Censorship and the Swastika in Art

I was told to look at a jeweler’s jewelry, as it was very well done and very popular on Instagram – Meg Girard, and she has over 25,000 Instagram followers. While going through her jewelry, I saw many pieces with the swastika on them. I know that this has been a discussion in jewelry circles – when I was on a page on Facebook that sells metal stamps, I questioned a swastika stamp for osale. I was roundly shamed into my “ignorance” of the swastika as a symbol of peace and hope in history and that Native peoples have a right to reclaim it.

I disagree. I deeply respect the stuggles of the Native people and their own history of genocide at the hands of the white Europeans. But I would think that their own history would make them more sensitive to the suffering of the Jews under the banner of the swastika. And I think many Native Americans do understand this. But there is a group of young people who have taken this symbol and claim to be “rehabbing” it, yet show it on half-naked tattoed bodies or swinging in cleavage. Certainly not in sacred ways. It is my view that they are using it to be edgy, to “push the envelope” and to sell jewelry. I found it very offensive.

When I commented, I was attacked, told I’m “ignorant,” “angry,” “hate-filled.” Ms. Girard said that the symbol had nothing to do with Nazis. It was purely a symbol of good luck. Really?? Did she miss history class?? How about her 26K followers? I saw one comment calling her on the use of the swastika. The others were along the lines of “Cool symbol!!” and “Can’t wait to make more money so I can buy one!” I literally felt ill seeing the “followers” all trying to gain favor, praising this horrendous symbol so carelessly shown.

Some symbols shouldn’t be rehabbed. The swastika is one, as is the Confederate flag. I was also told that since millions of Native Americans were killed under the American flag, we should get rid of that. It’s a false equivalence. Yes, we did terrible, horrible acts to the Native peoples, and we should own up to that. But honorable deeds were also done under the American flag: attempting a democracy, ending slavery, and fighting the Germans. The swastika is like the Confederate flag in that under the most recent use of the swastika, genocide and war were committed; under the Confederate flag, slavery and war were committed. The Confederate flag symbol may have had another meaning at some point in time, but for now, it’s toast. So is the swastika. No symbol is important enough to rehab when it will cause pain to survivors. No matter how many cute girls wear it while scantily dressed, claiming it is all about peace and good fortune. Their willful ignorance is inexcusable and the harm that the symbol can still cause is, in my view, a reason to refrain from using it.