was pointing weapons of mass destruction at Israel and was going to sell these same weapons to others to use them against US. He had purged the Kurds and was laying waste to their people through torture and ethnic cleansing -- this was enough for us to know exactly what he was not only capable of doing, but what he was planning on doing. We never argued with the people dissenting (after all, it's ridiculous to argue with someone who obviously had dementia), but we argued at and around them. We just needed to show society how unpatriotic these people were for dissenting and the public would do the rest. How could anyone possibly question our legitimate claim to go after those people who attacked us?! Cowards all!! If they couldn't watch the television and arrive at the same conclusion we had, they're idiots anyway.

Then, something happened. We all started learning something different than what we thought we knew. The 'Mission' wasn't 'accomplished'. While the majority of 'conservative' mainstream media outlets continued to lambaste any 'unpatriotic' dissensions to the war, the exuberant nationalism and iconoclasm that existed for years subsided. Many Americans were left wondering, "What was that?" What had America just endured? What was that emotion that guided America's actions through what was now so obviously a blunder?

Iconography is a real thing. Fostering nationalism (the personal view of associating oneself with one's country) is a real problem that nations and states deal with in garnering support for political purposes. What is the definition of iconography? Simply stated, it is the promotion of nationalistic images.

The following activities are prefabricated nationalistic icons that are openly used to garner national support:
  • Resurrecting or fabricating a glorious pre-colonial history (used during the mid-1900's as the world came out of the age of colonialism and entered neo-colonialism).
  • Initiating a new educational system in which new national values are stressed.
  • Building the nation's military into a highly visible national symbol, and promoting the branches of the military as the most honored positions of any citizenry.
  • Instituting a national information service to carry the government's message through every possible medium to the people of the country and abroad (most often accomplished through political parties -- especially used in two-party systems).
  • Developing national sectional organizations.
The most recognized forms of iconoclast are:
  • Flags
  • National anthems
  • Heroic slogans
  • The replacement of foreign names with domestic names
  • Media (Any venue that will carry a nationalistic message)

Patriotism is necessary for a state to progress and continue moving forward. However, we should question whether all types of patriotism are equal. We puff out our chests with the iconoclasm "Proud to be an American," but do Latter-day Saints question whether the Nephites used the same type of slogan? We are told, after all, that it was pride that proved the Nephite downfall. Of course, there are two uses of the word pride, right? One denotes a wholesome view of self-worth, and the other denotes a selfish and centric individual who is haughty and lacking humility, right? This almost seems convincing, until we read the words of the prophets.

President Benson said this of pride:
Pride is a very misunderstood sin, and many are sinning in ignorance. (See Mosiah 3:11; 3 Ne. 6:18.) In the scriptures there is no such thing as righteous pride—it is always considered a sin. Therefore, no matter how the world uses the term, we must understand how God uses the term so we can understand the language of holy writ and profit thereby (See 2 Ne. 4:15; Mosiah 1:3–7; Alma 5:61).

Most of us think of pride as self-centeredness, conceit, boastfulness, arrogance, or haughtiness. All of these are elements of the sin, but the heart, or core, is still missing.

The central feature of pride is enmity—enmity toward God and enmity toward our fellowmen. Enmity means "hatred toward, hostility to, or a state of opposition." It is the power by which Satan wishes to reign over us.

Pride is essentially competitive in nature. We pit our will against God's. When we direct our pride toward God, it is in the spirit of "my will and not thine be done." As Paul said, they "seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ's."

Our will in competition to God's will allows desires, appetites, and passions to go unbridled. (President Ezra Taft Benson)
What is that spirit within us that creates "enmity" between us and God? Once we have it, how do we identify it? Can we be guilty of the same type of pride as the Nephites in putting so much weight in icons and symbols of nationalistic pride? Did the Nephites chant, "And I'm proud to be a Nephite, where at least I know I'm free -- and I won't forget, the men who died, who gave that right to me"? Was this their battle call when Moroni reported, "And now, because of this great thing which my people, the Nephites, had done, they began to boast in their own strength..."? (Mormon 3:9) How many times does the Lord tell us that he is the one that makes us free? (D&C 98:8) When we boast of our own strength, saying that we have – as men – made ourselves free, will the Lo
rd long preserve us who grasp at such a nationalistic pride? In the Book of Mormon, this boasting of strength is usually accomplished through military power -- a national and iconic symbol

Our flag is arguably the ultimate symbol of our country, but what does it stand for? Surely, it will stand for different things for different people. We might ask ourselves, however, whether wicked men have used national icons for wicked purposes to garner our support for their propaganda? We championed and heralded our heading off to war -- we thought the only way to meet the act of violence was with more violence. We didn't question anything, because the media told us exactly what to believe and think. We didn't bother asking if what we were doing was in line with true and correct principles (which preemptive wars are not (D&C 98:22-37; 3 Nephi 3:18-21; Mormon 4:4))?
And so it often seems to be with people, having such a firm grasp on things of the world—that which is telestial—that no amount of urging and no degree of emergency can persuade them to let go in favor of that which is celestial. Satan gets them in his grip easily. If we insist on spending all our time and resources building up for ourselves a worldly kingdom, that is exactly what we will inherit.

In spite of our delight in regarding ourselves as modern, and our tendency to think we possess a sophistication that no people in the past ever had—in spite of these things, we are, on the whole, an idolatrous people—a condition most repugnant to the Lord.

We are a warlike people, easily distracted from our assignment of preparing for the coming of the Lord. When enemies rise up, we commit vast resources to the fabrication of gods of stone and steel—ships, planes, missiles, fortifications—and depend on them for protection and deliverance. When threatened, we align ourselves against the enemy instead of aligning ourselves with the kingdom of God; we train a man in the art of war and call him a patriot, thus, in the manner of Satan's counterfeit of true patriotism, perverting the Savior's teaching:

"Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which spitefully use you, and persecute you;

"That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven" (Matt. 5:44–45).We forget that if we are righteous, the Lord will either not suffer our enemies to come upon us—and this is the special promise to the inhabitants of the land of the Americas (see 2 Ne. 1:7) —or he will fight our battles for us (D&C 98:37)to name only two references of many). This he is able to do, for as he said at the time of his betrayal, "Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?" (Matt. 26:53.)

We can imagine what fearsome soldiers they would be. King Jehoshaphat and his people were delivered by such a troop (see 2 Chr. 20), and when Elisha's life was threatened, he comforted his servant by saying, "Fear not; for they that be with us are more than they that be with them" (2 Kgs. 6:16). The Lord then opened the eyes of the servant, "And he saw: and, behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha" (2 Kgs. 6:17). (President Spencer W. Kimball)
Exactly who do we place our trust in?

National symbols and icons are appropriate, so long as they represent a righteous cause (e.g. Capt. Moroni's Title of Liberty); otherwise, we become as the people of Mormon who rely on our own strength and deny the power of the Lord. Iconography is a powerful tool, and it will be used on the American people again (Obama himself has already established himself as an icon). Internationally, our flag stands for imperialism and neocolonialism. Personally, I don't want to be associated to that symbol. I love my country and am willing to sacrifice everything I have for it, but I have to question how my flag and my country is associated to those ideas.
"Know ye that ye must lay down your weapons of war, and delight no more in the shedding of blood, and take them not again, save it be that God shall command you. Know ye that ye must come to the knowledge of your fathers, and repent of all your sins and iniquities, and believe in Jesus Christ, that he is the Son of God... This is written for the intent that ye may believe... and if ye believe this ye will know concerning your fathers, and also the marvelous works which were wrought by the power of God among them" (Mormon 7:4-5, 9).
How jealous are we of our liberty and freedom? How quick are we to see the counterfeit from the substantive? Let us be sensitive to the Spirit of God that will always tell us that it is the Lord that has sacrificed all and that HE ALONE makes us free.

Truly, our "fathers" were righteous men. They were men who the Lord had raised up for the very purpose that they fulfilled (D&C 101:80). We are not fighting the same cause they fought for! We have not remembered our fathers and their beliefs, their testimonies, their experiences, their persecutions and struggles, their hopes and dreams, their philosophies, or even the remembrance that they constantly called upon the name of God for their support!

"And now behold, I say unto you, my brethren, you that belong to this church, have you sufficiently retained in remembrance the captivity of your fathers? Yea, and have you sufficiently retained in remembrance his mercy and long suffering towards them? And moreover, have ye sufficiently retained in remembrance that he has delivered their souls from hell?

"Behold, he changed their hearts; yea, he awakened them out of a deep sleep, and they awoke unto God. Behold, they were in the midst of darkness; nevertheless, their souls were illuminated by the light of the everlasting word; yea, they were encircled about by the bands of death, and the chains of hell, and an everlasting destruction did await them.

"And not I ask of you, my brethren, were they destroyed? Behold, I say unto you, Nay, they were not.

"And again I ask, were the bands of death broken, and the chains of hell which encircled them about, were they loosed? I say unto you, yea, they were loosed, and their souls did expand, and they did sing redeeming love. And I say unto you that they were saved" (Alma 5:6-9).


Taylor Cane said...

Very well written. Have you ever thought of publishing your writings? LDSFREEMEN.COM would post this article in a heartbeat (at least I think they should).

Shiloh Logan said...

I posted a comment on "Vices Are Not Crimes" that is "awaiting moderation".

Seriously? A "freemen" website censors what is said?