I’ve run the concept of national icons that are also personal through the muser and it’s surprisingly difficult to arrive at one that works with a majority. You’d think that the Official ones would have resonance, the Anthem, the Tricolor or the Harp. But I’d say no, they’re endured and not embraced. Still having said it, that the music and the lyric in the Anthem cannot travel in tandem, such that no one can sing the thing tickles the Irish fancy. That NO ONE knows the words in either language is something we would never admit. But should the band at a game strike up the Star Spangled Banner or “La Marseillaise” most would have sung with gusto to the end before going ‘whoa, that’s not the one’. While if the English one starts up they draw in the before going ‘Ah no no no no’. Our Flag is never hoisted. Yes, you see it on a building or two. And the GAA has hijacked it for games, then forgets to lower them, but you’d never see a jack-staff in someones lawn like in the States. As to the Harp, well you see it in the corner of the royal standard of the English queen, same one. The O’Brien harp. Nothing like a bit of recycling. And no one sees it even though it’s struck to every coin.
All in all, you have to go back one hell of a distance before you get above 50% acceptance. Something that doesn’t have people giving it a nasty look.You’d think the Christian Cross would give a rallying point. But no. While 95% of the Island might call themselves followers of JC. The very fact that following him for seventeen/eighteen hundred years (Pope Celestine sent Palladius as the first Bishop ‘to the Irish who believe in Christ’ in 431.) is only more opportunity to dream up new formations. Oh so certain of their correctness. The film Gangs of New York has a good scene explaining just this phenomenon.
These are kids from my old high school behind a kerbstone at Newgrange. This is the only image that has any notion of the scale of the art work involved. Takes a bit of doing to design in relief. Or in other words the design is like a fingerprint in that the design is raised. But it’s far far easier to draw something than it is to cut it out. But for me that kerb iconwise, rather than the usual one above it, calls to me.
The UK isn’t any better either. Yes, it has official icons. But the reality is the BBC has more connection to people’s affections than the Tower, the Queen or Parliament. And certainly the NHS for all it’s faults, rings well. But it’s the bell in the clock tower that nails it for me, not the chimes but the great bell, Big Ben. There are two times each year that this bell rings and memories flood in. It rings on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day on the eleventh month. And of course New Years Day, for the first bong is on the first second of that new year, hopefully laying to rest what might have been a horrible year.
When I think of the USA, its Mount Rushmore. I have not one clue why precisely. But that series of heads -European heads- cut into a hillside frames something a bit higher. The normal icons of the USA for those of us lucky/unlucky not to live within the borders tend towards the extreme utilitarian, dams, bridges and the like. Whimsy isn’t something we connect with the America so when it pops up it tends to stand out. And I think the image resonance of the twin towers has run it’s course. Mostly because the buildings were brutally ugly, and soon there will be others on the site. But the general resonance will always stay but with a refocus on something like this.
Still I expect being within a country would blunt iconic images simply because there would be so many each having a resonance with an aspect of ones life. Or like in Ireland – Official Ireland – designed for a time that has little or no relevance anymore. If I still lived in England I might have other icons for the place. But it would never be Henley or Cowes. And the Boat Race would continue on the hope that ‘BOTH’ boats went nose first into the river, as it was when I went to Hammersmith in other days.