Here’s a symbol:


It’s toilet roll printed with the American flag.  I may pick up some death threats for publishing this.

Here’s another symbol:


If you go to this website, you will find that the company advertises Union Flag toilet paper for sale for “the person who has everything!”  The only way someone would die in this case would be if they laughed their heads off.  It’s considered a quirky, humorous gift.

Back to the American symbol, though.  Americans are very protective towards their flag.  People can get into trouble if they “desecrate” their nation’s symbol.

In this article, there is a cute picture of a baby wrapped in the American flag.  Sacrilege, according to some.

Patriotic hero Sarah Palin has even been accused of flag desecration.

So, in America, at least, it’s best to be careful in one’s use of America’s symbol, her flag.  But in Britain, I’m still chuckling away at that Union Flag bog roll…

In January of this year some criminals in Paris, France, used the desecration of another symbol, Muhammad, as an excuse to kill over a dozen people.  Don’t get me wrong here, that’s no excuse for killing, but at least we can learn from this that some people can get upset when their “own” “symbol” isn’t used appropriately.

So, where are we so far.  In America people can get upset if the American flag is misused, and in the Muslim world there are people who use “symbol misuse” as an excuse for violence.

What on earth, then were some far right Americans thinking of when they decided to hold a “Muhammad drawing competition”?

It ended in bloodshed.

Defenders of the “contest” assert that it was an expression of “free speech”.  They even invited to the event Geert Wilders, a far right European politician who is due in court at some stage on hate speech charges.  Because in America, everything goes.  Except wrapping American babies in the flag, of course.

Anyone fancy buying an American Flag themed doormat?  Only $21…

I’m still chuckling about that Union Flag toilet roll by the way…


13 thoughts on “Symbols

  1. You are entering 1st Amendment territory. That has been clear as mud since the Bill of Rights came to being. Adding social media on top of it has made the game even more complicated. I have been reading a lot British writers who are frustrated with what is happening with Facebook, Twitter, and other social media outlets. I wish I could sum up what is going on in a comment section, but we are duking it out over here too. Maybe it is high time I do a blog post myself.

    • Yes, the cops will likely pick me up for posting the toilet roll picture long before they get around to dealing with any death threats that I may have received…
      My post wasn’t a particularly well written one (noisy destractions). What I was trying to say was that it is a case of recognising what ‘symbols’ mean… to the other guy – a question of perception. And in the free for all commonly known as the First Amendment… perception is considered to be frowned upon.

  2. We can get American flag bog roll here, and no one gets arrested for selling it.

    No, everyone’s perception is actually valued. That’s why it is such a free-for-all. The most intelligent person’s opinion is equal to the dumbest person’s opinion, so we have to work things out for ourselves.

    Not every kind of speech is protected. I am not an attorney practicing constitutional law, but from what I understand, as far as threats go, the courts are still trying to figure out what that means in real life. Imagine having to deal with that internationally where it is hard to pick up the context through cyberspace.

  3. I wonder if equating social pressure – via 1st Amendment freedom of speech aka the baby in the flag- with attempted murder aka objecting to drawing of Mohammed is a fair analogy.

    We Americans do take our symbols seriously. We also take all of our rights seriously – that is why it is frowned upon to desecrate a flag but no one dies over it. I may not agree with yours or anybody’s else decision to trample on the flag but I’ll defend your right to do so.

    What on earth, then were some far right Americans thinking of when they decided to hold a “Muhammad drawing competition”?

    Maybe pointing out the hypocrisy of some of the Islamic believers; it is amazing what they say about Christianity – what they do is far more so — they routinely kill Christians. They destroy Bibles, antiques and historical sites. Here some people simply drew images — and some Muslims were willing to kill over that slight – so much for the “Religion of Peace”, eh?

    Bob S.

  4. Hampshirehog,

    Is this really how you view the world?

    Someone saying “we need to kill those radical muslim terrorist hell bent on killing is” is the same as someone actually trying to kill others for using their 1st Amendment right – succeeding in the case of Charlie Hebdo in killing people?

    Do you really see no difference in calling for the death of those actively seeking to kill others and those who actively strive to kill other because the killers were offended by statements?

    • Nice avoidance. I don’t actually know the answer to my own queation, but I’m going to hazard a guess from her middle eastern ancestry, and the fact that she is a vocal ‘supporter’ of Christianity, that she is a Christian.

      You mention the matter of people MERELY calling for the death of their opponents and how that is simply an expression of their right to free speech. There are ISIS supporters (for example the people who run their radio station) who do exactly that. They don’t kill, they simply mouth off. In order to avoid the charge of hypocrisy, why don’t you go ahead and say that THEIR actions are perfectly acceptable?

      Why do you believe that Christianity is a religion of peace, when it’s supporters incite violence, are disrespectul and actually go against God’s teaching to not kill?

  5. Bob S., to be fair, Islam is a much younger religion than Christianity. Muhammed lived from 610 to 632 CE. So we are talking about a 1400-year-old religion. Well, where was Christianity at that stage? The Spanish Inquisition started in 1478. The last of the Crusades were under way. I don’t think the radical Christians could have been called “peaceful”.

    However, I refuse to radicalize all Muslims or Christians because most are good people who try to adhere to their faiths. It’s the extremists who make life hard.

  6. There’s a certain category of people who use the phrase free speech to defend stupidity and general offensiveness. The fact that something’s constitutionally protected doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.

    And they often overlap with the category of people who think free speech doesn’t cover people who use their free speech to object to what they (the first group–I’ve thrown too many groups in here and it’s getting murky) have said.

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