A Living Symbol

Mr. Zarbin is a newspaperman in Arizona.

I decided to wear a peace symbol.

No, not THAT peace symbol, the one used by some folks as an em­blem of their protest against war in South Vietnam.

I’ve always held that anyone who favors war over peace isn’t all here, so wearing a symbol to pro­test the Vietnamese war or any war is like nothing. Who needs it?

Still, seeing these people walk around with their inverted trident badges nagged me. We’re all for peace, I said to myself, except most of us don’t feel the need to constantly remind everyone who sees us.

Finally, I concluded that THAT peace symbol didn’t really stand for peace, anyway. The inverted trident is the combined semaphore symbol for the letters ND, which stands for nuclear disarmament, and was first used in the mid-1950′s by "ban the bomb" marchers in London, England.

My peace symbol was to be much older. It had its origin some where back in antiquity, when men got the idea that their bodies and their minds belonged to themselves and not to some slave master. The concept was refined and developed in the eons, exploding, as it were, in the American Revolution. The imperfect men of the Revolution later put together the imperfect Constitution of the United States of America.

Despite its deficiencies, the Con­stitution was then, and continues to be, a beacon in a world of au­thoritarian lust. If the dreams men dreamed could not be per­fected under the Constitution, the fault lay not with it, but with the men themselves. Enough of them realized this; some of them also saw the uniqueness of the Consti­tution: the power of government was granted from the governed, not from some divine right or from the muzzle of a pistol, and they were free to act for them­selves, not as some king or dicta­tor directed.

Many Americans reacted positively to these extraordinary con­ditions. They pursued self gain. Working in their own interests, they created the climate that pro­duced opportunity, that produced jobs, that produced wealth. Among themselves they debated enter­prises, funding those they believed would be profitable, rejecting those they considered would not result in good returns.

Not everyone was productive in the positive sense. Some cheated and robbed. Others, perhaps those who considered themselves more sophisticated, determined to use government to achieve for them­selves what they were unable to do in the free market place. Thus, the corruption of the Constitution set in at once.

Who can say if men will always rob to accomplish for themselves what they have been denied by the good judgment of their fellow men? No one can say with cer­tainty, but until that utopia ar­rives, the peaceful and productive citizens, those who would rely on themselves and on the voluntary and willing cooperation of their neighbors, must organize a police force which they name govern­ment.

This police force is not designed to restrict or to restrain any per­son engaged in peaceful endeav­ors. Nor is it intended to do for some men what other citizens will not do for them. Confident that this was the bedrock of their gov­ernment, the people of the United States sought to make better lives for themselves in thousands of dif­ferent ways.

Peaceful Existence Under Law

The measure of their success could be gauged in many ways. Monetarily, it was represented by the dollar, which in July, 1785, had been adopted as the money unit of the United States. The first paper money was issued in 1861 and on many of the notes the ini­tials of the United States were printed:

Some persons believe the $ sign stands for the initials of the United States, a narrowed U atop the S with the bottom of the U cut away.

But A. H. Quiggin wrote in The Story of Money, "The upright lines of the dollar sign, $, may be derived from the Pillars of Her­cules, but the device is usually attributed to the Spanish contrac­tion for peso, a weight." The Pil­lars were represented on the Span­ish dollars, or "pieces of eight," before the first colonists arrived.

Whatever the origin of the dol­lar sign, I thought it would serve as my badge of peace. I had a friend fashion such an emblem—4 inches high—from silver, ex­cept that the bottom of the U was not cut away. A chain was at­tached to it and I let it hang from my neck. I wore it everywhere I went.

Among persons who saw it and asked about it, my self-devised peace symbol seemed a quick suc­cess. After stating what it was, I explained that the U.S. was the embodiment of the ideal of peace­ful existence within a framework of law and that it was within this structure that maximum personal freedom, and productivity, was achieved.

The U.S., I said, stood for a positive assertion of peace. Only when there is peace can we maxi­mize the effort to satisfy human wants and desires. War and tur­moil are the great destroyers be­cause they turn efforts and re­sources away from filling the real needs of human beings.

Freedom Under Limited Government

Only by strictly limiting gov­ernment to its necessary role, as outlined in the Constitution, can Americans be most fully served, for they serve themselves and one another through voluntary and peaceful exchange. This remains the promise for these United States if government intervention­ism ceases, because interference by government in the market place is unpeaceful.

In its finest sense, the U.S. stands for the best possible mean­ing of peace that I, to now, have been able to discern. That this peace hasn’t been achieved is no slander on the concept or the po­tential; rather, it is a confirmation of the imperfection of man.

Nonetheless, I believe the ideal, while it may never be achieved, is known, and that if it is ever to be reached it will be done by men individually controlling themselves and their actions. Peace would be the inevitable outcome. The idea is there, and that is the thought I had hoped to express with my peace emblem.

Then one day, five weeks later, I put the symbol away. I wasn’t displeased with the results, but I realized there was a still better symbol, the symbol of self.

A living symbol, which we hu­man beings may struggle to be­come, though we know we shall never ascend the pinnacle, is far better than an inanimate sign which can mask deception. Hu­mans can and do deceive, too, but I don’t believe they can always hide their real selves. What they are will come through in what they do and say.

The symbol of what we are should be ourselves, not a piece of lifeless metal.

Further Reading

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