Letter to the Editor: Living in a culture that’s quick to react


It seems that one of the great stumbling blocks to conflict resolution in 21st century American society is the perception that words and physical symbols have a life of their own. That a word (for example, the infamous “n” word) or a symbol (the Confederate flag) means anything in isolation (separated from its social/historical context) is a highly questionable notion.

The mindset and intent behind the “n” word vary radically among those who may use it: a KKK kleagle leader; President Obama; one African-American to another in a relaxed social situation. To accuse someone of racial prejudice solely on the basis of his uttering the word becomes, itself, a form of racial and age bias.

Similarly, the Confederate flag recalls not only a social structure that enslaved and exploited African-Americans, but also: a desperate commander attempting to rally his troops by hoisting their colors; or, when displayed in the stained glass of the National Cathedral, the genuine religious feeling of combatants who “read the same Bible and pray to the same God” (Abraham Lincoln).

We live in a consumer culture that accuses, unfriends, litigates, and boycotts in the twinkling of an eye. Think as I do, speak as I do, or by the power vested in almighty consumer choice, I will bring your commercial enterprise to its knees.

John Clem, Edinburg