I have a Confederate battle flag like this one. It used to hang on my wall, and at one time, shortly after we were married, it actually served as a living room curtain (that was because we were poor and couldn’t afford a curtain and the flag was the right size). I’ve owned this flag for well over 30 years. It’s never inspired me to want to own a human being as a slave.
Now, suddenly, flag makers are ceasing production of this flag while Walmart and other major retailers are hiding merchandise that has this historic emblem on it. Even toys of the iconic Dukes of Hazzard General Lee car is losing the flag painted on its roof.
“It’s a symbol of hate,” shrill voices are screaming all over the country. “It’s a symbol of treason,” others yell. And too many people will simply believe what they’re told, because thinking can be hard work.
I look at the Stars and Bars in the same way I do the Gadsden flag that the Tea Party has adopted as it’s banner. Flying these flags are a way to tell the federal government to back off. Yes, the Confederacy’s main issue with the feds was the ownership of slaves — a horrible practice — but the Civil War came when the South, South Carolina in particular, felt the federal government had pushed too far, claiming rights the Constitution reserved for individual states. Sound familiar? Think Patriot Act, No Child Left Behind, Obamacare, etc.
The Confederate flag also symbolizes a time when the American South was an agrarian society economically challenged by the noise, pollution, and “progress” of the industrial North. It’s a symbol of Southern manners, of lost causes, of being close to the land.
But what do I know? The people screaming for everyone to get rid of the rebel flag believe they are smarter than me, so the meaning I attach to a symbol must be wrong. Bruce Jenner has a sex change and I’m supposed to support his right to be who he is, but because Nathan Bedford Forrest used the rebel flag at his Ku Klux Klan meetings my right to attach meaning to a symbol is null and void. But this post really isn’t about the Confederate flag so much.
It’s more about this. This is the logo — or symbol — that represents my series of books called The Werewolf Saga. You see that diamond-with-legs thing inside the circle? That’s the Odal (or Othala) rune. In my books it builds on the original Norse meaning of inheritance. In the pre-Christian Nordic cultures the Odal rune signified something that was handed down, such as land or other property. In The Werewolf Saga, the mentor werewolf marks his progeny with this rune so other members of The Pack will know the new werewolf has been purposefully selected and given some training by an older member.
But the rune has another history. Here it is in a modified form as it appeared on the banners of the Volksdeutsche 7th SS Volunteer Mountain Division Prinz Eugen during World War II. As with a lot of the Nazi symbolism, the rune is still used a great deal by racist nationalist skinheads and such. I knew this when I adopted it for use in my novels, but made the decision to go ahead and use it anyway because of it’s original meaning and because the area that is home to the Germanic people serves as the cradle of my werewolves, the place where Nadia the witch called down the original curse on the tribe that wiped out her village. (Ironically, Josef Ulrik, the mentor for most of my werewolf books, claims to have spent most of World War II hunting and trying to kill Hitler.)
So, what does the Odal rune stand for? Inheritance of land, as the Vikings would have seen it, a desire to kill Jews, as the Nazis believed, or that one has been trained to live as a werewolf?
I argue that the context matters, as well as the intention and belief of the person using the symbol. The school kids who read my books and began drawing Odal runes on each others’ arms weren’t wannabe skinheads any more than everyone who flies the Stars and Bars are racist bigots.
That being said, I’m not opposed to anyone making a huge protest over my books. I could use the publicity. But will probably just lose followers and maybe friends.