Totemic Polemics

I came to the library to use the internet. Out of the eight library computers: seven are being used by children who are playing role playing games.

This is a problem because the sun is out. This is a problem because I need a computer. This is a problem because of the seven children playing video games: seven are obese.

I went on a long walk today through a beautiful woodsy-oceany area called Totem Park, where every block or so, the lush landscape is interrupted, strikingly, by thirty-foot, carved Totem Poles.

A totem, by definition is: an object with spiritual significance which has been adopted by a society to stand as an emblem.

So, I was thinking about what our contemporary American totems would be. They have to be based, somewhat, on stereotypes because we don't seem to have unified national beliefs, as indigenous societies (the original totem-makers) did. I came up with these:

Hot Dogs

Dogs, in general, who have become human beings to too many people

The Christian Cross

The Peace Sign

The Wii and/or Warcraft

The Whatever-Hands Sign

In Louisiana: the Confederate Flag

In Alaska: Totem Poles?

In Colorado: Granola

In New York: the Twin Towers

For Kids: Harry Potter

For Adults: too many Nora Roberts and Dean Koontz books

American Idol


Hannah Montana

One type of nearly forgotten pole was the Shame Pole, many of which still exist in Alaska. Instead of representing a culture's beliefs, this type of pole was erected to shame blame-worthy community members or organizations. The Tlingit people, native to Sitka, created one to shame the American government into repaying them for the price of slaves after the Emancipation Proclamation.

I might just be in a pessimistic mood, and I welcome more positive American emblem-ideas, but I feel like America might be a better place with Shame Poles facing most of these metaphorical totems we've erected as a society. Everywhere I look, I see shamelessness-- from bars to playgrounds to even the public library, my personal haven, and a lack of shame, especially amongst our young (who are also our most prolific emblem-makers), can be a very dangerous thing.