I don’t hate you, though my shirt suggests I do
“Every act is an act of self-definition.”
If I hold this concept as true – and I do — who am I defining myself as if, when I engage in the seemingly simple exercise of selecting which articles of clothing to wear for the day, I choose to outfit myself with a t-shirt which displays a large rebel flag boldly front and center on my body?
Brad Paisley, in his new song called “Accidental Racist,” is asking us to believe that people who don large rebel flags on their chests do so because it is an announcement of their affinity for the southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd, and not because it symbolizes one of the largest examples of oppression, hatred, and racism towards an entire race of human beings.
Paisley’s recently released song has ignited a firestorm of controversy surrounding his attempt to address racism and whether his efforts were ill-intended or well-intentioned, whether it was a desperate grab for publicity or whether it was a sincere effort to soothe and heal some deep, painful wounds from the past.
The Confederate flag is one of the few symbols today that is both hated and loved, both vehemently denounced and proudly defended, both strongly resisted and loyally embraced. Of course, the flag in and of itself – the type of fabric, the colors and design — holds no particular meaning, as does anything in life. It is merely a construct of a variety of materials. Rather it is the meaning that we place upon it, the value that we give to it, that produces our experience of it.
Nothing in life has meaning, save the meaning we give to it.
The Confederate flag is only one example of what happens when segments of society cling unbendingly to external symbols that reflect an ideology or a belief system which, when held as absolute truth, serve to divide rather than unite. It would not be difficult to list more ways we humans do this. But I think the more important inquiry here becomes, if we have any interest at all in creating the kind of world which produces the outcomes we all say we desire, what are we willing to do differently? How are we going to redefine the ways we relate to and with each other? If we know that our actions could be easily and largely confused to mean something different than what our purest intentions are, why are we continuing to make that choice?
The title of Brad Paisley’s song plainly implies that the existing fallout of racism from those that came before us is “accidental,” that he should not be held responsible for his predecessors’ actions, nor are we able to re-write history.
Personally, I find myself only being able to accept those two statements if the person declaring them is not making choices and engaging in actions that continue to resurrect, perpetuate, and carry forward the same energy which created the historical events giving rise to and sustaining experiences of racism in the first place. We may not be able to “re-write history,” but what we are able to do is author a New Story.
And this is the opportunity we have placed before us: to decide, to declare, and to announce to the world this New Story which carries with it a New Awareness and a New Way of being in relationship with each other. We have the option of continuing to embrace an accidental life of random occurrences — a life which is happening to us – or we have the opportunity to embrace a life of creation and intention – a life which is happening through us — one which reflects our ability to see with transparency the perfection within each other, one which produces an experience of interconnectedness simultaneously existing within our diversity, one which replaces thoughts of separatism with feelings of Oneness.
Mr. Paisley himself makes the declaration at the end of his song that he is a “son of the new south.” I wonder if abandoning the choice to wear a symbol that is likely, or even holds the slightest possibility, to be construed as a statement of superiority, intolerance, and separation is included as part of his “new” story?
Every act is an act of self-definition.
(Lisa McCormack is the Managing Editor & Administrator of The Global Conversation. She is also a member of the Spiritual Helper team at www.ChangingChange.net, a website offering emotional and spiritual support. To connect with Lisa, please e-mail her at Lisa@TheGlobalConversation.com.)