Marolt: Not confusing symbols with what they represent
Not many can say there is a statue of their father in the middle of town. That makes me lucky in that the odds are not great for that occurring and, yet, it has. It’s also lucky in the sense that I feel fortunate to have a replica of my father here to remind me of him as I pass through Aspen’s transit center on my way to the ski hill or lunch at The Big Wrap.
A plaque indicates they put up the bronze scale model of Max to commemorate Aspen’s first native-born Olympian. They dressed him in ski clothes and have him turning tight around a slalom pole. His face is partially mine. The artist didn’t feel she got it quite right from an old photo so she asked me to model for his countenance. Yeah, so that statue is kind of me, too.
I see in that statue a lot more than what stares back when I shave, though, and I think about a lot more than the Winter Olympics when I see it. My dad was right in the middle of an Aspen family tree that sprouted roots during the silver boom of the late 1800s and formed its trunk through the ranching era before getting all branched out in this skiing thing. I like to tell people that we had something to do with making sure the streets were paved and a few coffee shops were open when they arrived. You’re welcome! I’m glad you’re here, too.
That statue is important to me, it has special meaning, it evokes all kinds of memories and it makes me proud, but one thing I have never been confused about is that it is not my father. It is only a symbol. Nothing depends on its existence.
Nonetheless, let’s pretend somebody sticks a mustache on that statue of my father. I understand it’s in a very public place in the middle of a party town and stuff happens after the bars close, yet I’m sure that wouldn’t make me feel good. Depending on the day, I might even take it to mean this town has turned on the Marolts and, although we’ve had a nice run, it’s time for us to move on.
Now, let’s say a guy sees me seething at the sight, feeling bad and planning my own disappearance in the dead of night.
“Wait,” he says. “I put that mustache there on your pa. I didn’t mean any disrespect. It’s for Prostate Cancer Awareness Month. I did it to draw attention to an indiscriminate killer of many that not many are paying attention to.”
“Phew,” I say. “That’s a relief and a good cause in one! I bet my dad would support that effort. No offense taken now that I know your motive. What do you say we put a beard on the old boy, too, if you think it’ll help?”
You see where I’m going with this. A flag is only a symbol, too. It is not the thing it stands for. Flags can mean lots of things. They mean different things to different people. Most don’t come with instruction booklets, and the ones that do are demeaned to the extent the instructions stunt imagination, emotion and motivation.
So why the hullabaloo about Colin Kaepernick, Brandon Marshall and a growing list of professional athletes kneeling during the national anthem in front of the American flag in an effort to bring attention to racial inequality in our country? The flag, the anthem — they’re both just symbols. Racial inequality — who wouldn’t agree we should do whatever it takes to rectify that?
“It’s disrespectful to the veterans who have died to make this country free,” you say.
“Baloney,” I say.
First and foremost, the protesters themselves have said that they mean no disrespect to those who fought for this nation. Why not take their word for it?
Secondly, it’s presumptuous to speak for someone who has died on our behalf, much less all of them together. They understand things we don’t. How many fallen soldiers might support these protesters from their graves? I’ll admit I don’t know. For crying out loud, we fought the deadliest battle on American soil over the same issue these athletes are kneeling down for now.
Lastly, the American flag has flown and “The Star-Spangled Banner” has played at the end of every great effort this country has made to enforce justice, freedom, equality and the preservation of human dignity by whatever means are called for, passively or through the horrors of war.
These protesters chose the passive approach.
Roger Marolt wonders how many people would be angry if he knelt down during the national anthem and prayed to God for worldwide peace and understanding. Email email@example.com.
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