When you see a Nazi flag flying in America, it makes you angry. Why?
Because political symbols matter.
Throughout history, mankind has used colors, banners, and coats of arms to represent the political and cultural ideology of their peoples. Wartime provides an especially important use of these symbols. You knew you were being conquered by the Babylonians when you saw their Winged Lion flown above you, Romans when you saw their black and gold Imperial Eagle, Prussian Royal military when you saw their Iron Cross flying overhead. Modern exploration saw the banners of England, Spain, and France demarcate a world being carved up by colonial powers. These flags not only represented conquest of an imperial power but a system of governance and values which sought to assert its superiority over the population under its rule.
In short, political symbolism matters.
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Of all the musings over hieroglyphic-like symbols of the alt-right, there was one unmistakable political banner flown during this weekend’s chaos in Charlottesville, Virginia. The infamous Nazi swastika, the representation of pure evil in the modern world, was waved high in the peppering of marching white supremacists who clashed with their left-wing counterparts and plunged the city into a weekend of chaos. It should surprise no one familiar with the history of the swastika, that those who proudly carried it were willing to commit murder. The history of the symbol, which dates back thousands of years, is ironically overwhelmingly peaceful, but its adoption by National Socialists in Germany in the 1920s has forever marred what was once the ancient Indian symbol of peace. Commenters on all sides were right to decry the proud waving of a Nazi banner in modern-day America. It represents an unspeakable evil which cost the lives of millions, many Americans included in that grim total.@goldengateblond/Twitter
Chances are, you personally know someone, who in their lifetime, fought against real, weaponized Nazism. Perhaps your grandfather, perhaps someone you grew up with in your neighborhood, perhaps that person is still alive today. It is unfortunate that those who fought Nazism can see the banner waved on the America shoreline today, representing the same evil it did when it murderously tore through Europe, North Africa, and the Balkans, and threatened lives from Moscow to the Atlantic waters off of America’s shorelines.
While free speech protects even offensive speech in America, the proud clutching of a Nazi flag by an American is a despicable, historically illiterate act. Those on the right and left condemned the imagery along with the violence associated with it. This is a correct and positive step that should lead to an inflection point in America’s political dialogue.
For too long, extremists on both sides have attempted to normalize and rewrite the histories of political symbols which advocated mass murder, genocide, and total oppression of the people over whom they ruled. The swastika is one of those symbols. So is the flag of ISIS. So is the Soviet Union red hammer and sickle. So is the image of Che Guevara.
It should be troubling to all Americans who believe in a society of democracy and freedom that some of this symbolism has been normalized to the point that they are sold in stores and hoisted proudly during political rallies and even inside the modern American classroom.
For those who don’t believe that all of these symbols represent evil, here is a brief history lesson:
When you fly this flag, you’re representing a political system which systematically murdered six million Jews, “undesirables,” and war prisoners. The wars with the regime accounted for 70 million lives lost across the globe.
When you fly this flag, you’re representing a political system which systematically murdered its own people, political dissidents, and “undesirables” through execution or concentration camps, known as gulags. The oppressive Soviet regime came to power through a bloody coup in 1917 and exercised a death grip over most of Eastern Europe after World War II. The Union crumbled in the late 1980s, leaving in its wake broken, fractured nations and a horrific logbook of deaths. The war histories website, Necrometrics.com, has averaged academic reports on the overall arc of the Soviet Union and come to this conclusion: 56 to 62 million “unnatural deaths” for the USSR overall, with 34 to 49 million under Stalin.
Soviet leader Joseph Stalin was a bloodthirsty political savage for his communist ideology. Stalin murdered tens of millions, even by conservative estimates. According to the New York Times:
A Soviet weekly newspaper today published the most detailed accounting of Stalin’s victims yet presented to a mass audience here, indicating that about 20 million died in labor camps, forced collectivization, famine and executions.
The estimates, by the historian Roy Medvedev, were printed in the weekly tabloid Argumenti i Fakti, which has a circulation of more than 20 million.
The estimated number of deaths is about equal to the number of Soviet soldiers and civilians believed killed in World War II.
In all, Mr. Medvedev calculated about 40 million victims of Stalin’s repressions, including those arrested, driven from their land or blacklisted.
Although the bookkeeping of Stalin’s terror is an inexact and contentious science, Mr. Medvedev’s estimates are generally in line with Western calculations that have long been disparaged by more official Soviet historians.
Che Guevara was a communist Cuban mercenary during Castro’s coup of the Caribbean island. His image is now an item of a pop culture lore, idolized on T-shirts, music albums, and dorm room posters. However, Guevara is no idol. Historians accurately detail his life as a murderous, genocidal concentration camp-running brute who longed for a nuclear apocalypse. According to previous Independent Journal Review reporting:
- Che Guevara was a mass murderer.
- Che Guevara ran concentration camps that targeted gays and racial minorities.
- Che Guevara wanted to nuke the United States during the Cuban Missile Crisis.
- According to historians, Che Guevara wanted to commit acts of mass terror that would have killed countless Americans.
- Che Guevara hated America and freedom.
ISIS Flag:Screenshot/Wikimedia Commons
The ISIS flag is the most recent rearing of barbarous totalitarianism in modern times. The Islamic State, which at its height controlled a majority of Syria and Northern Iraq, is a group of bloodthirsty Muslim fundamentalists hellbent on establishing a Sharia law caliphate in the Middle East. The group became known for their barbarous, sadistic torture tactics employed against unbelievers, political prisoners, and other Muslims alike. The savage executions were often posted on social media to the horror of the greater international community. After a concerted effort led by American and Iraqi forces to contain the ideology, ISIS is now losing territory and is in full retreat.
Ultimately, those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it. We should root out these symbols of evil on the left and the right and be intellectually honest enough to rid our political and public arena of the banners of totalitarian, mass-murderers. These symbols are not “rebellious” or “edgy” — they are downright un-American.