Symbols and Substance by Robin Smith


With the ninth anniversary of the attack on America, September 11, 2001, there have been many discussions relative to symbols of various faiths, acts of patriotism and remembrance.


Most recently, the pastor’s threat to burn copies of the Qur’an to protest the Islamic extremists’ role in terrorism was harshly criticized.  In my opinion, the criticism is justified.  A few responses to the Florida’s pastor’s threat were rather enlightening:  violent protests in Afghanistan, flags and effigies burned in Pakistan.  Discussions on talk radio swerved into the “free speech” of burning a flag, the unarguable symbol of our free nation, with an attempt to paint only the actions of the Florida pastor as those born of hatred.


The “free speech” and “freedom of religion” arguments are now used in defending the proposed mosque within yards of the property where thousands of Americans lost their lives.  The area now known as “Ground Zero” serves as a civilian national cemetery for those who symbolized each of us, freedom-loving citizens, that day. 


On September 11, 2001, America’s symbols of liberty were attacked because, in the eyes of some, liberty and certain beliefs cannot co-exist.  Look at the selected targets:  Washington, DC for its symbolism of individualism and freedom unparalleled in the world and New York City for our financial leadership and prosperity. 


To pull all of this together, the symbols that we protect must not contradict the very freedoms, goodness and decency that serve as the bedrock of America.  Bottom line, symbols do have meaning.  Our symbols must represent and enhance the very substance of our freedoms, not be utilized by our enemies’ as mockery or in attempts to destroy us from within.  Remember, we all declared in 2001, “We will never forget.”