Lesson 4: Take Responsibility for the Face of the World
This lesson is about symbols and presentation. Swastikas are the most famous symbolic example from the chapter. For me personally, as a guy who was born in Mississippi and who lived there for almost thirty years, it pains me that the state flag still has a symbol of racism and ignorance (the Confederate battle flag) on it. This chapter encourages me, more than ever, to do what I can to fight to have that stupid flag changed. "Do not get used to them," Snyder writes of these sorts of symbols. Unfortunately, "tradition" (being comfortable with the thing you're used to, whether it's good or bad) seems to be the #1 thing stopping this simple and obvious change.
I would also like to write about the online presentation of ourselves. It took me a long time to realize and admit that our lives online are not separate from our "real life." They are part of our real life, and it is a part of our lives that possibly reaches more people than our flesh-life. So when someone changes their profile picture in support of something (the rainbow flag for an LGBT issue, for example) or when someone uses hashtags like #BlackLivesMatter, this should not be dismissed as "slacktivism." This is us revealing who we are and attempting to change the face of the world (online or otherwise) for the better. (If nothing else, I can promise you that at least two or three of your friends really need to see that you are on their side.)
Timothy Snyder, in the book, writes, "Life is political, not because the world cares about how you feel, but because the world reacts to what you do. The minor choices we make our themselves a kind of vote... In the politics of the everyday, our words and gestures, or their absence, count very much." I would argue that how I present myself, whether online or face-to-face, is even more important than a vote. I can only vote once, but in presenting myself in a positive way, I can influence (at the least) hundreds or thousands of people. I don't usually think of myself as any kind of example, but we all are examples to other people (friends and family, but also strangers) whether we want to be or not.