So we’re going to take a vote

Bro. Mike sent this — and says he has mixed feelings about it: A Lithuanian court has ruled that the swastiska is a historic symbol for the sun, something more than a hated symbol for Nazis.

Your thoughts? A symbol can be a powerful thing.

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16 Comments

  1. “Historic symbol” be damned. It is now a symbol of hatred and horror.

  2. It is still an important symbol for some religions. It is still used as a sacred symbol in Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism. Hopis used a similar shape (obviously not called a swastika). The Finnish Air Force flag has a swastika in it. There’s lots of other examples of non-Nazi use.

    I dunno – I get that this is in Lithuania but is this a form of cultural imperialism ? If a Hopi youth wanted to wear a replica of a basketball uniform used at a tribal school in 1909, shouldthat be illegal? Isn’t better when people self identify with a symbol so you know who they are? Should it be a criminal offense to use a symbol? When should it be illegal?

    1. I was once shocked to see an exquisitely made piece of antique silver jewelry with the swastika. I asked the dealer about it, and he told me it was a Native American symbol.

      The questions about criminalizing symbols and speech are interesting. There are German anti-Nazi laws that wouldn’t meet American first amendment standards. My impression is that German citizens were mostly okay with the restrictions, but I wonder if they’re starting to chafe now, more than a half-century after the war’s end.

      1. I once taught a German student and she said — this was maybe 4 years ago — that it’s an accepted hole in their history that they don’t discuss. That strikes me as … odd, but then, I’m not German.

        1. Sort of like “The Unpleasantness” in the American South?

          It’s sometimes called “The War of Northern Aggression.”

        2. “I once taught a German student and she said… that it’s an accepted hole in their history that they don’t discuss. ”

          But there are respectful plaques and memorials in many places in Germany, noting that people were murdered by the Nazis there.

            1. I’ve been 3 times, mainly to visit a family I know. The husband / father is a history PhD, and very non-esoteric (or stuffy) in his description of places and events. A great guide to the various areas where they’ve lived, and beyond.

  3. Context matters. I bet a lot of American blacks have viewed the cross as a symbol of hate & horror over the years… particularly when it is burning.

    Now I hear you saying, “but the symbol was being abused by racists!”

    Exactly the point.

    1. But then, I think the cross would have to be burning to catch their attention, given that the symbol itself stands for something else entirely. And most people, when they see that swastika shape, don’t think Hopi or Hindu or Jain. I think they think “Nazi.” Do you think by using the symbol in its original context, we’ll take the symbol back? Because that’s burned pretty deeply into people’s brains.

      1. That’s why I am torn, because as much as I appreciate the original intent, I don’t think that sincere, well-meaning people in Germanic culture could reasonably hope to “rehabilitate” the swastika for a very very very long time (if ever). Certainly not in my lifetime, nor that of my children.

        The cross is an interesting reversal, since it was originally a tool of painful death that became a symbol of redemptive love and the hope of life beyond suffering. The swastika was perverted by Hitler and his minions from a symbol of life-giving sun energy to one of all-consuming holocaust.

        Symbols. Potent stuff.

        1. You’re right about the cross. Who would think that would become a beloved symbol?

  4. Once again, I defer to the late George Carlin who said, “…is a symbol and I leave symbols to the symbol minded.”
    Let it go. Freedom of expression is pretty darn important.

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