Archive for the ‘Symbols’ Category

Service of Symbols III

Thursday, May 14th, 2020

1918 pandemic. Photo: designyoutrust.com

I wrote about religious and tourist symbols in 2011 and 2013 respectively. Some symbols, like the heart, dove, and owl that represent love, peace and intelligence, achieve their associations naturally. For 12 years I wore a school uniform–another form of symbol. We were asked to behave when out and about in NYC because we represented the school.

Masks in spring 2020 inadvertently have come to represent a range of things well beyond what the Center for Disease Control [CDC] attributes to them such as respect of the medical community that’s limping from overwork. It’s also a sign of cooperation with the effort to arrest a pandemic that is faced by the nation in some places more than in others.

1918 pandemic Photo: pinterest.com

Dr. Anthony Fauci told the Senate hearing on May 12 that “the mask should be a very regular part of preventing the spread of infection.” Note: He did not say “it’s more important in New York than in Oklahoma or North Dakota.”

The same day, at his daily news conference, New York Governor Cuomo said the mask means: “I respect you, your health, your privacy. And out of respect for you I wear this mask. This mask says I respect the nurses and doctors who killed themselves through this virus to cure people. I don’t cause more stress on nurses and doctors. I respect essential workers who drive the bus, train, deliver the food and keep lights on so I can stay home and safe. So I respect others.  The masks represent community unity.”

The CDC wrote on the nuts and bolts of mask use during this pandemic:

1918 pandemic Photo: tampabay.com

“In light of new data about how COVID-19 spreads, along with evidence of widespread COVID-19 illness in communities across the country, CDC recommends that people wear a cloth face covering to cover their nose and mouth in the community setting. This is an additional public health measure people should take to reduce the spread of COVID-19 in addition to (not instead of) social distancing, frequent hand cleaning and other everyday preventive actions. A cloth face covering is not intended to protect the wearer, but may prevent the spread of virus from the wearer to others. This would be especially important in the event that someone is infected but does not have symptoms. A cloth face covering should be worn whenever people must go into public settings (grocery stores, for example). Medical masks and N-95 respirators are reserved for healthcare workers and other first responders, as recommended by current CDC guidance.”

I am surprised by how many people in NYC wear masks. We’re a maverick bunch. Most don’t like to be told what to do–for example we jaywalk and cross against the light much of the time. An incentive is that most stores won’t let people inside without a face covering. Only in a potentially crowded situation are New Yorkers asked to wear a mask which may be why some still don’t wear them walking in the street.

Is the converse true: Does not wearing a mask symbolize indifference and disrespect in addition to creating potential danger of spreading a deadly virus? Do you say anything to people who don’t wear one? Do you think wearing a mask–or not–has taken on political significance?

Photo: sciencealert.com

Service of Tourist Symbols: Eiffel Tower, Tower of London, Lincoln Memorial, Grand Canyon & Statue of Liberty

Tuesday, October 15th, 2013

 Statue of Liberty

You know you’re in Paris, London, Washington DC, Colorado or New York when you see the Eiffel Tower, Tower of London, Lincoln Memorial, Grand Canyon or the Statue of Liberty.

“I’m really here!” I say to myself or to anyone who’ll listen and feel a thrill as I approach such sights. But many landmarks and parks haven’t been open to tourists here. Imagine traveling from 50 to thousands of miles only to learn that you can’t get in.

Grand Canyon National ParkAs of Sunday, the Governors of NY, Colorado and other states have opened their landmarks as much for financial as symbolic reasons. Businesses around the sights are suffering losses. [I heard one newscaster say that the Feds will reimburse the states for costs involved when the Federal purse reopens, but haven’t heard this repeated.] Cost to New York to open the Statue of Liberty: $61,000+ a day.

Visitors to the Washington memorials still aren’t able to visit. The West Point band didn’t play in the Columbus Day Parade this year. Note: The debt crisis didn’t affect the Congressional health club which remains open.

Are our symbols as essential as some of the services we’re missing because elected officials  on both side of the aisle have lost sight of their missions? Clearly not.

Yet I am appalled that so many of our proud symbols have been dismissed, disrespected and ill-treated by our leaders, men and women who seemingly won’t budge from their fierce positions for fear of diluting their own political images.

What do these closures say about this country to foreigners? The outcome of political inaction/gridlock is more than embarrassing and discouraging and symbolic of a system that’s gone off track. Is the damage repairable?

Closed door

Service of a Symbol

Monday, August 22nd, 2011

 symbols

Rabbi Arnold Resnicoff, an August 14 guest of Religion on the Line on WABC Radio in NYC, proposed an idea for US military chaplains that had merit and illustrated a spirit of collaboration and ecumenism that would benefit parishioners and congregants worldwide. If members of Congress adopted a similar approach as this retired military chaplain, all of us would profit.

priest-rabbi-ministerRabbi Resnicoff suggested that all military chaplains wear the same symbol to identify them as they did early on when any soldier or seaman, [no airmen then], would know a chaplain because he wore a shepherd’s crook on his uniform.

Today, said Rabbi Resnicoff, military personnel have no clue who the chaplains are. Christian chaplains wear a cross, Jews a Star of David, Moslems a crescent, but not everyone associates the symbols with being a chaplain. The rabbi pointed out that there are ministers of some little known religions with one chaplain in the armed forces who sport a symbol few could identify.

foxhole1He noted that in our military, a chaplain is called on to facilitate the ministry of other faiths making it important for a soldier to be able to identify him/her. If a chaplain jumps into a foxhole, all the soldiers in it become his flock if they want to be.

So in addition to offering counsel and assistance to any soldier, a rabbi might ensure that a Catholic be let off duty to attend mass; a Catholic chaplain would order matzos for the Jewish soldiers in time to eat during Passover, and so forth.

In fact, an Episcopalian chaplain was largely responsible for this Conservative rabbi’s vocation which along with his military service may explain his ecumenical predisposition. This minister wrote the recommendation that got him into rabbinical school, which he said was unusual.

Given the history of religious wars we’ve suffered for centuries that continue to kill thousands yearly, more men and women of the cloth should follow Rabbi Resnicoff’s lead and recognize that their calling should benefit far more than their constituents. Do you agree? Do you think that there should be a universal symbol to identify chaplains in the US Armed Forces? What do you think of symbols in general?

shepherds-crook

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