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[P]
Symbol of Life: Gone Forever?

By Anatta in Culture
Thu Aug 23, 2001 at 10:45:00 PM EST
Tags: Culture (all tags)
Culture

Most modern people, when they see the sharp, straight lines and natural symmetry of the swastika, become horrified and uncomfortable as images of death camps, genocide, and gas chambers flood their minds. The swastika, to them, is the ultimate representation of one of the most heinous acts of pure evil in the history of mankind: the Nazi party, and the attempted extermination of the Jews.

Many people that existed more than 100 years ago, when they see the sharp, straight lines and natural symmetry of the swastika, become warm and at peace as images of slowly changing seasons flood their minds. The swastika, to them, is a symbol of changing seasons, life, the sun, wealth and prosperity, and good luck.

Which representation is the right representation? Is the "old" meaning of the swastika gone forever, perverted by the evils of the Nazis?


History of the Symbol

The swastika symbol long pre-dates both Hitler and Christ, and (according to The Pagan Library) can be found in cultures as varied as the Etruscans, Hindus, Celts, Aztecs, Mayans, American Indians, Teutonics, and Nordic peoples. The word "swastika" comes from the Sanskrit "su" meaning "good" and "asti" meaning "to be". The use of the symbol dates back at least 3,000 years, and is older than the Egyptian Ankh symbol.

From Flags of the World:

There seems to be agreement that the swastika is a symbol of the sun. It might have been a symbol of the most influential Arian Gods (Zeus, Jupiter). There are lots of possible explanations: It might be a symbol of the stars revolving around the North Pole, the four seasons, it might be a symbol of a human being (two arms + two legs), also something like the yin and yang symbol (masculine and feminine, movement and rest etc.). Some theories say that it might be a symbol of a maze, lightning, water in motion etc. Among some Asian Muslims, the swastika is a symbol for north/south/east/west and the four seasons, for some Chinese it is a "a collection of happy symbols, including thousands of good effects."
A symbol found in a large variety of cultures all over the world, almost universally seen as a "good" symbol, is now feared, reviled, and hated by most westerners. How did this drastic shift occur?

Meanings in Pre-Nazi Germany

Among some German and Scandinavian populations, the swastika was a symbol of power, energy. It was often used on maps to mark the location of power plants. It was used by various businesses and militaries (including Finland and Latvia) before the NSDAP (National Socialist German Worker's Party -- the Nazis) adopted it as a military symbol.

The swastika was a symbol many Germans recognized and associated with. When Hitler and the Nazi party came on the scene with its rhetoric about bringing Germany back to the forefront of Europe, and re-instilling national pride, the symbol of power made perfect sense. The fact that it also had a connotation of goodness, the turning of the seasons, and the sun did not escape Hitler; he reversed the direction of the symbol, and turned it into a symbol of evil, entropy, and death.

The Current Conundrum

If you were to see someone walking down the street wearing a swastika symbol, what would immediately come to mind? Would it be that this person is a Nazi, or a spiritualist/Wiccan? Hater or lover of life? How would you react at the sight of this person?

Assume now that the person wore the symbol intending it to mean the "good" meaning. Chances are many many people would still be offended, whether it be because they do not know the full meaning of the symbol, or they think it is inappropriate regardless. Would the wearer be at fault for wearing a potentially offensive symbol, or would the viewer be at fault for being ignorant of the full meaning of the symbol?

Can 3,000+ years of goodness be obliterated by 5 years of hate and death?

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Poll
Is it ok to wear the swastika symbol?
o Yes 15%
o No 42%
o Yes, as long as you're not wearing combat boots and have a shaved head 24%
o Depends where you wear it 17%

Votes: 57
Results | Other Polls

Related Links
o The Pagan Library
o word "swastika"
o Flags of the World
o reversed the direction
o Also by Anatta


Display: Sort:
Symbol of Life: Gone Forever? | 55 comments (50 topical, 5 editorial, 0 hidden)
I remember this from the Native Americans... (4.20 / 5) (#3)
by theboz on Thu Aug 23, 2001 at 05:37:01 PM EST

In my preteens and early teenage years I was more involved with Native American culture and remember seeing what looked like a swastika on some artwork. I was confused and asked someone about it and they explained to me that it was a good symbol that was in use much longer than the Nazi's had started. I think they are slightly different though, the swastika is facing the opposite direction from the ones used in the Americas.

I wish I could remember what it symbolized, but it was definitely looked at as a sign of happiness and prosperity.

Stuff.

How interesting... (none / 0) (#35)
by defeated on Fri Aug 24, 2001 at 03:18:09 PM EST

I wonder if they adopted the swastika as a "good" symbol recently, or if it was in use by the Indians before the Europeans landed in the Americas. Did they say?



[ Parent ]
Very old symbol (none / 0) (#49)
by theboz on Sun Aug 26, 2001 at 10:54:48 PM EST

It has been found on artifacts that predate the European invasion of the Americas. The meaning may have changed since them, I don't know, but they have been using it for quite a while.

Stuff.
[ Parent ]

Short answer: (3.00 / 3) (#4)
by MSBob on Thu Aug 23, 2001 at 05:37:06 PM EST

Can 3,000+ years of goodness be obliterated by 5 years of hate and death?

Yeah.

The public perception is that the swastika is a Third Reich symbol and trying to persuade people otherwise will not only be difficult but may seriously hurt those still alive today who remember the horrors of holocoust. Do we really have to wake up those memories? What good is it going to do? Who needs the symbol for anything today? I can only see harm as a result of trying to 'absolve' the swastika of it's recent associations (which are very strong in the minds of most people).

I don't mind paying taxes, they buy me civilization.

I disagree. (3.66 / 3) (#7)
by theboz on Thu Aug 23, 2001 at 05:47:35 PM EST

The public perception is that the swastika is a Third Reich symbol and trying to persuade people otherwise will not only be difficult but may seriously hurt those still alive today who remember the horrors of holocoust.

Very few people who survived the holocaust are still alive. While we don't want to ridicule them or make the surviving ones relive that horrible experience, I don't think that a symbol should be treated as evil just because an evil group used it for a short time.

In fact, I would say that if we could teach everyone of the original meanings, then the neo-nazi groups would have to find a new symbol as their old one would not hold a stigma anymore. Just think, we could piss off all those assholes that have swastika tattoos when the word gets out that it is a symbol of good things used by non-whites.

How would you feel if some company came along and made a crappy program called MS Bob that everyone hated, and completely tarnished your reputation online? Especially if it was some evil company like Microsoft, it would be horrible, and in that case you would be trying to say that MS Bob isn't about shoddy Microsoft software, but about you.

Stuff.
[ Parent ]

Holocaust survivors (3.33 / 3) (#9)
by MSBob on Thu Aug 23, 2001 at 05:53:29 PM EST

Very few people who survived the holocaust are still alive.

Let me introduce you to my grandfather or another couple of million Poles and a few million Jews. I'm sure they'd like to hear from you. People that lived through Holocaust in 1945 when they were in their teens or early twenties are still around today and there is an awful lot of them. Why upset them? Why?

How would you feel if some company came along and made a crappy program called MS Bob that everyone hated, and completely tarnished your reputation online?

ROFL.

I don't mind paying taxes, they buy me civilization.

[ Parent ]
Why not? (2.85 / 7) (#18)
by theboz on Thu Aug 23, 2001 at 09:22:44 PM EST

People that lived through Holocaust in 1945 when they were in their teens or early twenties are still around today and there is an awful lot of them. Why upset them? Why?

Well, this isn't about the holocaust as much as a symbol that belongs to other groups that was basically stolen by the Nazis.

From how I read your point of view, there should not be white people in the U.S. because we might upset black people about slavery. We shouldn't allow paintings because the Nazis really loved art. We should not allow Christianity because some people burned witches in the name of Christianity before. To me, you are wanting to censor things in a way very similar to "let's do it for the children." To put it bluntly, I am tired of being expected to remember the holocaust, and feel sorry for these people all the time. I think it was a horrible thing that happened, but that doesn't mean we should give them more rights than everyone else. If anything, we should move on by now. If I was a holocaust survivor I'd be really pissed that it gets brought up all by greedy people who are trying to profit from it by always crying, "look at me, we were the result of racism long before you were born, you should feel sorry for us and give us your money. Boohoo." I think they are a disgrace and the blood of all of those killed in the holocaust should be against them as much as the Nazis.

Anyways, that was going off on a tangent but I am rather tired of hearing how bad the holocaust and the Nazis were. Yes, it was a dark day in history and they were evil, but unfortunately this happens very frequently in human history so we should learn to deal with it like we have all the other oppressive times that are over.

Stuff.
[ Parent ]

Re: Why not? (3.00 / 1) (#34)
by defeated on Fri Aug 24, 2001 at 03:14:08 PM EST

"From how I read your point of view, there should not be white people in the U.S. because we might upset black people about slavery. "

Weeeell, public figures aren't allowed to use words like "niggardly"....

"Anyways, that was going off on a tangent but I am rather tired of hearing how bad the holocaust and the Nazis were. Yes, it was a dark day in history and they were evil, but unfortunately this happens very frequently in human history so we should learn to deal with it like we have all the other oppressive times that are over."

I certainly feel for Holocaust survivors, but I do not see how acceptance of the genuine, original swastika would hurt them. From some of the responses I've read, it seems like most of the ignorance is in the US. Americans like to get bent out of shape over things like Confederate flags, swastikas and inverted crosses, and we aren't too keen on enlightenment. We'd rather cry about how it hurts our feelings or offends us. Or better yet, kick the wearers ass.






[ Parent ]
Its symbolism tho (none / 0) (#47)
by yesterdays children on Sun Aug 26, 2001 at 07:32:03 PM EST

By nature, symbols are a form of communication. You can't deny what symbols mean. You could consider it a visual language of sorts. So it depends on what language you speak, and here where I live, its clear what these symbols 'mean'.

Its not the fault of the origional people in whos language the swastika meant a different thing, but thats life. I have little control over what language I speak, and accordingly what set of symbols are in my societies vocabulary, so I do adhere to their meaning as a nod to the society I'm a part of.

So no swastika for me, ditto for the stars n bars. I just chalk it up to manners and don't really worry about it. Call me a wimp.

Interestingly enough, the USA uses the 5 point star, and at the same time, its a fairly recogniseable symbol of satanism and witchcraft. Now theres some food for thought ;-)

[ Parent ]

stars n bars (none / 0) (#51)
by triticale on Mon Aug 27, 2001 at 01:28:41 AM EST

Correctly speaking, Stars 'n Bars refers to an obscure national flag of the Confederacy. The Confederate battle flag flown by racists, proud Southerners (including some Blacks) and a Black funeral director in Chicago who feels it to be an appropriate honor for the thousands of Confederate soldiers who died at Camp Douglas is more correctly called (at least nowadays), the Southern Cross. The symbol is a Cross of St. Andrew with stars on it.



[ Parent ]
I agree with theboz (4.50 / 2) (#32)
by Steeltoe on Fri Aug 24, 2001 at 02:25:28 PM EST

While he got out of line, I agree with his first words.

Why upset them? Why?

Unless we as a society can relate to the Holocaust in the manner it deserves, something that really happened, and take its lessons, we will not develop further. Movies like Schindler's List (preferably the uncut version) still needs to be made, but also portrayed from a German view. Germans as a people were not blood-thirsty murderers. Why did they do it? Germany was utterly beaten in WWI and punished severely afterwards. How did we treat them after WWII? How are we portraying our defeated "enemy" today, and what is it doing to the German psyche? Movies like The Wave (true story) can show some insight in this, but I believe it is not good enough.

We need to enquire about this because it's still happening. War and ethnic cleansing is going on in the world now. Viewing the first minutes of Saving Private Ryan in a well-equipped cinema, will reveal more about war than anyone can say or write in books.

Many variations of the swastika symbol has been in use for thousands of years. While WWII was a big tragedy, we should not let negativity conquer our piece of mind, love and symbols. If it means upsetting old people, then we should thread carefully, but we shouldn't stop. It's not our fault they get upset. They should take responsibility of their own piece of mind, because anything else is an impossibility. We all should do that. I'm not saying it's easy after a traumatic experience as the holocaust, but it's better than living in denial like a zombie.

- Steeltoe
Explore the Art of Living

[ Parent ]
Still in use... (4.00 / 1) (#21)
by a clockwork llama on Fri Aug 24, 2001 at 04:49:54 AM EST

What good is it going to do? Who needs the symbol for anything today?

Funny thing, that. Here in Singapore, there's a secondary school called the "Red Swastika School", presumably due to Buddhist roots. Its logo is (you guessed it) a red swastika. So the symbol is still in use in its original form. I don't think there's anything wrong with this, even though I don't envy its students the inevitable repetitive explanations about their school's name :-)

As for the article, I suppose it's illogical to condemn a long-beloved symbol just because the Nazis took it for their own. But symbolism is a fundamental part of human illogic, so it can't be helped.



[ Parent ]
Symbols may have local meaning (none / 0) (#55)
by error 404 on Wed Aug 29, 2001 at 05:21:15 PM EST

My guess is that not very many Europeans see that school's emblem. And when they do, they are quite aware of being in a non-European context.

If you aren't European or American or Japanese, Nazism probably doesn't have a deep emotional impact. You probably have some academic awareness of WWII history but the impact isn't there. Which allows the older meanings or even just the graphic excellence of the symbol to shine through.

We aren't the world.


..................................
Electrical banana is bound to be the very next phase
- Donovan

[ Parent ]

two things. (2.80 / 5) (#5)
by cicero on Thu Aug 23, 2001 at 05:40:09 PM EST

1) it was more than 5 years of hatred and death.
that may be how long hitler was in power in germany, but how long prior to that did it represent something other than it's orignal spiritual meaning. Also, the symbol contiues to be used, even today (55+ years later), so i think you're looking at closer to 65-70 years of the symbol representing hatred. Though, 65 << 3000, I know.

2) i thought the spiritual symbol had the arms/legs whatever going in the other direction, no? ie, if the nazi sawstika had the tendrils going up and then to the right, the spiritual symbol went up and to the left. am I wrong on this? did this only pertain to one groups usage of the symbol (I'm almost certain it was/is used by budhists).

anyway, good article in my opinion.





--
I am sorry Cisco, for Microsoft has found a new RPC flaw - tonight your e0 shall be stretched wide like goatse.
Two answers (5.00 / 2) (#10)
by Anatta on Thu Aug 23, 2001 at 05:57:24 PM EST

1) you're right, a number of 5 years and a number of 65 years are both defensable numbers; 5 was the approximate length of the war and real heavy genocide, 65 (maybe more like 80) was the length of the first adoption of the nazi flag up till now...

2) Right again... this link is supposed to be the "Reversed Swastika" link... I'm waiting for an editor to fix it. Hitler reversed the symbol, but most people probably wouldn't even notice that... and the question then becomes, is it ok to wear it turning to the right rather than to the left?
My Music
[ Parent ]

Reclaiming Symbols (4.25 / 4) (#11)
by tumeric on Thu Aug 23, 2001 at 06:03:04 PM EST

This is stunningly familiar to a formal debate I sat through last weekend.

The essence of that debate was that the English flag had become a symbol for racists and soccer thugs. If you see a English flag on the back of a van you assume the worst about the people driving the van. Some people argued that the symbol needed to be "reclaimed" (it is the countries flag) and used by the general community so that it loses its racist connotations and, in theory, damages those that want to spread hate.

The Swastika is actually found all over India and after spending some time there it is possible to forget the image it has in Europe. Would its general use as a sun symbol in the West cut through the mistique and weaken the far right? I think not -- it would allow for plenty of confusion and misunderstanding as well as insulting a lot people though.

To be pedantic (none / 0) (#44)
by echemus on Sun Aug 26, 2001 at 05:44:04 PM EST

The "English" Flag is the Cross of St George. A red Cross on a white ground. The flag that has been commondeered by the less desirable loutish arm of society is the "Union Flag". ie, the flag that is a combination of the flags of Wales, Scotland, England and N.Ireland. Cmmonly (and incorrectly) refered to as "The Union Jack". No it is not a proud thing to display in the UK. I personally an envious of Canada, which has a modern piece of Graphic Design for their flag. Also people in Canada seem to be proud to fly and wear that flag. The Swastika was an incredible piece of design, the old emblem, used with striking colours - quite unforgetable. It would have been unforgetable even without all the appauling things Hitler's dictatorship caused.

[ Parent ]
If you insist on being pedantic ... (none / 0) (#54)
by drhyde on Wed Aug 29, 2001 at 07:11:10 AM EST

... then the flag of Wales (a red dragon on a green and white background) appears nowhere in the Union Flag. I personally don't see anything wrong with flying either the Union flag or the English flag, and indeed I have done both in the past. Luckily neither is quite as associated with racists as (eg) the confederate flag or the swastika.

[ Parent ]
short answer (3.25 / 4) (#12)
by mami on Thu Aug 23, 2001 at 06:03:39 PM EST

Hopefully.

Reclaiming the swastika (4.66 / 3) (#14)
by fluffy grue on Thu Aug 23, 2001 at 07:14:51 PM EST

A person who goes by the name Manwoman has a rather interesting way of attempting to return the swastika to its original meaning - he has gotten tattoos of different cultures' swastika-equivalents all over his body.
--
"Is not a quine" is not a quine.
I have a master's degree in science!

[ Hug Your Trikuare ]

man! (none / 0) (#46)
by Kalani on Sun Aug 26, 2001 at 06:18:22 PM EST

That guy looks like somebody you'd run into in Sedona, AZ.

-----
"I [think] that ultimately physics will not require a mathematical statement; in the end the machinery will be revealed and the laws will turn out to be simple, like the checker board."
--Richard Feynman
[ Parent ]
Japanese Language Pokemon Card (3.75 / 4) (#15)
by quam on Thu Aug 23, 2001 at 07:24:30 PM EST

The most recent usage of the swastika, or a derivative of the symbol, in a mainsteam commercial market may have been by Nintendo during 1999 for use on a Pokemon card (image provided in link). The card, with a mirror image of a swastika, originated in Japan where "it means good fortune and can also represent a Buddhist temple. On street maps, the symbol locates a temple just as a cross stands for a church on an American map."

Eventually, Nintendo pulled the card after complaints from the Anti-Defamation League though the Japanese-language card was not meant for sale in the U.S.

-- U.S. Patent 5443036 concerns a device for encouraging a cat to exercise by chasing a light spot.
It's a real swastika, not mirror-image. (5.00 / 1) (#22)
by tekk on Fri Aug 24, 2001 at 08:12:29 AM EST

The Nazi's used the _mirror_image_ of swastika, the one in the picture is the original swastika (symbol of goodness, power, at al).
-- [tek.] a brand new way to peel an orange.
[ Parent ]
Gay Faggot (4.50 / 2) (#16)
by prana on Thu Aug 23, 2001 at 07:40:58 PM EST

used to mean a joyful stick, about the right size for the hearth-fire.

Times change. Utter genocide just magnifies the effect on our collective psyche. More subtle changes slip by unnoticed.

In this case we as a society are more aware of the letting-go, so it's a bigger deal. It does suck that a neat ancient symbol has to go down with it, but 3000 years is a long time--wait another 400 and it probably won't be taboo anymore.

Christian swastika? (4.33 / 3) (#17)
by Tatarigami on Thu Aug 23, 2001 at 07:49:55 PM EST

I knew the swastika was associated with good things in some religions -- buddhism being the one I'd read about -- but I was awful surprised to see a swastika as part of a 100 year old stained glass window in a church near my flat.

Partly because I didn't think the swastika was associated with christianity, and partly because it stayed there for the last 50 years regardless of popular opinion.

Where is the church located? (none / 0) (#31)
by kostya on Fri Aug 24, 2001 at 02:09:05 PM EST

Out of curiosity, where is this church? I assume by using terms such as "flat", we are not talking about the US ;-) Is this New Zealand (from your email address)?

----
Veritas otium parit. --Terence
[ Parent ]
at the moment (none / 0) (#19)
by nodsmasher on Thu Aug 23, 2001 at 10:15:31 PM EST

at the moment i don't think its ok to wair a swastika only becous most of the population donsn't get what it means and it would ofend many people. in time mabie, but at the moment if i saw sombody wairing a swastika id asume it was a neo-nazi
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Most people don't realise just how funny cannibalism can actually be.
-Tatarigami
You're not making sense. (4.50 / 4) (#20)
by Kasreyn on Fri Aug 24, 2001 at 03:10:55 AM EST

"The swastika, to them, is the ultimate representation of one of the most heinous acts of pure evil in the history of mankind: the Nazi party, and the attempted extermination of the Jews."


...as opposed to non-heinous acts of pure evil? ;-)

But that's beside the point. I personally know of a symbol that's much more widespread than the swastika, and represents a cruel organization that deliberately and thoroughly carried out a vast genocide, an "ethnic cleansing" in modern terms, against a peace-loving people that resulted in over 80 million dead. What is this symbol?

The flag of the United States of America.

The genocide I refer to is that of the American Indian. Basically, my point in this comment is to point out that symbols have what meaning we attach to them. Their ancient meangings from 3000 years ago are just as dead as the people who believed in those meanings. The US flag is seen with such pride by most Americans that there is even controversy over whether people should be barred from being able to burn one. And yet it is to many others representative of darker things.

Nowadays, the word "gay" means "homosexual" by default, it seems. There was a time only a few decades gone, when it meant "joyous". Words are just symbols as well, and the meanings of symbols change with public perception. I can't help but see people wearing a swastika and claiming to believe in its earlier meanings as setting themselves up for a lot of grief. It doesn't make any sense, and stinks of attention-getting ploy to me. If they wear the swastika for the shock value and to feel superior to close-minded people, then I think they're as bad as the Neo-Nazis.


-Kasreyn


"Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
We never asked to be born in the first place."

R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
Sourcing and How To Destroy Your Own Argument (4.00 / 1) (#23)
by Anatta on Fri Aug 24, 2001 at 10:39:26 AM EST

I personally know of a symbol that's much more widespread than the swastika, and represents a cruel organization that deliberately and thoroughly carried out a vast genocide, an "ethnic cleansing" in modern terms, against a peace-loving people that resulted in over 80 million dead. What is this symbol?

You can't go throwing a wildly inflated number like 80 million around without sourcing it. It undermines your (very solid) argument and allows people like me to hit you on that number rather than having to deal with your full argument (which I will do below).

A US Census Chart shows the approximate US population in 1850 to be 23 million, and the US population didn't pass 80 million until the 1910 census. Unless you're advocating that the Native Americans had cities as large as 1910 NY and LA that the early americans wiped out, your numbers are wildly wrong. Most scholars seem to think the North American Native population was somewhere in the range of 10 million, with the Western Hemisphere somewhere in the range of 100 million. We obviously have no good census data, and beside that, it's unclear how much of the death was from disease like smallpox that naturally wove its way through the population, and how much was genocide, intentional murder.

The point is, however, that you are right, and the genocide of 80 million, 10 million, or 1 million is horrible.

Nowadays, the word "gay" means "homosexual" by default, it seems. There was a time only a few decades gone, when it meant "joyous".

You're right... I have an aunt named Gay, and she is naturally uncomfortable with the name... introducing herself "Hi, I am Gay," so she goes by a nickname. The question still stands, however, who is wrong? Clearly in her case, her name is "Gay" so would it be her fault for using her real name and offending/confusing others, or would it be others' fault for being ignorant, or presumptuous, or whatever?

The same question can be asked of the swastika or the flag. Is the American (unaware of the blood red genocide in his flag) who flies the flag at fault, or is the person who is offended by it?
My Music
[ Parent ]

Peace Loving People? (4.00 / 1) (#33)
by defeated on Fri Aug 24, 2001 at 02:57:08 PM EST

The term "peace loving people" can not be applied so broadly to early American Indians. There were many different tribes and groups; some were peaceful, some were warlike.

"The same question can be asked of the swastika or the flag. Is the American (unaware of the blood red genocide in his flag) who flies the flag at fault, or is the person who is offended by it?"

Please. I doubt there are many flags who can claim to be blood-free. Such is the nature of conquest. Not that I'm defending early US Indian policy at ALL.




[ Parent ]
Flags (none / 0) (#36)
by Anatta on Fri Aug 24, 2001 at 03:20:24 PM EST

The term "peace loving people" can not be applied so broadly to early American Indians. There were many different tribes and groups; some were peaceful, some were warlike.

Agreed, that was a quote from the person I was responding to. I noticed that as well, but chose to examine his quoted number of Native Americans instead...

Please. I doubt there are many flags who can claim to be blood-free. Such is the nature of conquest. Not that I'm defending early US Indian policy at ALL.

You're right, and my gut feeling is that it's ok to fly the US flag, even with the genocide. I feel the US by and large was not evil, and the evil done it its name is overshadowed by the good. The nazis, on the other hand, were not 100% evil... for example, they produced great advances in dentistry and aeronautics... but this "good" is overshadowed by the evil, and I wouldn't be comfortable flying the nazi flag.
My Music
[ Parent ]

I'm a big, fat hypocrite! (none / 0) (#38)
by defeated on Fri Aug 24, 2001 at 04:28:26 PM EST

"Agreed, that was a quote from the person I was responding to. "

D'oh, I knew that...I shoulda attributed better. My bad.

"The nazis, on the other hand, were not 100% evil... for example, they produced great advances in dentistry and aeronautics... but this "good" is overshadowed by the evil"

I've had a revelation, now...I'm as bad as the people I rail against for being ignorant of the true meaning of symbols. I know I've read about Nazi advancements in the past, but for the life of me, I can't remember any of them. Somewhere, I have copies of Mein Kampf and Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, but I've never gotten around to reading them. When I think Nazi, I automatically think Jewish persecution-German citizens ignoring the obvious-the SS-Hitler-concentration camps-that dreadful movie Swing Kids-the Ark of the Covenant (oh, yeah, another movie)...and lest we forget, swastikas. But when I think Nazi swastika, I think of the flag - black on a red and white field, with the extra little tags coming off the arms.


[ Parent ]
Woopsie... (none / 0) (#37)
by Kasreyn on Fri Aug 24, 2001 at 04:03:42 PM EST

...as for that source, it's from "Custer Died for Your Sins" by Vine Deloria, Jr. (I *think* that's his name.. can't seem to find my copy atm). It's a book about Indians, by an influential Indian, and the book is fairly well researched.

Note that the number is not an immediate thing. That's based on indian population figures in the early 1600's when the Europeans arrived, up to 1900 or later, when the genocide was mostly over. So, we're talking 300 years and more. But I personally think that makes it even more inexcusable, because you can't make the argument that it was a neccessity of war or security, or that it was a crime of national passion or sentiment. 300 years puts it in only one possible light: Determined, *conscious*, heartless, methodical annihilation of a people. We're talking Wounded Knee, and europeans deliberately giving Indians blankets infected with smallpox to kill them off. Our forefathers make Stalin and Hitler look like pikers, really.


-Kasreyn


"Extenuating circumstance to be mentioned on Judgement Day:
We never asked to be born in the first place."

R.I.P. Kurt. You will be missed.
[ Parent ]
Still != 80 million (4.00 / 1) (#39)
by Anatta on Fri Aug 24, 2001 at 04:58:01 PM EST

Note that the number is not an immediate thing. That's based on indian population figures in the early 1600's when the Europeans arrived, up to 1900 or later, when the genocide was mostly over. So, we're talking 300 years and more.

Even factoring in 300 years of births, you still don't get anywhere near 80 million indian deaths caused by Americans. Perhaps you could make an argument that Europeans in general did that kind of damage, but it would not be fair to blame the destruction of the Aztecs on Thomas Jefferson. Assuming 5-10 million in the present-day US, with much of the natives dying relatively quickly and early, you don't get anywhere near 80 million.

300 years puts it in only one possible light: Determined, *conscious*, heartless, methodical annihilation of a people. We're talking Wounded Knee, and europeans deliberately giving Indians blankets infected with smallpox to kill them off. Our forefathers make Stalin and Hitler look like pikers, really.

That's not fair at all. If you read the link I supplied, you'd see that most of the damage was inadvertent: typhoid, smallpox, alcoholism, etc. Old world disease that was fatal in the old world was very efficient in the new world... old world disease that was not fatal in the old world tended to be fatal in the new world. Alcoholism was (and still is) brutal to the Native American population.

Accidently giving people smallpox doesn't make one a murderer. You're trying to make all early non-Natives look like mass murderers, which they were not. By doing so, you remove the significance of those who were mass murderers. There unquestionably was genocide... and as you said about Wounded Knee, some occurred in the present-day USA. You're trying to paint too broad of a picture, and it damages your argument. Best to take a reasonable argument that you can defend, and run with that.


My Music
[ Parent ]

re (4.00 / 1) (#45)
by Kalani on Sun Aug 26, 2001 at 06:08:28 PM EST

it would not be fair to blame the destruction of the Aztecs on Thomas Jefferson

In fact, you could make the case that Tommy did much to add to the non-Anglo population and little to destroy it.

:)

-----
"I [think] that ultimately physics will not require a mathematical statement; in the end the machinery will be revealed and the laws will turn out to be simple, like the checker board."
--Richard Feynman
[ Parent ]
Continuing Faults (none / 0) (#41)
by netmouse on Sat Aug 25, 2001 at 10:51:15 PM EST

Is the American (unaware of the blood red genocide in his flag) who flies the flag at fault...?

First off, I'm happy to say I don't know anyone American who is unaware of the near-genocide or who does not think what happened to our native population was a tragedy. There probably are some, but I don't know any. Schoolchildren are taught about the Trail of Tears and some are even taught how the rules of the Iroqouis League probably influenced our own Constitution. (They are not taught how a town existed at Plymouth Rock that was emptied by disease but had fields and houses lying in wait for the settlers to take them up.) Many people here now appreciate how the Cherokee have a written language and the palaces, calendars, roads and trade systems of the Anisasi ancients are evidence of significant levels of developed civilization in the native southwest.

But how many Americans appreciate the continued condition of our native peoples? TV shows like Northern Exposure show domesticated natives interacting all friendly-like with white systems and maybe in a less friendly way with white tourists, but where is an honest picture of the poverty on the reservations? Injustices are tolerated or even acted out by our FBI and our countrymen turn a blind eye. It is blind partly due to no coverage in the media. It is blind in the same way that we do not see the homeless in our streets or consider the cultural plight of a family that wants its youngsters to know their native tongue and spiritual ways.

I am not innocent of this. I have native blood in me and have enjoyed visits to pow-wows in Ann Arbor and Montana, but I have never been to the reservation in Wisconsin of the Oneida tribe whose blood I probably share. (Records are lost regarding the particular identity of my ancestress.) I have been across reservation land in Arizona. I have seen the edges where I appreciate the crafts I can buy and also deeper into on reservation, where we gave a lift to a drunk but friendly man whose path led us to a dusty downtrodden community of ugly thin-walled stock houses.

I sat in on a harvest celebration in a reservation pueblo in New Mexico and felt how much of an outsider I was to those people, how little I understood what their lives had become.

When will we give the native tribes back their land, or really any land that is resource rich and not polluted? Is it too late? What are our faults in the here-and-now?



[ Parent ]

What organization? (none / 0) (#40)
by netmouse on Sat Aug 25, 2001 at 10:22:12 PM EST

I personally know of a symbol that's much more widespread than the swastika, and represents a cruel organization that deliberately and thoroughly carried out a vast genocide, an "ethnic cleansing" in modern terms, against a peace-loving people that resulted in over 80 million dead. What is this symbol?

The flag of the United States of America.

The genocide I refer to is that of the American Indian.

Though estimates of the number of natives that died vary tremendously, most of them were killed by British, Dutch or Spanish colonists and explorers and the diseases they carried. While many families still living in what is now the United States bear this history, since the United States of America did not exist by that name or any independent charter until more than a hundred years after 80% of the Native American deaths, it seems a bit off to identify it as the "cruel organization" responsible.

There are crimes the U.S. committed against natives in more modern times, and they are by no means excusible. But most of the "genocide" you refer to did not happen under the United States flag as you so poetically suggested in your post.

-netmouse

[ Parent ]

falun gong (4.50 / 2) (#24)
by gold tone ranking monkey on Fri Aug 24, 2001 at 11:33:50 AM EST

interestingly, i got a bunch of propaganda from (much-persecuted chinese 'movement') falun gong supporters recently in front of the NJ capital building; when i opened the brochure, i was surprised by a big, fat swastika surrounded by smaller ones and yinyangs.

"this isn't going to help their cause at all," i thought.

close the drains. please.
The cycle of Life and Death (5.00 / 1) (#25)
by eliwap on Fri Aug 24, 2001 at 12:26:00 PM EST

The answer to the question, can 3,000 years of goodness be wiped out by 5 years of hate. The answer to that question is yes. Its new meaning should remain etched in our collective memories forever as a total perversion of life. And as such maybe, just maybe, it can retain in some hidden, unconscious, way its original meaning, as we reaffirm our commitment to never again allow such a perversion to occur again, to anyone. Only this can reaffirm the values that this symbol meant originally. But, only if we do not forget its perversion.

"Understanding is the basis of communications. Enlarge your mind to multiple points of view. The world is infinitely larger than your huge ego. -- Hey I said that :)"

The Confederate Flag too (none / 0) (#26)
by Myxx on Fri Aug 24, 2001 at 01:42:20 PM EST

The Southern Flag here in the southern US is suffering from the same malady.

The argument states that it is not a symbol of hate, but one of Southern Heritage. I have always made the comparison to the Swastika as a symbol that may have once meant something peaceful, but now is one of hate. However, the argument falls apart on this flag because it was only created to symbolize a nation that had separated itself from the larger whole. Even if it had been a peaceful symbol (which I do not subscribe to) it now means something different. No amount of arguing will ever convince people to think of it as a misrepresented icon. It stands for slavery, racism, and bloodshed. Let's all move on now.

The issue is: "What is Southern Heritage" (5.00 / 2) (#29)
by kostya on Fri Aug 24, 2001 at 02:02:34 PM EST

The argument states that it is not a symbol of hate, but one of Southern Heritage.

I believe the real problem is exactly that it represents "Southern Heritage".

I spent two years of my youth in Atlanta. I got a truckload of indoctrination about the "War Between the States" and the "Northern Agression". When the Olympics where in Atlanta, what was the centerpiece of the opening ceremonies? Atlanta, the rising phoenix, overcoming the brutal agression of Sherman and the Yanks.

Which is to say, unless you are blind and unaware (as most Yankees are), many in the South have never forgiven their defeat.

Back to my point: who cares if it really represents Southern Heritage? What exactly was Southern Heritage built on?

I agree with you--they will never be convinced otherwise. It means something more, and it is tied to the deep wound over losing the Civil War. Those who ascribe to it "Heritage" or "Freedom" have some other issue or agenda--they are unable to see their "heritage" as it really was. If they did, they would not speak of it and be ashamed (as the North is--remember, we used slavery too).



----
Veritas otium parit. --Terence
[ Parent ]
Yes (5.00 / 2) (#27)
by maveness on Fri Aug 24, 2001 at 01:45:32 PM EST

I have beautiful Native American silver bracelet, which was made sometime in the early 20s, I believe. It's a lovely piece of jewelry.

It has two small swastikas on it. Probably no one would notice them without looking closely. I'm pretty sure that the boyfriend who gave it to me (it had been handed down in his family) never noticed them.

I wish I could wear it and not be uncomfortable. But _I_ know the swastikas are there. And I would be very unhappy if someone else noticed them and thought for one single solitary microsecond that I in any way endorsed the ideology that we inheritors of the 20th Century's sins know as Nazism.

This is the legacy of one of the world's most effective propaganda/branding efforts. Unfortunately, there were some brilliant creative minds behind the visual iconography of the Third Reich, and it was one of the first such efforts to appropriate and take full advantage of the technologies of mass media. And needless to say, those who opposed it did the same, firmly entrenching the association.

So yes, for the foreseeable future, we're stuck with the negative connotations of the swastika.

*********
Latest fortune cookie: "The current year will bring you much happiness." As if.

Reminds me of "Kolchak: The Nightstalker" (5.00 / 1) (#28)
by kostya on Fri Aug 24, 2001 at 01:51:49 PM EST

In one episode, some evil critter/werewolf was running amuck, slaughtering people. Around the site of the slaughters, they found an alley with swastikas. Everyone thought some Nazi nutcase was running about.

Apparently some Indian (the country) holy man had been chalking up the symbols as a ward against evil.

As I remember from the show, and TV is oh-so-accurate, the swastika was reversed compared to the Nazi symbol. You mention that above, so perhaps Kolchak was accurate. TV is a valuable source of knowledge!!



----
Veritas otium parit. --Terence
'reversed' swastika (none / 0) (#52)
by anansi on Mon Aug 27, 2001 at 01:34:44 AM EST

I honstly have no idea why people think the Nazi party reversed the direction of the swastika. I've seen swastikas in ancient japanese art, and they point both directions. If you think about elementary graphical design and the spiral, it's inevitable that a shape as simple as the swastika will be rediscovered by any artist who doodles long enough. It ain't exactly MC Escher material.

In all this rediscovery of the orthagonal spiral, it's inevitable that the rays will point in either direction... there's no emergant standard that says all cultures will make their swastikas point counterclockwise, and Mr. Hitler will come along and in his diabolical genius, reverse the direction! It smacks of a particularly goofy conspiracy theory.

Don't call it Fascism. Use Musollini's term: "Corporatism"
[ Parent ]

Hey there, conspiracy man! (none / 0) (#53)
by kostya on Mon Aug 27, 2001 at 10:08:27 AM EST

I'm just telling you what Kolchak told me. If you have issues, take it up with him.

As for me, your heated, hate-filled comment has not shaken my confidence in the American Entertainment industry. Despite your railings, it has proven itself time and time again as a reliable source for practical education and hard facts. Thanks to Kolchak, I now know to put up reversed swastikas to ward off my local werewolf. Doubters such as yourself will be eaten in the coming werewolf apocalypse.



----
Veritas otium parit. --Terence
[ Parent ]
Too bad (5.00 / 3) (#30)
by ouroboro on Fri Aug 24, 2001 at 02:05:10 PM EST

I hate to break this to you but once a symbol or word is used in such a powerful context it is nearly impossible to break that association.

In an opposite, but equally powerful example take the crucifix. In Roman times the crucifix was a gruesome tool of execution. A symbol to be feared. But now because of the the association of Christ with the crucifix it now represents to most Christians a compleletely different set of emotions.

Symbols are mearly that, symbolic. They have no meaning without context. That context is partly provided by the society in which they are used. Unfortunately the swastika symbol and the the Nazi's are linked in the minds of many people in this society. If a person wants to wear a swastika symbol on their clothes that is their right, but it is pretty silly for them to expect people to understand that they are using it as a symbol of something nice, when almost everybody else recognizes it as a symbol of hate.



Location (5.00 / 1) (#42)
by Tatarigami on Sat Aug 25, 2001 at 11:55:14 PM EST

Yes, it's in New Zealand. The city of Auckland.

I'm embarrassed to admit it, but I could never find that church now. I was driven past it by a friend, normally I go on foot and the route was completely different that day.

Finnish use of the symbol (5.00 / 1) (#43)
by ksandstr on Sun Aug 26, 2001 at 12:49:02 PM EST

Before and during the second world war, the finnish air force used to have a form of the swastika painted to the sides of their planes (white on a blue background, IIRC). This symbol was rather different from the nazi version -- it rested on one of its "sides", rather than standing on one of the "corners" (rotated 45 degrees compared to the nazi symbol -- I'm not sure which way the "limbs" pointed). From what I was taught at school (heh, what a source), the symbol used by the Finnish air force had been in use long before the rise of the third reich.



Fin.
Jewish swastikas (no, really). (5.00 / 1) (#48)
by Apuleius on Sun Aug 26, 2001 at 08:51:15 PM EST

If you take two Hebrew letters 'tav', rotate one of them 180 degrees, and join them at the corner, you get a swastika. This is why in really ancient synagogues you will find swastikas in the mosaics. In New Mexico's Palace of the Governors museum there was a recent exhibit on the role of Jews in the region's history, and in the display was a swastika pin made by a Jewish jeweler circa 1905.

Eventually IMO the swastika will be rehabilitated, if for no other reason then because the Hindus will want to regain ownership of it. But the sheer ubiquity of it in Nazi Germany means this won't happen in my lifetime.




There is a time and a place for everything, and it's called college. (The South Park chef)
Rehabilitating the swastika (4.00 / 2) (#50)
by anansi on Mon Aug 27, 2001 at 01:25:19 AM EST

The swastika will only regain its original, more powerful meanings, when there is a general understanding of the metaphysics of fascist thought.

When most people see a swastika, the associations are with a single supervillian and his political party, not the mass psychology of the nation which followed, or the draconian reperations instilled after WW1 which set the stage for the Nazi party's rise.

Today's mass psychology is still rife with the same knee-jerk stimulus/response dynamics of WW2. If more people could see through the jingoism, we'd be less supportive of Isreali policy in Palestine, and the $3Billion in US aid that props up the Isreali military.

It's not hard for me to imagine a world where we've outgrown the need to hate... even the need to hate people carrying swastikas in a white circle on a red field. When nazis and the KKK are considered ancient history, when there are no contemporary human rights abuses, then the swastika can regain its former meaning. Until then, it's a necessary shorthand for genocidal hatred.

Don't call it Fascism. Use Musollini's term: "Corporatism"

Symbol of Life: Gone Forever? | 55 comments (50 topical, 5 editorial, 0 hidden)
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