"enough, leave the poor guys alone. They've had their feelings hurt by all those mean, nasty death threats."I'm not one of those people. Screw the suddenly sensitive bonus-taking bleeps. I don't really care about their feelings. But as a sociologist, I do care, that is, I at least wonder why, certain symbols hold such power for Americans while others do not. Why is the American flag sacred to some of us while others could care less? Why is the Confederate flag sacred to certain segments of the population? Why is basketball and its March Madness so important to some and not to others? These are the sorts of questions that sociologists have been struggling with for over a century. Things become symbolic, Emile Durkheim told us in his Elementary Forms of Religious Life, when enough people consider them as different from the everyday or profane world. Anything can become marked off from the profane, be made sacred, if enough people engage in the ritualistic separation of the sacred from the profane. I think AIG has been marked off as "sacred"- not in the sense of holy, but in the sense of separated from everyday greed. Not surprisingly, most of us are tired of the greed of big financial firms, the profit over people mentality of huge entities over which even the state seems to have no control. But the AIG greed, at least in the ritualistic space of the blogosphere, was beyond even what we imagined these executives to be doing. Sure, they created "toxic debts," sure they squeezed billions of dollars in interest payments from America's poor and working classes, not just through subprime mortgages, but credit cards, cash for paycheck services, and even rent-to-own operations. But the bonuses at AIG represented a direct theft not from individuals, but from a sacred entity, We the People. Rationally, we all know that it's much worse that hundreds of billions were extracted from debt and then when the debt went bad, AIG paid off the banks so they wouldn't lose anything. We should be far angrier that these banks were so unregulated by the State that they were not stopped from creating this mess in the first place. We should be far angrier that our tax dollars are propping up the likes of Citibank and Deutschebank. But somehow these banks operate in the world of the profane: greed and profit at any cost. We the People are sacred, separate from our individual selves, together we have what Durkheim called a "collective conscious" - an excess of energy that is more than the sum of our individual parts. It is this "collective conscious" that has responded to AIG. And even if irrational to some observers, it makes perfect sense that We the People are really pissed.