iKr/^n{S<^TWCp>n7^/KPKxA/^^pnNations, states, and political systemsnthat, over centuries, have mastered thenart of suppressing unrest, dissent, opposition,nknow well that what should benfeared most are symbols—chiefly thosensymbols which accurately express hungernfor freedom, independence, society’sntight to its own voice. Bombs, mobs innthe streets, barricades do not frighten thenoppressors. Symbolizations do.nIn Poland, the Soviet henchmen innPolish uniforms are not scared of the people’snanger. What gave them nightmaresnrecently was a 40-foot cross composed ofnfreshly cut flowers (on a daily basis) innWarsaw’s Victory Square; it was constructednand maintained by plain housewivesnand elderly retirees who considernthemselves in conflict with communismnas an idea and with the crude securitynLe Nouveau StylenFor as long as we can remember, Ms.nPauline Kael of The New Yorker hasnbeen a so-called doyenne of AmericannChronicles of Culturenagents who impose that idea uponnPoland. A floral cross is not much of anweapon against steel-helmeted riotnpolice; it can easily be interpreted as ansign of resignation, passivity, escape onnthe wings of transcendental justice—anpiddling concern to a self-assured Marxist.nYet there must be some brimming,nraw, unbridled power in the potted geraniumsnthat have been assembled into anreligious sign, and the communists knownit. Old women, kneeling and patientlynrearranging daisies, may menace armoredncars more than striking workersnhurling stones do. St. Paul, knewnsomething about that, and so did Nero.nIs there a lesson in it for our thrivingndemocracy, our land of freedom wherenbeliefs, dissatisfaction, and eccentricnpetulance can all be expressed with equalnforce? There certainly is, particularly fornour statesmen and leaders. Once innpower, they care little about symbolizations,nbut a lot about images, especiallyntheir own. They often become the victimsnof their inability to distinguish betweennthe words symbol •AXA image, andnthey understand the difference betweennthe two notions even less. PresidentnReagan is a good example. He has an imagenof a nice man, a decent human being.nYet he has become a symbol of in-nLiBERAL CULTURE nnmovie criticism. Thus, according to ournperspective (perhaps warped by thengenerational coefficient), she must benabout 100 years old. For a centenarian,nshe certainly tries hard to conform to thennew journalism. Here is how she expressesnher feelings (with updated spunk)nabout the movie The Road Warrior in thenorgan of suburban nobility:nThe Australian director GeorgenMiller grabs you by the throat—ornlower …nShe does not explain how low. Whichnproves how easily movie critics can slip intoncaricatures. A hoary lady in sneakers,njumping around talking jive, can’t evennbe considered eccentric any more. Dnnnsensitivity. The problem is not simplynthat he makes cutbacks in programs fornthe needy, and the liberal press, corruptnas it is, makes a big deal out of somethingnthat can be easily put into proper perspectivenwith a modicum of journalisticngoodwill. By now, most Americans knownthat those designated by the media asnneedy ate not always in need of whatnthey’re claiming (and getting, mostly atnthe expense of those who have legitimatenneeds of their own and are getting nothing).nMt. Reagan’s trouble thus does notncome from political polemics but fromnhis hobnobbing with rather impropernpeople, mostly in his free time. He seemsnunable to comprehend that hosting anWhite House dinner for a movie directornwho projects overt procommunist sympathiesnshapes images—both the Ptesidentialnone and that of the unsavoryncinematic fellow traveler. Whereas hadnMr. Reagan invited a conservative philosophernof high intellectual standing, anprofessor of literature famous for hisnlucidity and wit, an educator universallynrespected for his sagacious defense ofntraditional values—such events wouldnhave turned into graceful symbols.nIt is nearly impossible to speculatenabout the political benefits of that kindnof Presidential style. But these facts couldnhave transmuted into symbolizationsnthat would have given Mr. Reagan’snPresidency a whole new dimension.nAnd, in the long tun, they might havendetermined its place in histoty, which, tonmy mind, is the highest political profitnimaginable. Above all, such symbolizationsnwould have elevated to propernvisibility the consetvative analysis ofnwhat’s wrong with us; it would have providedna critique of our reality that isnstruggling for acceptance at large. Mr.nReagan apparently still considers himselfna man of conservative ideas, but the peoplenhe thrusts into public attention quitenoften symbolize the worst abuse of thosenideas. He seems not to notice that he isnsurrounded by simpleminded manufacturersnof images who are losing the war ofnimages to all those who apparentlyndislike their boss. Dn