By George Smith
“Symbolism is the use of symbols to signify ideas and qualities, by giving them symbolic meanings that are different from their literal sense. Symbolism can take different forms. Generally, it is an object representing another, to give an entirely different meaning that is much deeper and more significant.”
Great writers and poets often use symbolism as illustrations to present a message that may not be altogether clear.
For example, was Herman Melville’s Moby Dick really a great white whale or a symbol for something in that era’s society?
In the “Rime of the Ancient Mariner,” an albatross is the symbol of a burden the man must bear for his action.
President Donald Trump, or someone putting words in his tweeter,is a master symbolist.
On June 19th (Juneteenth), Trump is having a rally in Tulsa. In case you are isolated and clueless, June 19, in many states, is celebrated as Emancipation Day.
In Tulsa, Juneteenth is remembered for a very different reason: In June 1921, the Tulsa Race Massacre claimed the lives of an estimated 300 African Americans.
According to Human Rights Watch, “More than 1,200 houses and 35 square blocks were destroyed in just one day. By the end of the massacre, the area known as Black Wall Street was decimated, and photos showed Black people lying dead in the street.”
Trump knows this history. In a statement, Trump campaign adviser Katrina Pierson defended the move.
“As part of the party of Lincoln, Republicans are proud of the history of Juneteenth, which is the anniversary of the last reading of the Emancipation Proclamation,” Pierson wrote.
Sure. Okay. Why Tulsa? Just why?
It’s symbolism of the most crass degree: Look what happened in Tulsa 99 years ago, and the president is holding a rally to push his re-election there… why?
Symbol 2: It was announced recently the 2020 Republican National Convention to designate Trump as the GOP nominee again was being moved from North Carolina to Florida, to Jacksonville to be precise. The date set aside for the start is August 27.
Ironically, perhaps, that date is the anniversary of the ax handle and baseball bat beatings of peaceful black protestors staging a “dine-in” at a city cafeteria.
The brutal attack that became known as “Ax Handle Saturday” occurred that infamous Saturday, The Youth Council of the NAACP was participating in a peaceful protest, sitting at a whites- only lunch counter until they were spit on and attacked.
Authorities stood idly by until members of a black street gang called “The Boomerangs” tried to help those being attacked, at which point some members of the police joined in the beatings.
The victims of the attacks ran to a nearby church, finding sanctuary, until the mob disappeared.
Does Trump know the history of these dates? To think that he does not would assume this administration is operating in a vacuum, or wants to ingratiate itself with white supremacists, racists and bigots. Or both.
Symbolism can be useful … and telling.
Trump’s use of symbolism in these two cases illustrates he is catering to his white’s-only-need-apply agenda and skewed picture of how he views America.
All believers of what America should stand for in these turbulent times should pray for a better tomorrow where race is not used as a wedge to divide the nation.