Statues As Symbols, Symbols As Triggers

Last night, four Confederate statues were quietly removed from the University of Austin campus in response to the recent events at Charlottesville.

The City of Baltimore had already taken the same steps, with statues having been removed across the city several nights ago, and no doubt the same is happening throughout other towns and campuses across America.

Regarding the act of toppling statues, there is much to be said, but I don’t have the time to say it all, and so will confine myself to the following for now:

University of Texas president Gregory L. Fenves was quoted as saying the reasoning behind his decision was that the confederate statues had become “symbols of modern white supremacy and neo-Nazism.”

Implicit in President Fenves statement is the assertion that symbols have power over people; real power, not imagined. For if they did not have the power to affect and influence people, what would it matter?

We are immersed in a symbol laden world, from symbolic cultural artifacts, such as statues and flags, to corporate logos and insignias, to symbolic acts and gestures such as the shaking of hands or giving of roses on Valentine’s Day, to the emojis adorning our text and social media messages, and so much more.

Our interpretation of a given symbol may be determined in part by our own cultural conditioning, personal history, or a shared set of values. Yet there is also a level upon which at least some symbols are considered ‘archetypal’ and suggestive of a more universal meaning rooted in the very physiology of the human mind-body complex that is our common heritage regardless of color or creed. [This article originally appeared on Continue reading here …]