An observation (inspired partly by JoshS’s musings on Twitter just now) about how symbols work. They work via shared meaning.
There can be exceptions, to be sure. We can have our own personal symbols that we make up.
But what we can’t do is take symbols that already have a meaning, and deploy them in public, and expect the rest of the world to give them our own personal meaning instead of the existing, public meaning.
That’s especially true of symbols that are contested or political.
Like the US flag, for instance. That has a lot of meanings, but one prominent one in the past (I think it’s mostly faded away now) was an in-your-face love-it-or-leave-it brand of patriotism. The Chris Noth character on the original Law and Order always wore a flag as a lapel pin, and I took that as a hint that he was that kind of character. I could have taken it to mean something else, or nothing, but the obvious meaning seemed the most likely one.
It’s a simple point enough.