Gammadion vacation
December 23, 2008 8:20 AM   Subscribe

It seems that the swastika's continued popularity among certain non-Western cultures has led to some interesting travel resources. Then there are places that should know better. Some of these are unintentionally funny, but is it still too soon for some?
posted by ericbop (129 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
The generation laughing at Hitler has the last laugh, he says. “We’re here dancing on his grave.”

As a Jew, I've long felt that our ultimate triumph over Hitler is that our children can laugh at him.

That said: I would say the parrot cartoon is unintentionally unfunny.
posted by Joe Beese at 8:26 AM on December 23, 2008


Took this somewhere in India. This one in Mandalay. Also.
posted by gman at 8:32 AM on December 23, 2008


I don't get the travel orientation of this post. For instance.
posted by DU at 8:38 AM on December 23, 2008


As a Jew living in Germany, I consider myself entitled to an unlimited quota of Hitler jokes. Happily, in the latest step in vergangenheitsbewältigung, increasing numbers of Germans laugh along with me.

That said, I'm still not having much luck explaining the plot of "The Producers."
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 8:39 AM on December 23, 2008 [5 favorites]


Yikes!

I have an old copy of Kipling's "The Second Jungle Book" (1916) with what appears to be a stamp in it containing a swastika and the author's name. When I got the book, after doing a double-take, I realized it was facing the opposite direction from the Nazi swastika. I later heard that these "forward-facing" swastikas were popular good-luck symbols in various cultures. I did not know until this post that the Nazi-facing variant was also popular!
posted by Xezlec at 8:40 AM on December 23, 2008


LOLJainism? Did I miss a memo somewhere?
posted by giraffe at 8:40 AM on December 23, 2008


Yes, that's actually Nazi-wear. Who gives them this shit?

Um
posted by DU at 8:41 AM on December 23, 2008


Then there are places that should know better.

So some settlers in remote NY should have known that 100 years after they named their town a twisted German asshole would adopt and bastardize the commonly used symbol they named their town after? Oy vey.
posted by Pollomacho at 8:52 AM on December 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


There are small swastikas all over the haiga sophia in Istanbul, but I recall them being oriented in the opposite direction as compared to the nazi version.
posted by batou_ at 8:52 AM on December 23, 2008


I don't get it. South Asians are still using a symbol they've used for thousands of years. There just isn't anything weird about that.
posted by Methylviolet at 8:53 AM on December 23, 2008 [9 favorites]


As DU points out above, the swastika is an ancient symbol (the word itself comes from Sanskrit) and is used all over the world. For example, in Japan, the swastika is used as a map symbol for Buddhist temples.

Think of the backwards Nazi swastika as an upside-down cross.
posted by KokuRyu at 8:53 AM on December 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


I don't get it. South Asians are still using a symbol they've used for thousands of years. There just isn't anything weird about that.

There's nothing weird at all from their perspective. Sometimes things appear funny or interesting when viewed from the perspective of an entirely different historical/cultural experience.

So some settlers in remote NY should have known that 100 years after they named their town a twisted German asshole would adopt and bastardize the commonly used symbol they named their town after?

Or maybe they're just being stubborn, like their Canadian counterparts?
posted by ericbop at 9:05 AM on December 23, 2008


As DU points out above, the swastika is an ancient symbol (the word itself comes from Sanskrit) and is used all over the world.

I wonder how long it will take for the swastika to be fully reclaimed? I'm guessing that in a few generations the (Nazi) swastika will be about as meaningful as the Roman/Italian Fascist Fasces.
posted by MikeMc at 9:09 AM on December 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


Yeah, this seems like a pointless post to me. As already mentioned, a swastika is a sign of good luck in India, and it was hijacked by the Nazi's. The two locations chastised for their names, were named swastika long before the war, and with a different intention in mind. I think we just end up letting the Nazi's win if we continually associate the swastika with their evil actions, rather than taking back to it's true meaning.
posted by scarello at 9:09 AM on December 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


I travel back and forth between U.S. and India, and I'm pretty familiar with the swastika's impact in both cultures. I grew up in the U.S. considering the swastika (not knowing its origin at that point) to be about as evil a symbol as a symbol can be. However, in India it's powerfully positive. Telling an Hindu to be sensitive about the use of a swastika might be like telling a Christian in America to be careful about the display of a cross, because some Americans consider it to be associated with a potent evil. It's a bizarre situation for me because I now have two minds about it (depending which country I'm in!), and the subtle difference due to rotation orientation is not enough to matter. In the end, I think this is nothing that a little education can't solve.
posted by aletheia at 9:10 AM on December 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


Sam Gross drew the legless frog in the fancy restaurant, and he's 74 years old. He can draw whatever he wants to now.
posted by yhbc at 9:10 AM on December 23, 2008


DU - I'm on some SERIOUS pain killers right now, but isn't the "Yes, that's actually Nazi-wear. Who gives them this shit?", the Nazi one?
posted by gman at 9:10 AM on December 23, 2008


While the swastika is an ancient symbol, context is important. If you're drawing Nazi armbands in a cartoon that meant to be funny, it's inappropriate, because the swastika in that context meant state-sponsored mass murder and the liquidation of millions of people.
posted by KokuRyu at 9:14 AM on December 23, 2008


Or maybe they're just being stubborn, like their Canadian counterparts?

Or maybe you are just being ignorant? Why should the community change their name? It's their home and perhaps to change the name is to acknowledge some form of connection the brutality of the Nazi's, when in fact, it has no connection at all.
posted by scarello at 9:17 AM on December 23, 2008


I used to work at an old hotel that was called The Swastika Hotel pre-WW2. You can still see a faint swastika right in the top middle of the building today.
posted by weezy at 9:21 AM on December 23, 2008


Interestingly enough, there's parts of the Indian far-right that view Hitler in a pretty favorable light- it's a big issue how the hindutva movement has had its own party line pushed in schoolbooks, which say stuff like how Hitler was a misunderstood leader who proudly defended his country.
They have youth indoctrination groups disturbingly similar to Hitler Youth, khaki pants and all-- It surprises me they haven't used the swastika yet.
posted by dunkadunc at 9:21 AM on December 23, 2008


Unsuspecting couple goes apartment hunting and finds themselves trapped in The Amity Street Horror!
posted by king walnut at 9:28 AM on December 23, 2008


Geek Moment here: way back in the day when I was helping run an anime club, we showed a series called Yuu Yuu Hakusho (Spirit Activity Report), which was a pretty decent fighting anime.

However, during one section of the series we had to take a moment before each episode began to explain that one of the fighters in the current contest was a Buddhist, NOT a neo-Nazi, because he had a swastika tattooed upon his forehead. Even though the swastika was reversed from the Nazi one, a bald guy with a swastika was bringing up some incorrect associations.
posted by happyroach at 9:43 AM on December 23, 2008


Apparently, a friend's sister, a rapper, got into trouble when performing abroad. During one of her performances, she decided spout some of the pro-Palestinian rhetoric so trendy amongst today's thoughtless leftists. Apparently, the people in the crowd started to get angry. This anger and shouting built to a crescendo as her set wore on. She wound up having to cut her set short, and was escorted from the building to prevent a riot. She later found out that she was performing in front of a local Jewish organization. And that's when she remembered that she had a swastika tattoo.

So my friend is telling me this story, and I'm like, "Your sister has a swastika tattoo?"

"Yeah, but it's facing forward -"
"But wait... your sister has a swastika tattoo? She lives in America, right?"
"Yeah, but in other cultures, it's this beautiful symbol of good luck - " and blah blah blah blah blah.

I walked away laughing my ass off.

I'm sorry, but unless you're from India and plan on living your life there, fuck your cultural relativism. There's no excuse for a swastika tattoo. My friend's sister deserves all the derision she gets for it. Maybe one day she'll grow up and get the goddamn thing removed.
posted by Afroblanco at 9:44 AM on December 23, 2008 [3 favorites]


(and no, neither my friend nor her sister are Indian. they're half Hawaiian and half Hispanic)
posted by Afroblanco at 9:46 AM on December 23, 2008


Afroblanco - tell that to Manwoman. (Relevant pic here)
posted by FatherDagon at 9:59 AM on December 23, 2008


You know what else the Nazi's hijacked?

That's right. The apostrophe.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 10:04 AM on December 23, 2008 [7 favorites]


Seoul.
posted by gman at 10:04 AM on December 23, 2008


You know what? Fuck "Manwoman" and his "gentle swastika."

Part of cultural relativism is understanding the culture that you live in. And in that culture, the swastika is a symbol of hatred. So yes, "Manwoman" deserves all the shit he gets for his tattoos and "art."
posted by Afroblanco at 10:06 AM on December 23, 2008


I'd definitely wear one of those German t-shirts with the word 'smoker' emblazened across a yellow star.

I wouldn't expect to get a lot of laughs though.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 10:06 AM on December 23, 2008


I wonder how long it will take for the swastika to be fully reclaimed? I'm guessing that in a few generations the (Nazi) swastika will be about as meaningful as the Roman/Italian Fascist Fasces.

The thing with the fasces is that it was, first of all, a republican symbol meaning both justice and strength in unity. As such it is quite present in the imagery of many republics, starting with the US and France: it is for instance quite prominent in the coat of arms of the République Française.

Don't think that you'll see it in any official symbol of the current Italian Republic, though...context is indeed everything.
posted by Skeptic at 10:10 AM on December 23, 2008


Manwoman: "I was also thrown out of a Hollywood Jewish restaurant even though I love bagels."
posted by Kiwi at 10:12 AM on December 23, 2008


I remember seeing a bumper sticker in Taiwan which had the swastika in a white cricle against a red background; I don't recall the direction and tbh wouldn't necessarily know which was which but assumed some local factory had done an order for actual Nazis abroad and then sold the excess to Buddhists at home.
posted by Abiezer at 10:15 AM on December 23, 2008


And yes, I am Jewish, so this issue does hit home with me.

Maybe if we lived in a world where there weren't active Neo-Nazi sects who continued to use the swastika in its Nazi context.... maybe if we lived in a world where anti-Semitism wasn't experiencing a rather disturbing revival.... maybe if I felt that the world had fully absorbed the lessons of World War II... maybe then my feelings would be different. But this is the world that we live in, and the swastika still has a lot of negative meaning for people like me. And I'm sorry, but that's a hell of a lot more important than somebody's trendy desire to recycle a symbol that they happen to think is "neat." There are plenty of other "good luck" symbols that don't mean mass-extermination for millions of people.

Ok, I can feel myself getting angry. I'm going to leave this thread for a while.

(oh yeah, and in reference to the story about my friend's rapping sister - I should probably mention that she was perfoming in Europe at the time)
posted by Afroblanco at 10:16 AM on December 23, 2008


"...pro-Palestinian rhetoric so trendy amongst today's thoughtless leftists..."

o.O

But yeah, having a swastika tattoo is just plain stupid. Some people are so hell bent on "being right" about some arcane trivial point in order to prove their intellectual superiority that they would do something like that (It's a Hindu good luck symbol, you stupid dunce!). I think the appropriate expression is "cutting off your nose to spite your face".

As far as towns renaming themselves, I don't see why you would hold onto a name that is so clearly provocative. In World War One, my hometown renamed itself from an ordinary German name to a boutique-y local Indian name. While I think it was an overreaction, the general idea is just about good marketing. Are there any Bates Motels anywhere in the United States?

And the rest is indeed cultural relativism. I think the point Aletheia made about the cross as a cultural reference is a good way of putting it.
posted by Xoebe at 10:17 AM on December 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


I think it's understandable that someone sporting a swastika tattoo would get some noise about it, but that doesn't mean they deserve it. You'd think that a Jew in particular would understand the issue of being hated for a misunderstood cultural symbol. Ah humanity.
posted by DU at 10:19 AM on December 23, 2008 [2 favorites]


"...pro-Palestinian rhetoric so trendy amongst today's thoughtless leftists..." ‽‽‽

I don't like anyone getting blown up, but when it's kids throwing rocks versus soldiers with guns, I'm going to side with the kids.

That said, I can't blame the Jewish group for getting pissed off if she had a fucking swastika tattoo.
posted by dunkadunc at 10:27 AM on December 23, 2008


MikeMc : I wonder how long it will take for the swastika to be fully reclaimed?

I've wondered about this before, and I figure that it's going to be seen as a symbol of evil at least until the grandkids of anyone involved are long dead. Basically, anyone who ever could have been told a first hand account by a family member will still be a connective link to that past.

It's a shame, because from a purely aesthetic standpoint, the Nazis used stole some great iconography, but as long as there are still groups out there who use any part of it in their symbols and act to oppress people, I doubt we will see it reclaimed.

That said, I would love to be wrong. I would find it absolutely fantastic if the Jewish people, or the Roma, or anybody that was on the wrong end of the Final Solution, decided to say "fuck these neo-Nazi assholes" and took the symbol for themselves. Just to finally make it safe again.
posted by quin at 10:28 AM on December 23, 2008


No, I disagree. Why is any town retaining a name it had before the atrocity described as stubborn "holding on to" it, and changing it characterized as the reasonable course? You can't just wave away the totally innocent meaning of the town's name for the thousands who live there (or the [reverse] swastika symbol for millions if not billions of people) by labeling any reference to those facts as 'cultural relativism'.
posted by R_Nebblesworth at 10:30 AM on December 23, 2008


...some of the pro-Palestinian rhetoric so trendy amongst today's thoughtless leftists...

Wow, being in favor of Palestine is "thoughtless" and "leftist"? Better tell that to this guy.

I'm not sure what she said that ticked you off, but simply being pro-Palestine (which is no longer mutually exclusive with being pro-Israel) isn't really very controversial anymore, on either the right or the left. I kinda have to agree with you about the tattoo, though; that just seems like trying to start a fight.
posted by Xezlec at 10:33 AM on December 23, 2008 [3 favorites]


(one more thing before I leave - some have picked up on my dislike of pro-Palestinian rhetoric. I should clarify - I don't agree with the actions of the Israeli nation. I don't agree with how they treat the Palestinians. But it annoys me when people who don't really understand the issue jump in and start siding with the Palestinians, as if suicide bombings are any more justifyable than bulldozing houses. And it does seem to me that, as of recent, siding with the Palestinians (without giving much thought to the Israeli perspective) has become somewhat trendy amongst certain leftists. But having said that, I do kinda regret bringing up the Palestinian thing because it is kind of a derail here.)
posted by Afroblanco at 10:34 AM on December 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


卐 and 卍.
posted by gen at 10:36 AM on December 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


Those symbols are very common in Buddhist temples in Japan: The Swastika Symbol in Buddhism.
posted by gen at 10:38 AM on December 23, 2008


卐 and 卍.

Wasn't there some uproar from Jewish groups a while back about swastikas being included in some Microsoft fonts? I thought they weren't included anymore.
posted by dunkadunc at 10:43 AM on December 23, 2008


The floor of the synagogue in Ein Gedi is decorated with a swastika. And Adolf was once a popular names among Jews. Also, I have yet to meet a Jew who didn't like the melody to Deutschland über alles, myself included.
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:53 AM on December 23, 2008


From the "know" link:
Vacation Rental Homes in the Swastika, NY Area
First result:
Whiteface Mountain
posted by rottytooth at 10:55 AM on December 23, 2008 [2 favorites]


There's lots of pre-World War II architecture in the United States that has swastikas in it. I can't find any pictures online to verify it, but there's a building near the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California that has small swastikas used as decoration on the side, but they're all included in an array with crosses, Stars of David, yin/yangs, and other religious symbols. I've also been to a cafeteria at the United States Military Academy in West Point where the are some swastikas in the wooden molding near the ceiling, but you'd never notice it unless you knew what to look for.
posted by jonp72 at 10:56 AM on December 23, 2008


You know what? Fuck "Manwoman" and his "gentle swastika."

ManWoman makes paintings like this and penis-shaped guitars. You get upset about "leftist rhetoric". You also say "leftist rhetoric". I'm going to side with ManWoman here.
posted by DecemberBoy at 10:58 AM on December 23, 2008 [4 favorites]


Here's a pre-World War II photo of the future Mrs. Jacqueline Kennedy wearing a swastika.
posted by jonp72 at 10:59 AM on December 23, 2008


There's lots of pre-World War II architecture in the United States that has swastikas in it.

We used to joke that this block of '70s-era dorms at the University of Maine was where they used to have the German Studies program.

of course, in real life the University doesn't give a damn about language instruction.
posted by dunkadunc at 11:23 AM on December 23, 2008


To put it quite simply, there is absolutely no good reason, nor any excuse for any display of the swastika in non-Eastern cultures -- anytime, anywhere, nor under any circumstances. Period.
posted by Seekerofsplendor at 11:26 AM on December 23, 2008


Where does this leave Swastike Pete?
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 11:27 AM on December 23, 2008


Where does this leave Swastike Pete?
Crap, man. I'd say the neonazi had the winning side of that deal.
posted by dunkadunc at 11:30 AM on December 23, 2008


Wow, in that early photo of Jacqueline Kennedy, she looks just like Elisabeth Moss from Mad Men!
posted by ericbop at 11:31 AM on December 23, 2008


Could the swatstika be rehabilitaed?
Possibly.

Is it worth the aggravation?
Probably not.
posted by jonmc at 11:32 AM on December 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


@Afroblanco

Part of cultural relativism is understanding the culture that you live in.

another part of cultural relativsim is the understanding that other cultures may have dramatically different attitudes about things like the swastika than your own culture. despite the fact that, in one culture, the swastika is a symbol of hatred, in many other cultures throughout the world, the swastika, whether "forward facing" or "backwards facing" is a symbol of love, peace and good luck. prior to the nazis getting a hold of it relatively recently, it was universally a positive symbol everywhere in the world, including in those places where it is now considered to be a symbol of hatred. there are proto-jewish synagogues, thousands of years old, that are decorated with swastikas. who should the world listen to: the ravings of nazi morons that have only existed for 80+ years, or the entirety of human culture which has existed since history has been recorded?

manwoman is perfectly correct in his endeavour to reclaim the swastika from racists, and i fully support his work.
posted by przxqgl at 11:37 AM on December 23, 2008 [3 favorites]


There's lots of pre-World War II architecture in the United States that has swastikas in it.

Including the Laguna Dam near Yuma, Arizona.
posted by Knappster at 11:37 AM on December 23, 2008


manwoman is perfectly correct in his endeavour to reclaim the swastika from racists, and i fully support his work.

you are an inspiration to freedom loving people everywhere, good citizen.
posted by jonmc at 11:40 AM on December 23, 2008


There's lots of pre-World War II architecture in the United States that has swastikas in it.

The swastika had a fairly prominent place in some Native American cultures. There's a two-story building in downtown Farmington, NM that is ringed with swastikas along the roofline. They're laid into the bricks, so there's no painting over it. Also, the state highway signs in Arizona used to feature the swastika. You can see examples at the Arizona Roads site. Needless to say, those disappeared after WWII.

I agree with some of what jonmc posted above, except that I don't really believe the swastika could be rehabilitated. Given its current hateful connotation, and in some cases active use by those who still believe in what it stood for in Nazi Germany, I think the symbol is forever tarnished.
posted by azpenguin at 11:46 AM on December 23, 2008


@azpenguin

it is people with attitudes like yours that are one of the primary obstacles in the swastika's eventual rehabilitation. for 10,000 years prior to the nazis, the swastika was a symbol of good luck to every group of humans on the planet. it's going to take a lot more than a few power-hungry racists, and people who think that the nazis use of it means that it is permanently defiled, to keep the swastika in a place of shame for more than 100 years or so...
posted by przxqgl at 12:06 PM on December 23, 2008


it is people with attitudes like yours that are one of the primary obstacles in the swastika's eventual rehabilitation.

well, there goes my night's sleep.
posted by jonmc at 12:08 PM on December 23, 2008


Completely non-snarky: are gay people, disabled people, Romani people and any other non-Jewish group that also suffered due to the Holocaust also deeply insulted by the existence of the swastika in "non-Eastern cultures"?
posted by giraffe at 12:11 PM on December 23, 2008


@dunkadunc

the swastika, in both of its directions, are part of the unicode character set. they're standard characters and everybody else uses them, whether micro$not includes them or not.
posted by przxqgl at 12:14 PM on December 23, 2008


przxqgl

this comment was sarcastic, genius.
posted by jonmc at 12:18 PM on December 23, 2008


For much (possibly most) of the world the swastika is not tarnished at all and needs no 'reclaiming' from anything

To put it quite simply, there is absolutely no good reason, nor any excuse for any display of the swastika in non-Eastern cultures -- anytime, anywhere, nor under any circumstances. Period.

To put it not quite so simply, there is absolutely no good reason to believe that the innocuous use of the swastika is limited to so-called "Eastern" cultures or that your culture (presumably non-Eastern) is homogenous enough that there are no Eastern people in it, or that your limited understanding of the swastika symbol's meaning should bind the rest of us.

Even if it were accurate that only "Eastern cultures" have used the swastika as a peace/luck/religious symbol (which it isn't), I guess that means Eastern people who move to a Western nation have to stop using it, by your logic? What about Western people born and raised in an Eastern culture, or who adopt one as an adult? Are they all bound by this rule?
posted by R_Nebblesworth at 12:21 PM on December 23, 2008 [4 favorites]


Or is it just a fylfot?
posted by mattbucher at 12:31 PM on December 23, 2008


Man, I'm sure glad the Nazi's symbol wasn't a circle or a square or something. Then we'd never be able to use circles again!
posted by garlic at 12:58 PM on December 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


the swastica's eventual rehabilitation may be hard to avoid with parents like this
posted by matt755811 at 1:21 PM on December 23, 2008


another part of cultural relativsim is the understanding that other cultures may have dramatically different attitudes about things like the swastika than your own culture.

And in this culture, it's a mark of hatred and fucktardery. So when someone brought up in this culture, living in this culture, gets a tattoo of a swastika, they are a fucktard.

it is people with attitudes like yours that are one of the primary obstacles in the swastika's eventual rehabilitation

Why anyone would care whether it is rehabilitated or not is beyond me. It's a symbol. It is completely incapable of caring about anything. So it never gets rehabilitated in the west... so fucking what?

To put it not quite so simply, there is absolutely no good reason to believe that the innocuous use of the swastika is limited to so-called "Eastern" cultures or that your culture (presumably non-Eastern) is homogenous enough that there are no Eastern people in it, or that your limited understanding of the swastika symbol's meaning should bind the rest of us.

Nonsense. Living in any culture, even if it is not your own, means paying some attention to the taboos of that culture. Most western cultures have a taboo against displaying swastikas, so people living in western cultures generally should, at the least, be careful about doing so. Not doing so is like moving to India and spitting on the cows -- just because your original or home culture says it's okay doesn't mean you're not a jackass for doing it in a place where it is taboo.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 1:47 PM on December 23, 2008 [3 favorites]


Certainly, people growing up in this culture shouldn't use it willy nilly. On the other hand, I'm not one to say what my former Tibetan neighbors should and should have on their altar.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 1:50 PM on December 23, 2008


What the fuck? Two of your links are Indian websites and one is Balinese. How is that "interesting", except to some fuckwitted Western person who thought the swastika was invented in the 20th century?
posted by splitpeasoup at 2:50 PM on December 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


And in this culture, it's a mark of hatred and fucktardery. So when someone brought up in this culture, living in this culture, gets a tattoo of a swastika, they are a fucktard.

Including Buddhists, Hindus, and others for whom swastika != Nazism? Or are they not part of "this culture"?

Nonsense. Living in any culture, even if it is not your own, means paying some attention to the taboos of that culture. Most western cultures have a taboo against displaying swastikas, so people living in western cultures generally should, at the least, be careful about doing so. Not doing so is like moving to India and spitting on the cows -- just because your original or home culture says it's okay doesn't mean you're not a jackass for doing it in a place where it is taboo.

No, this is nonsense. The U.S. is a pluralistic society and that means that "this culture" includes Buddhists, Hindus and others for whom the swastika is an innocuous symbol. All you are doing is defining Western culture to not include those people, which is obviously wrong. Beyond that are you really saying that, for example, a Balinese person who moves to the U.S. and uses one of their traditional symbols to decorate their home/property/body is a "fucktard"?
posted by R_Nebblesworth at 3:19 PM on December 23, 2008 [3 favorites]


Including Buddhists, Hindus, and others for whom swastika != Nazism? Or are they not part of "this culture"?

Yes, including them. Same as Christians in India, for whom cows are nothing but food, treating them as such. In a place where cows are commonly treated as something sacred, you would be a fucktard to treat them as nothing more than food.

Beyond that are you really saying that, for example, a Balinese person who moves to the U.S. and uses one of their traditional symbols to decorate their home/property/body is a "fucktard"?

Yes, of course I am. Anyone who decorates the exterior of their home with symbols that any fool should know will enrage and horrify their neighbors is either a Grade A moron or a jackass. At the very least, a Balinese person who moves to the US and is not careful and circumspect about how they display swastikas can expect to be rightly treated as either ignorant or a jackass.

To flip it, are you saying that if I go to India and, say, roughly smack, kick, and shout at a wandering cow to get it out of my way, that Indian people will be wrong to think that I'm some sort of jackass just because treating cows in that way is acceptable where I'm from? For me to behave in such a manner if I had been actually brought up in India for some reason would be jackassery of epic proportions.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 3:31 PM on December 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


Well I disagree that using one's own traditional religious symbols which are totally disconnected from WWII and Nazi culture is analogous to attacking or vandalizing sacred communal property.

I guess I'm surprised that in your view the immigrant is the jackass for using their own religious symbols in the manner they're accustomed to without inquiry into their neighbour's views is an ignorant jackass, but the neighbours in turn have no duty to ask him what the symbols mean before gathering the torches and pitchforks.
posted by R_Nebblesworth at 3:46 PM on December 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


Who said anything about attacking or vandalizing? All I mentioned was getting some dumb animal out of the way. My culture says that I can do so with mild to moderate physical force, and it's my culture, so the people around me have to respect that, right? As for communal property, so you'd agree that if I move to India and buy some cows, I can publicly treat them however my culture allows (that is, roughly, and then eat them) and the Indians are terrible people if they're horrified that I broke their taboo?

In general, yes, it's incumbent on people who are traveling or moving from one dominant culture to another to be aware of the taboos of the new dominant culture in which they'll find themselves.

Is this really rocket science? I mean, for God's sake, people have known that when in Rome, do as the Romans for over 1500 years.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 4:22 PM on December 23, 2008


Useless, culturally ignorant post.
What's next - "Road signs desecrate crosses to designate intersections?"
posted by hooptycritter at 4:26 PM on December 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


Surrender monkeys are welcome to give up the swastika to the Nazis. People who aren't into appeasement should take it back.
posted by shetterly at 4:54 PM on December 23, 2008



"Also, I have yet to meet a Jew who didn't like the melody to Deutschland über alles, myself included."

The Hymn to the Emperor Francis II was written by Franz Josef Haydn in 1797. Haydn wrote it self-consciously: he intended it to be a timeless masterpiece, and it went through many drafts. It later became the anthem of Austria. In 1841 the tune was used for a German song that began "Deutschland uber alles". It became the German National Anthem in 1922.

So: there is no earthly reason to hate this piece. I first knew it as a child as the second movement of Haydn's "Emperor Quartet" (opus 76 no. 3), and was dumbfounded to later find out its association with Nazi Germany.
posted by acrasis at 5:05 PM on December 23, 2008


Xoebe writes "I don't see why you would hold onto a name that is so clearly provocative. In World War One, my hometown renamed itself from an ordinary German name to a boutique-y local Indian name. While I think it was an overreaction, the general idea is just about good marketing. "

Because it's goofy newspeakish pandering to change it. Like Freedom fries.

Seekerofsplendor writes "To put it quite simply, there is absolutely no good reason, nor any excuse for any display of the swastika in non-Eastern cultures -- anytime, anywhere, nor under any circumstances. Period."

I'd disagree. The swastika independent of it's recent baggage is both historically significant and esthetically pleasing. It's also a very simple pattern to make. I'd love to have a hardwood floor with repeating swastika border; too bad it's sure to offend so many people.
posted by Mitheral at 5:52 PM on December 23, 2008


The swastika will retain it's status as a symbol of evil for as long as movies are made and watched that feature Nazis as the embodiment of evil. Which is to say, a really long time.
posted by vapidave at 6:01 PM on December 23, 2008


You know what? Fuck "Manwoman" and his "gentle swastika."

I remember attending the Seattle Modern Primitives event sponsored by COCA (Center On Contemporary Art) and ReSearch books. This was way back in 1989, right at the very birth of the "modern primitive" thing. Manwoman attended, I believe as an invited guest. Here he is standing next to V. Vale.

Being that it is now 2008, almost 2009, I think it's safe to say that the swastika never took off as a "modern primitive" symbol, unlike say, the "tribal tattoo" or stainless steel body jewelery.

I had my brakes done at a shop a while back, and I was startled to see a small swastika tattoo on the arm of the man who ran the shop. It took me a while to figure it out, but I think he was Cambodian, and so was probably not a Neo-Nazi.
posted by Tube at 6:47 PM on December 23, 2008


Yes, of course I am. Anyone who decorates the exterior of their home with symbols that any fool should know will enrage and horrify their neighbors is either a Grade A moron or a jackass. At the very least, a Balinese person who moves to the US and is not careful and circumspect about how they display swastikas can expect to be rightly treated as either ignorant or a jackass.

I don't know. If someone is horribly offended by the swastika and can't disconnect the nice Balinese couple next door from the monsters who killed their Grandpa Moeshe, the realization that the world -- the entirety of human history, really -- does not, in fact, revolve around them might do them some good.
posted by Amanojaku at 7:37 PM on December 23, 2008 [2 favorites]


It seems to me that if the nice Balinese people want their home to be a comfortable place for their Jewish/Gay/disabled etc friends, they might consider not using a symbol that is viscerally associated for them with death and pain. I do honestly believe that people are more important than symbols.

Of course mutual understanding is required, but I'm sure that if the perfectly nice Balinese people do give a shit about their Jewish friends and are moderately aware of anti-semitism in the world, they'll understand that extra care might be required in explaining and sharing their culture.

I notice that nobody's in such a hurry to rehabilitate the confederate flag, incidentally.
posted by Salamandrous at 7:54 PM on December 23, 2008


Surrender monkeys are welcome to give up the swastika to the Nazis. People who aren't into appeasement should take it back.

This is bullshit, and I'm fucking sick of it.

There's been all kinds of talk about "reclaiming the swastika." Reclaiming? Reclaiming?!

Reclaiming is when gays refer to themselves as "queers." Reclaiming is when African-Americans refer to themselves using the n-word. Reclaiming is when feminists refer to themselves (typically in an ironic fashion) as "bitches."

So, unless you see Jews lining up for swastika tattoos, shut your ignorant-ass piehole about reclaiming.

it is people with attitudes like yours that are one of the primary obstacles in the swastika's eventual rehabilitation.

Oh fucking no. Think about how the poor little swastikas must feel! Never being able to take their place among acceptable design elements. Whatever will they do with their lives?

And I think that ROU_Xenophobe's Hindu cow comparison is spot-on. To add to his argument, I'd like you to go out and find me the massive crowds of devout Hindu and Buddhist Americans who feel brutally oppressed because they can't display the swastika outside their homes. Go on, I'm waiting.

God, I can't believe that we're even having this conversation. The swastika means death for the millions whose people were slaughtered in the Holocaust. And you're bitching and whining because there's one little symbol that you shouldn't use as a design element? Fuck you. Tell me, why don't you go running around in Harlem calling people the n-word, because you happen to think that it is a nice-sounding word? Why don't you burn a cross on your front lawn because you want to have a nice bonfire and you think that burning crosses look cool?

The ignorance in this thread is astounding. On the one hand, we have the cultural memory of the deaths of millions, and on the other hand, we have a few people who are a little miffed because there's one little symbol that they can't use for decoration.

You know what I have to say to those people?

Tough shit.
posted by Afroblanco at 8:10 PM on December 23, 2008 [5 favorites]


Well, if yelling and stamping your feet were persuasive, you'd have me convinced.

On the other hand, you're still just arguing that your cultural memory is more important or valid than basically half the world's. I don't buy it. And the cow comparison isn't spot on - desecrating a sacred symbol isn't the same as demanding that someone else stop using theirs.

Tough shit.

Indeed.
posted by R_Nebblesworth at 8:28 PM on December 23, 2008 [3 favorites]


On the other hand, you're still just arguing that your cultural memory is more important or valid than basically half the world's.

Look, nobody is suggesting that we go over to India and China and tell them to stop displaying swastikas.

And hell, even here in America, you can display the swastika to your heart's content. Free country and all of that. But nonetheless, the people around you will know that you're a culturally insensitive idiot.

But you know what? I've been wrong all along. I just can't wait until the Holocaust is far enough behind us that we can all bust out our swastikas, and pretend the whole Nazi thing never happened. Won't the world be a better, safer place then?

Sometimes, it is better to remember. Even if it means that you need to use some other pattern to decorate your floor.
posted by Afroblanco at 8:39 PM on December 23, 2008


Afroblanco: "I'd like you to go out and find me the massive crowds of devout Hindu and Buddhist Americans who feel brutally oppressed because they can't display the swastika outside their homes. Go on, I'm waiting."

You will be waiting for a long time, because for many of those that you are talking about take the principle of non-violence very seriously. To the point that they would rather keep quiet than stir up trouble by doing something like that.
posted by ArgentCorvid at 8:41 PM on December 23, 2008


Well, even I wouldn't go so far as to suggest that floor decorations take precedence over remembering the Holocaust. My main point was just to disagree with the jingoistic original premise of the OP that it's ZOMG CRAZY that South Asians employ the (backwards) swastika, when it's liek means Nazism!

I still don't agree that one culture should have to give up some cultural symbols when it immigrates to America (or whichever country) because another culture in that country is offended by them, but I'll stop pressing the point.
posted by R_Nebblesworth at 9:03 PM on December 23, 2008


On the other hand, you're still just arguing that your cultural memory is more important or valid than basically half the world's

No, he's arguing that the dominant cultural memory of wherever you are is more important, at that moment, than the dominant cultural memory of wherever you're from.

My main point was just to disagree with the jingoistic original premise of the OP that it's ZOMG CRAZY that South Asians employ the (backwards) swastika, when it's liek means Nazism!

That was indeed stupid, jingoistic, and ignorant, because it ignores what that symbol means to and in the dominant cultures in that part of the world.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:25 PM on December 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


I still don't agree that one culture should have to give up some cultural symbols when it immigrates to America (or whichever country) because another culture in that country is offended by them

That makes it sound as though it's a Jewish quirk or something to be offended by swastikas, as though it's only an issue of one subculture versus another. Even if it *were* only Jews who are offended by it (and I hope that you don't have to be a member of a persecuted group to be offended by a symbol that stood for genocide), I would say that the symbol itself is offensive.

No, not inherently so, but symbols have no *inherent* meaning. Hitler took the swastika and made it stand for the systematic murder of undesirables. Other people who have other connections (or who don't, since it seems like there are 'allies' here) to that symbol would apparently like us undesirables and the society we live in to get over it.

Well you can't go back in history and undo Hitler and neither can you wipe out his legacy. If the only fatality Hitler caused these cultures is to this symbol, all my sympathy, but, yeah, no, not all that much.
posted by Salamandrous at 9:29 PM on December 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


I've been lurking on this site for at least eight years, and I'd like the very first comment I make to be this: Being offended is for pussies. Genuine outrage at actual injustice? Wonderful. But taking offense seems to always be a completely bullshit display of pretend emotion. People like to be offended about any "inappropriate" mention of the Holocaust, or *gasp*, use of the swastika. It gives them a cover for their own brain damage. It's so overdone, obvious, sad and the last refuge of the blowhard angry conformist.
posted by Gamien Boffenburg at 9:32 PM on December 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


Yeah, people who take offense to jokes about the systematic murder of millions of people just need to chill out. I mean come on. That was like, what, sixty some years ago? Why you bringing up old shit?
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 9:38 PM on December 23, 2008 [2 favorites]


Afroblanco, you really think people who respect ancient Native American, Tibetan, and Hindu symbols should fuck off? What other cultural symbols do you think good people should abandon so evil people can have them? And, last I looked, "even here in America" included Arizona. You do realize that the swastika is not a foreign symbol on this continent?

Salamandrous, start another thread, and I'll happily talk about the Confederate battle flag. But the shortest answer is that it was originally a symbol of armed rebellion against the United States of America by people who intended to preserve slavery. That's hardly comparable to the swastika.
posted by shetterly at 9:53 PM on December 23, 2008 [1 favorite]


you really think people who respect ancient Native American, Tibetan, and Hindu symbols should fuck off?

People should not willfully and publicly violate local taboos, whatever they are, unless they're willing to be seen as either offensively ignorant foreigners or the kind of jackass who does that sort of thing for shock value.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:02 PM on December 23, 2008


And additionally, I would think that the Native Americans would be particularly understanding about the swastika, given their own history of mass genocide.
posted by Afroblanco at 11:25 PM on December 23, 2008


Afroblanco, are you seriously asking the Hopi to give up the swastika? Would you trade them the Star of David? It is not a minor symbol.

Keep in mind that the Nazis did not create the swastika. They took it, probably from the Tibetans--they thought the Tibetans had Aryan connections.

You might want to read a little about Werner Klemperer and John Banner. Klemperer fled the Nazis. Banner had family members die in concentration camps. But they were glad to play Germans in Hogan's Heroes because they knew that treating Hitler's followers as fools was a greater victory than treating them as fierce opponents whose symbols were too powerful to mock.
posted by shetterly at 11:58 PM on December 23, 2008 [2 favorites]


Afroblanco, are you seriously asking the Hopi to give up the swastika?

Now you're just being dense. Nobody's telling them to give up the swastika.

However, it would be ridiculous and offensive for them to walk through the streets of Phoenix carrying swastika banners.

Which is why I'd imagine they don't do it.
posted by Afroblanco at 12:29 AM on December 24, 2008


And what, you may ask, if the situations were reversed?

What if, say, the Star of David had been used as the main symbol for a political movement that exterminated 9 to 11 million people in an act of genocide?

Well, I wouldn't expect Stars of David to disappear from Jewish homes or synagogues. And I'm sure that you would see many on public display in Israel. Who knows, maybe if I were to visit Israel, I would wear a Star of David out in public, as well.

But if I were in any other country, no, I wouldn't wear one in public. And I sure as hell wouldn't get one tattooed on my skin.

There's enough other Jewish iconography. One symbol would be no great loss.
posted by Afroblanco at 12:42 AM on December 24, 2008


Afroblanco, you're telling people they shouldn't wear ancient symbols because the Nazis appropriated them. You're free to honor the Nazis that way. I'd rather celebrate the courage of the people who say "No way do those assholes get to keep what belongs to the world" and take those symbols back.

Well, we've stated our positions, and I don't see much flexibility in either of our positions, so I'll leave you now with a wish for a Very Happy Hanukkah!
posted by shetterly at 1:29 AM on December 24, 2008


I'd rather celebrate the courage of the people who say "No way do those assholes get to keep what belongs to the world" and take those symbols back.

oh those courageous swastika wearers....

Well, anyway, regardless of my opinion on swastikas, I'll mention that I'm a longtime supporter of the ACLU, and always will be. So I think that someone should have the right to make a total ass of themselves. This is, after all, a free country.
posted by Afroblanco at 1:47 AM on December 24, 2008


It seems to me that if the nice Balinese people want their home to be a comfortable place for their Jewish/Gay/disabled etc friends, they might consider not using a symbol that is viscerally associated for them with death and pain. I do honestly believe that people are more important than symbols.

I got this Palestinian neighbour two doors down, who, as a child, was orphaned by an Israeli missile. He's never once asked me to remove my Hanukkah decorations.

While we're at it, can the U.S. please rename some of their sports teams? And their military helicopters? The celebration of genocide is a tad offensive.
posted by gman at 3:18 AM on December 24, 2008 [3 favorites]


What if, say, the Star of David had been used as the main symbol for a political movement that exterminated 9 to 11 million people in an act of genocide?

We don't ask people not to wear a cross around there neck or not to put one up in their home or church or office, but Lord knows a hell of a lot of people have died over the centuries under that sign!
posted by Pollomacho at 6:24 AM on December 24, 2008


I got this Palestinian neighbour two doors down, who, as a child, was orphaned by an Israeli missile. He's never once asked me to remove my Hanukkah decorations.

And I wouldn't ask a German to take down his flag, or stop wearing traditional dress, or stop displaying religious and cultural artifacts, or even to turn around the picture of his beloved grandfather who was also a Nazi soldier. So? It's not everything German or even everything Nazi that retains this particular cultural symbolism (although it very well might bring traumatic associations for survivors who have not had to harden themselves to it). It's funny that you would associate hanukkah decorations with the swastika. I assume a more apt comparison would be tzahal paraphernalia. Would it really never occur to you to think twice about wearing/displaying it in front of your friend?

While we're at it, can the U.S. please rename some of their sports teams? And their military helicopters? The celebration of genocide is a tad offensive.

Actually, yes, several American sports teams are offensively named and ought to be renamed. Helicopters too probably though I've read less about that issue. People are more important than symbols.

Afroblanco, you're telling people they shouldn't wear ancient symbols because the Nazis appropriated them. You're free to honor the Nazis that way. I'd rather celebrate the courage of the people who say "No way do those assholes get to keep what belongs to the world" and take those symbols back.

You know what? I think you should let the actual Balinese/first Nations/Tibetan etc, peoples who actually have a swastika as part of their cultural heritage fight their own battles. You're not doing them any favors. I imagine that people who hang onto cultural symbols for thousands of years would probably be more sensitive to the idea that they take their meaning not only from the intentions of the people who are using them right now but from something real that has real meaning to them in the world.

Remembering what the swastika meant of millions of people sixty years ago is NOT honoring the Nazis. I don't know how you could think it is. It's honoring the people who suffered by them, the people who fought against them, and the historical fact of the holocaust a meaningful event in history that had a real impact on millions of people for generations. It's disgusting that you would say that having respect for the cultural implications and traumatic associations with this symbol is honoring nazis.
posted by Salamandrous at 7:24 AM on December 24, 2008 [2 favorites]


Helicopters too probably though I've read less about that issue.

AFAIK, they currently ask the relevant nation for permission.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:00 AM on December 24, 2008


I got this Palestinian neighbour two doors down, who, as a child, was orphaned by an Israeli missile. He's never once asked me to remove my Hanukkah decorations.

Ahh yes, I was wondering how long it would take for us to reach this point.

Ladies and gentlemen, for those of you who are keeping score at home, gman, one of our very own, has just compared the modern day Israeli state to Nazi Germany. Let's hear a round of applause for gman! Yaaay!

(cue applause)

gman, you have just Godwinned this thread. Tell the folks at home what you're going to do. Are you going to Disneyland?

We don't ask people not to wear a cross around there neck or not to put one up in their home or church or office, but Lord knows a hell of a lot of people have died over the centuries under that sign!

Runner-up prize goes to Pollomacho!
posted by Afroblanco at 9:49 AM on December 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


I think the point being made, Afroblanco, is that the Star of David and the cross can be very legitimately seen as symbols of violence and oppression to some people. The swastika doesn't exist in this Most Evil of Evils untouchable zone not occupied by any other symbol.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 10:54 AM on December 24, 2008 [3 favorites]


Helicopters too probably though I've read less about that issue.

Apache. Chinook.

It's funny that you would associate hanukkah decorations with the swastika.

Not sure how it's "funny"? Like funny haha? My Hanukkah decorations have Stars of David all over the place.

Would it really never occur to you to think twice about wearing/displaying it in front of your friend?

No, it wouldn't. Nor would I ask a Balinese neighbour to take down their reverse swastika, even though my great aunt died in the Nazi Holocaust and I've been to about a dozen Concentration Camps. I just ain't that anal or that sensitive.

Ladies and gentlemen, for those of you who are keeping score at home, gman, one of our very own, has just compared the modern day Israeli state to Nazi Germany. Let's hear a round of applause for gman! Yaaay!

I see what you did there, you put my nickname in bold every chance you had. Cool, cool. You're more of the 'My Israel right or wrong' variety of Jews, eh? Any sort of criticism of Jews or the Jewish State is either anti-Semitic or in my case, self loathing, yeah? I love your kind. For a people who've been through so much, the Israelis know nothing of tolerance and acceptance. Israel is a prime example of a democratically elected government engaging in state sponsored terrorism. And America provides them with unprecedented amounts of aid in a variety of ways to conduct this terrorism. As for comparing modern day Israeli to Nazi Germany, what Marisa Stole the Precious Thing said. So quit your fuckin' clapping and I'll see you in Disneyland.
posted by gman at 11:27 AM on December 24, 2008


i have a ganesha yantra on my car - which is comprised of, among other things, a swastika and a shatikona, also known as a "star of david". the car is also covered with sanskrit writing. i have had a few negative, ignorant comments from passers by, but if they stop and ask me about it, once they learn that it's not a nazi symbol, they're perfectly fine with it - or at least if they're not, they're willing to keep their mouths shut about their disagreement with me, rather than making a fool out of themselves.

it's my impression that a relatively few people - like Afroblanco and ROU_Xenophobe - are dead set on being ignorant about things that are obvious to the rest of us, so i'm planning on leaving it there.
posted by przxqgl at 11:39 AM on December 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


Just to add, this is becoming more of a MetaTalk discussion, so I won't be responding to your rebuttal should it arrive. Oh, and I failed to mention, I spent part of my childhood living in Israel and I have countless relatives there.
posted by gman at 11:40 AM on December 24, 2008


I'm suggesting that travelers in strange lands should offer at least token respect to local norms, and I'm the ignorant one?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:13 PM on December 24, 2008


You're more of the 'My Israel right or wrong' variety of Jews, eh?

Um, no. I actually have a rather nuanced perspective of the situation. But don't worry; nobody agrees with me, so it's not like you have to take my opinion seriously or anything.

Any sort of criticism of Jews or the Jewish State is either anti-Semitic or in my case, self loathing, yeah?

Nope. Just to recap, here's what went down :

1) I've stated the opinion that people shouldn't display swastikas, because they were the main symbol of a political movement that killed 9 to 11 million people in an act of genocide.
2) You said that since your Palestinian neighbor doesn't mind your Hanukkah decorations, I shouldn't mind swastikas.
3) Thus, you are falsely comparing the modern Israeli state to Nazi Germany.
4) Thus, the Godwin. QED.

I won't be responding to your rebuttal should it arrive.

Don't let your ass hit you on the way out the door.
posted by Afroblanco at 12:57 PM on December 24, 2008


I think the point being made, Afroblanco, is that the Star of David and the cross can be very legitimately seen as symbols of violence and oppression to some people. The swastika doesn't exist in this Most Evil of Evils untouchable zone not occupied by any other symbol.

That's because the Nazis killed 9 to 11 million people in an act of genocide. The Israelis haven't done anything close to this. They're a reason why Godwin's Law was invented - because people love to falsely compare others to Nazis. This is really offensive. The Nazis were the Nazis. And while evil has been done by many other groups of people all over the world, very few have been as evil (or effective) as the Nazis.
posted by Afroblanco at 1:20 PM on December 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


(They're = there's)
posted by Afroblanco at 1:22 PM on December 24, 2008


I'm suggesting that travelers in strange lands should offer at least token respect to local norms, and I'm the ignorant one?

i'm not a traveller, and this is not a strange land. i am an american and this is my home. just because i was born here doesn't mean that i am any less a hindu.
posted by przxqgl at 1:36 PM on December 24, 2008 [2 favorites]


Afroblanco, gman appears to be wise enough to exit the conversation. But I'll note that you seem to have casually dismissed the killing of his neighbor's parents. Is that your intention?

Salamandrous, you must have missed this fact: the swastika was not created by the Nazis. It was appropriated by them. It is, symbolically, a victim of their appropriation. Why do you want to let it be exclusively theirs now?

The history of the swastika has been tarnished, sure. But the history of the Star of David was tarnished by the massacre at Deir Yassin and the bombing of the King David Hotel and many incidents since, yet it's still a symbol that should never be repressed. The good that it represents is greater than the evil that has been done by people who seized it for violent ends.

The Confederate flag is very different. It was created by the Confederates to be a battle flag. Objecting to Nazi symbols that they created makes sense to me. Objecting to the ones they stole does not.
posted by shetterly at 2:42 PM on December 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


I'm back, but I'll keep it civil. What you've accused me of is a matter of you misperceiving what I wrote. I quoted the following:

It seems to me that if the nice Balinese people want their home to be a comfortable place for their Jewish/Gay/disabled etc friends, they might consider not using a symbol that is viscerally associated for them with death and pain. I do honestly believe that people are more important than symbols.

And I told you about my neighbour who could be offended by the Stars of David I have in front of my house because his parents were killed by the Israelis. What I was getting at is that he too may be more comfortable if I didn't display a symbol he associates with "death and pain". And talk about fresh in the mind - Israel/Palestine is an ongoing tragedy.

1) I've stated the opinion that people shouldn't display swastikas, because they were the main symbol of a political movement that killed 9 to 11 million people in an act of genocide.


10 million or 2 million, a Holocaust is a Holocaust and there have been many - the Armenian Holocaust, the Cambodian Holocaust, the Rwandan Holocaust, etc. It pisses me off no end when someone refers to the Nazi Holocaust as THE Holocaust.
posted by gman at 2:42 PM on December 24, 2008


And I told you about my neighbour who could be offended by the Stars of David I have in front of my house because his parents were killed by the Israelis.

Yes, he could be. But my guess is that he isn't.

If someone walks around the US wearing a swastika, they're either saying, "Hi, I'm a neo-Nazi" or, "Hi, I'm not a neo-Nazi, but I know that when you see a swastika, you think I support Nazis. But I don't really care what you think, because I'm culturally insensitive or I'm just trying to make a point."

In America, it is well-understood that a Jew who displays a Star of David is saying nothing more than, "Hi, I'm a Jew and I'm proud." It doesn't mean that he supports the actions of Israel or the killing of Palestinians. If your Palestinian neighbor has taken the time to learn about the country that he's decided to live in, he will know this.

Likewise, I wouldn't walk around Gaza or Riyadh wearing a Star of David. It would be culturally insensitive, and possibly deadly. It's all about acting in an appropriate manner for the country that one is living in or visiting.

It pisses me off no end when someone refers to the Nazi Holocaust as THE Holocaust.

Well, I'm sorry about that. But of all the genocides in world history, the Holocaust was one of the most successful. Scale really DOES make a difference. And that is why it angers me (and others) when people draw disingenuous comparisons to Nazis. To compare others to Nazis is to trivialize the damage that the Nazis did.

However, I certainly do not mean to downplay the significance of other genocides. Personally, I wish that people were more aware of Holodomor, considering how many people died, and how little people know about it in the US. But all the same, in America, Hitler is the face of genocide, and the swastika is its most prominent symbol.

I do not think that the swastika needs to be "reclaimed" or "rehabilitated."
posted by Afroblanco at 3:41 PM on December 24, 2008


Right, but how many times have I heard Jewish relatives of mine complain about someone wearing a kafia here in Toronto? Like somehow they support terrorism?!!?? I actually heard a TTC streetcar driver say something to this effect yesterday when a Somalian wearing a karia was crossing the road.

Much like my neighbour, people need to take the time to learn what symbols mean. Ignorance is no excuse.

As for scale... if we're talking time frame - 100 days in Rwanda, a million dead. If we're talking proportion of population - nearly 2 million Cambodians killed out of 6 million. And regardless, is Coca Cola THE soft drink or A soft drink?
posted by gman at 3:58 PM on December 24, 2008


Much like my neighbour, people need to take the time to learn what symbols mean. Ignorance is no excuse.

Perhaps. But all the same, if someone were offended by seeing a swastika in North America or Europe, I'd hardly call them ignorant. I would definitely call the person wearing the swastika ignorant.
posted by Afroblanco at 6:02 PM on December 24, 2008


That's because the Nazis killed 9 to 11 million people in an act of genocide. The Israelis haven't done anything close to this.

While I don't dispute this, it also wasn't my point. My point was that there are other symbols out there that, to some, stand for oppression, murder and intolerance. Someone who views a symbol of their own oppression on display isn't obliged to consider that what they went through wasn't as bad as what the Nazis did, and if we're to say there are rules regarding one symbol, then it should apply to others as well.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 6:02 PM on December 24, 2008 [1 favorite]


Is przxqgl ignorant because he has a ganesha yantra on his car?
posted by gman at 6:09 PM on December 24, 2008


Yes.
posted by Afroblanco at 6:30 PM on December 24, 2008


Although, looking at the images that turn up in my google image search for "ganesha yantra," I don't see any swastikas. Maybe przxqgl's is different.
posted by Afroblanco at 6:35 PM on December 24, 2008


Copy and paste this in - http://www.hybridelephant.com/ and then click on the 'Ganesha The Car' link on the left.
posted by gman at 6:41 PM on December 24, 2008


Yeah, I'd still say that featuring the swastikas is a bit ignorant. Although I'd say that there are probably shades of grey here. Since it's on a car with a bunch of other unfamiliar text and symbolism, there's at least a bit of a cue that it's a non-Nazi swastika. However, if that were the only symbol on the car, I (and many others) would assume Nazi, which I think is understandable.

All the same, I think it would be best to leave off the swastika. Why go around offending people? I wouldn't want it on my car.
posted by Afroblanco at 6:48 PM on December 24, 2008


And yes, I have to admit that, despite my education, I'll always have a gut-level reaction to the swastika, even when it's obvious that it's not a Nazi swastika. It really is something at the gut, instinctual level. I'll never see any "beauty" in it. I'll probably always do a double-take. And this coming from a secular Jew. I could only imagine how more-devout Jews, or concentration camp survivors would feel.
posted by Afroblanco at 6:54 PM on December 24, 2008


But don't worry; nobody agrees with me, so it's not like you have to take my opinion seriously or anything.

Never ever use that as a gauge. :-)
posted by gman at 7:48 PM on December 24, 2008


Why go around offending people?

because to me it represents what the cross represents to a christian. would you call a christians' bible art car "ignorant"? you wouldn't want it on your car, which is why it's on my car, but that doesn't mean i'm not allowed to display my sacred images, or that i'm ignorant.
posted by przxqgl at 2:19 PM on December 26, 2008 [1 favorite]


In America, it is well-understood that a Jew who displays a Star of David is saying nothing more than, "Hi, I'm a Jew and I'm proud." It doesn't mean that he supports the actions of Israel or the killing of Palestinians.

I don't think you get just how upsetting the whole situation is for Arabs as a whole, and Palestinians in particular. I used to actually have an Israeli army shirt, of all things, back from a somewhat more innocent time when the two nations seemed to be on the brink of a possible peace (I think this was 94 or thereabouts, soon after the Oslo accords). I wouldn't even think of wearing that outside these days. I know a Palestinian who can never return to his birth home, for political reasons exclusively. He's a sweet, friendly, peaceful man. But he gets extremely agitated when this is discussed. Even if you think you can say, "I understand," really you can't. You may be able to empathize, but you do not have the shared experience.

On a bit of a derail, this is why I think a lot of "dialogue" groups that seek to match up people of color with white people, or Jews with Palestinians, often falter after a while. Usually a big part of it is that the "oppressed group" becomes underrepresented. There are plenty of white people who would enjoy spending a Wednesday afternoon talking about race for an hour or two [for various meanings of "enjoy"]. As a white person myself, I'd certainly find it interesting. But ultimately what are people of color going to get out of it? A brief moment where they might get the point a little bit more into some white people's skulls (white people who are already less likely to be pointedly racist)? A place to vent directly at white people for 90 minutes? On the other hand, we white people get to learn about others' experiences and feel just a little bit better about our location in the system. And when we leave, we put our cloak of entitlements back on, and the people of color get to go back to experiencing what they just talked about for the rest of the week. I still think dialogue can be important and should be pursued, but it is still highly problematic.

The Holocaust is a deep wound, but it really is unfair to make comparisons between forms of suffering. If your father is killed, would you really feel comforted that few others were, or further outraged by the idea that many others died as well? gman's friend could be equally outraged by the symbol as you might be by the swastika because it affected his personal life.

Further, the swastika is present in many cultures and many meanings. The most offensive meaning belongs to an entity that no longer exists. The 6-pointed star is also present in other contexts, but it is also still being used by an army that until recently would routinely bulldoze over civilians' homes for no better reason than to secure the supposed safety of settlers living in an area that they had no legal basis for occupying. At this point, there are two generations of Palestinians who have effectively been completely disenfranchised. Many Palestinians perceive Israel and its army as being all powerful. After all, the Israeli government effectively controls every aspect of most of their lives, economically and politically.

In that context, the number of people actually killed (which is still an appreciable number, although not in the millions) matters less than the extended period of suffering as well as the symbolic power that Israel appears to wield over the Palestinians (and, to a lesser extent, the rest of the Arab world).

Although I certainly sympathize with the sensitivity over the symbolism, I have to say I feel it is you in this case being a bit ignorant, in your willful insistence that the symbol can never be used again for any purpose or context. I tend to like to give people the benefit of the doubt. If I were to see someone, especially if they appeared to be of Asian or Native American appearance, sporting a swastika, I'd assume first that they weren't doing so to support Nazi symbolism.
posted by Deathalicious at 5:16 PM on January 2, 2009


« Older 5 Best Data Visualization Projects of the Year fro...  |  The Nature of Light and Color ... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments