Spiritual and relationship expert, teacher, counselor, advisor, speaker, and writer James Gray Robinson


There is currently a huge debate raging across the United States regarding the use in South Carolina of a battle flag used by some Confederate armies in the Civil War. Supporters claim it is just a flag that commemorates their heritage, while critics argue that it symbolizes all of the bad things about the South. The problem is not that it is evil in and of itself, in fact someone not aware of American history might think it is a lovely flag. The problem is what people judge about it and associate it with. Symbols evoke positive energy or negative energy depending on the ego that is perceiving it. In this instance, there is a huge emotional gulf between the supporters and critics, primarily because the critics have played the “race” card and made this all about racial injustice.

From an objective (enlightened) perspective, it is just a flag. It is the meaning that we place on the flag that creates separation consciousness. It is the control that people want over others that makes this a battle over who tells who how to live their lives. When people on the outside begin to assert their wills and beliefs on others, resentment and defensiveness arises. Then the battle becomes more about separation consciousness, us versus them.

The whole debate over symbols ranges from religious symbols to spiritual symbols to political symbols. The use of the Nazi swastika continues to frighten and inflame people 70 years after the fact. The use of spiritual symbols frightens and inflames religious people. I wonder why a symbol can evoke such fear in people. We must not be very far along the evolutionary scale if we are prone to violence over the use of a simple flag. If anything, the Supreme Court has said over and over again that we can’t legislate symbols. The government can’t require the flying of the US flag, for example.

I think that we need to take a step back and take a deep breath. Everyone is getting so emotionally attached to their own political agenda that they have lost their sense of humor. Historians are still debating who was right and who was wrong in the Civil War. We either focus on the positive side of life or we focus on the negative side of life. We forget the concept of karma, we don’t have faith in the divine or the universe. Our egos have become God, and we want to tell people how to live their life. All this does is increase violence and conflict.

If something really hooks us, and we have a huge emotional reaction to a symbol, or behavior or thoughts, we need to go within and examine what we have to change to live a peaceful life. I don’t think anyone wants to be angry and violent unless they are provoked. What provokes us into violence will tell us volumes about how we perceive our past. We need to become masters of our emotions and our past or they will master us and we will remain victims.

We need to take the power out of symbols. When we react to symbols, especially violently, the symbol has taken control of our lives. Look at a symbol for what it is, just a bunch of lines, colors and images. If the symbol invokes a negative image for us, forgive it. If it creates a reaction in us, we should love it. We need to quit making outside influences control how we feel about the world. We should love each other and respect each other, not make every little nuance a major battleground. If we want to stop war and violence, don’t let symbols make us angry. That is where wars and violence starts. There is no coincidence that the violence in a South Carolina church where 9 people died came at the same time this flag issue has raised its ugly head. Wake up people!