Do symbols matter?

And could their context and history make a difference? I'm led to such profound questions by an observation that NTodd made about what to light up as a Christmas decoration. But mainly by the fourth comment on that posting, signed by Ereshkigal, which makes a remarkable, if implicit, nomination for a Lifetime Acheivement Award in Insensitivity:
I live in a predominately African-American section of an (almost) Southern city.

A white family of Clueless Christians who live a couple of blocks from me light up a huge wooden cross on their lawn each year right after Thanksgiving.

Originally, they lighted it with hundreds of flickering votive candles, but now they use little flickering Christmas lights.

It's been a continuing source of discussion among the rest of the neighbors.

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