Peace Symbol Controversial?
By Rayni Joan
Hippies painted it with neon colors on their cheeks, foreheads, and
bellies, as well as their VW bugs and buses. Protesting servicemen in
Vietnam painted it on their helmets. On stickers and posters, it
accompanied the phrase, "Make Love, Not War." You can still order new
T-shirts emblazoned with it at Amazon.com for $14.95. It's one of the
most recognizable symbols in the world. It's also shunned by paranoid
devil watchers as Satanic.
It's the controversial peace symbol, and it's a powerful today as the
day it was first unveiled in 1958.
Case in point: In November, 2006, a Colorado couple felt the spirit of
Christmas and peace on Earth, and put up a wreath in the shape of a
peace sign on their home. The symbol triggered a worldwide hullabaloo
when their homeowners association insisted the couple take the wreath
down or be fined. The board members of the homeowners association
asserted that the peace symbol wreath conveyed the "wrong idea." There
was such a flap that sympathetic peace signs appeared all over the
development and neighborhood in solidarity, the couple received bags of
mail from all over the world -- mostly supportive, although a few
castigators invoked the wrath of Satan, and the homeowners association
board members ultimately resigned.
So what's the story with the controversial peace symbol? Is it innocent
Although we in the United States know it as the peace sign or peace
symbol, in Britain it's recognized as the symbol for nuclear disarmament
-- more specifically the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.
Designer and conscientious objector Gerald Holtom came up with this
symbol specifically for the first British anti-nuclear march in 1958. He
has said that he took his inspiration for the peace symbol from the
despair he was feeling, concretizing his feelings as an upright
individual with hands outstretched like the peasant before the firing
squad in Goya's painting "El Tres de Mayo." Later, the symbol became
more popular when turned upside down. Possibly it was this turning
upside down that got the goat of the Devil Squad. But with the "arms"
spreading downward, many people say they see the semaphore signs for
the letters "N" and "D," standing for nuclear disarmament.
Bayard Rustin, an American civil rights and anti-war activist who
participated in the 1958 march in Britain, brought the new peace symbol
back home for use in the Civil Rights marches. It caught the public's
imagination, and the rest is history. The Campaign for Nuclear
Disarmament never copyrighted the symbol because they consider it a
symbol of freedom that must remain free. Perhaps both freedom and peace