Each human being has an innate need to communicate with others. He or she also has a deep yearning to understand what another is attempting to convey, and to be validated on a personal level that he or she has been understood.
Communication, of course, frequently involves language. But the communication companion to language is the symbol, which may take the form of a language-based sign, pictorial sign, hand or facial gesture, clothing, shoes, an accessory such as a hat, jewelry such as a necklace, earring, or bracelet, etc.
In analytical psychology, pioneer Sigmund Freud actually used symbolic images to explain the meaning of dreams, while his colleague, Carl Jung, theorized that certain universal symbols called “archetypes” derive from the collective unconscious and alter conscious behavior.
Archetype symbols are a means of sending shorthand messages to the subconscious and conscious minds of human beings.
A fairly new multidisciplinary field called “semiotics” conducts research and analyzes the manner in which meaning is produced from signs and symbols.
How does all of this relate to the 2020 presidential election?
Well, in politics, meaning is generally communicated through words. However, symbols have become increasingly significant over time, especially with the advent of multiple social media platforms and limitless visual imagery via video.
Persuasion is at the heart of any political campaign, and communication through symbols is one of the most powerful methods of persuasion a candidate can access.
As it pertains to politics, the meaning of a message has a way of effortlessly emerging when presented through recognizable symbolic representations.
Needless to say, symbolic communication played a major part in the 2020 presidential campaign for both major parties, and particularly for the presidential candidates themselves.
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden consistently appeared in public wearing – the mask.
The mask became a dual symbol, one of personal responsibility in avoiding the contracting of COVID-19, and one of a supposed caring attitude with regard to the spreading of the virus to others
One main Biden campaign theme was the supposed mishandling of the pandemic, which he attempted to use to try and reframe the president’s successful actions against the virus.
When the former vice president made live campaign appearances or appeared in photographs and/or on videotape, he made sure that he had donned a mask, or at least had one hanging from his ear. This was meant to convey his seriousness with regard to COVID-19, which he no doubt hoped would translate into folks thinking he could do a better job of managing it.
Interestingly, for many Americans the mask had the opposite effect and was perceived as a symbol of government control and loss of freedom.
President Donald Trump had a symbol that across the years rose to legendary heights – the red MAGA hat. It was hardly the only symbol that the president brought to the campaign stop stage. His speeches and events included an array of time-honored national symbols, which for many evoked a deep heartfelt love of country.
Sadly, for others the symbols generated anger to the point that some formed mobs, which took to the streets to burn flags, deface federal and state buildings, and tear down statues. Their intense hatred for the meaning behind the symbols, and for the American people at large, was laid bare.
Symbols are a precious part of the heritage of America, and they have meanings that bind us together in mind, heart, and soul. These symbols are ones that are instantly recognizable.
Here are some examples:
–The Liberty Bell, a bold symbol of independence.
–The Statue of Liberty, with a broken chain draped at her feet, representing an ever-emerging liberty; a torch in one hand, symbolizing enlightenment; a tablet in the other hand, with the date of the Declaration of Independence inscribed upon it, symbolizing the rule of law.
–The Bald Eagle, America’s national bird, representing the soaring spirit of her people, who are able to accomplish anything their hearts desire.
–The Bison, America’s national mammal, representing a proud and confident presence.
–The Oak, America’s national tree, representing a solidness and strength.
–The Rose, America’s official flower, representing a prayer enveloped with the fragrance of idealism.
–The motto “In God We Trust,” representing an all-encompassing faith in something more enduring than our mortal selves.
–The Flag, America’s official emblem, representing the qualities of justice, courage, and self-sacrifice, a tribute to those past and present, who give all, so all can live free.
May God bless America, now and forever.