You know the saying; a picture is worth a thousand words.

The use of symbols is possibly worth a thousand times more.

Recently, a group of kids from Chugiak High School got in hot water for posting a photo of themselves posing with a confederate battle flag.

The photo made the rounds on social media and became yet another teachable moment.

I had a lot of teachable moments when I was their age. I’m just grateful we didn’t have social media to share my learning curve with the rest of the world.

Listen, kids that age have judgment that is questionable at best.

Even young princes can set off a wave of controversy by making poor choices.

And that’s because symbols are powerful. They’re shorthand for ideas. They convey meaning without words.

And some symbols, like the swastika, and the confederate flag, never lose their potency.

More disturbing to me than the photo of these kids was the conversation it generated on social media.

Many commentators consider the confederate battle flag to be a proud symbol of southern heritage.

A symbol, representing the fight against the tyranny of the North, or today what we’d call federal overreach.

But tyranny is 4 million slaves treated as nothing more than property.

Tyranny is 2 million slaves dying on ships before they could even be put into bondage on a plantation.

The South’s economy was built on slave labor.

And thousands of southern soldiers, took up the cause of protecting that system, under the flag of the Confederacy.

A flag that remains a symbol of racism in its purest form, as powerful today as the day it was flown at Gettysburg and Antiedam.

You don’t have to be black to understand the power of that symbol, just as you don’t have to be Jewish to understand the message of the Swastika.

You just have to accept history as it was, and not a sanitized form that celebrates the spirit of the southern cause while overlooking the disease at its core.

Teenagers can be forgiven for not recognizing the power of symbols. The rest of us, have no excuse.

John’s opinions are his own, and not necessarily those of Denali Media or its employees.