Again, With The Swastikas

I wrote about the new trend among 20-something “hippies” to make or buy jewelry with swastikas on it. You can read that post here

Well, metalsmith Meg Girard is at it again. Because I don’t want to reproduce that symbol, you can go to her webpage, scroll down and see what you think for yourself:

Meg Girard Portfolio

Girard claims that the symbol has special meaning to her. Actually, I’ll let her speak for herself.

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Girard isn’t alone. There are 1199 posts on Instagram with the hashtag “whirlinglog.” Some of these are Navajo artists, most don’t claim to be Native American. They are just using the whirling log because it’s “cool” to many of their misguided and too-cool-to-care-about-the-Nazi-meaning followers.

Instagram Whirling Logs

The swastika used to be a symbol for the Navajos meaning “good luck,” but even if you are a registered Native American, I have a concern about using this symbol, as most of the people who see it on your jewelry won’t think, “Oh, yes, this means something different to Meg Girard. It is a whirling log.” One would think that Native Americans, who themselves suffered horrible genocides, would be sensitive to the use of this on objects that will be worn publicly. And I think to use it on jewelry to make money, knowing that 99.99999% of the people who see your jewelry on others will think it is a swastika, one of the most powerful symbols of hate and genocide in the western world, is shortsighted and insensitive at best.

I study history, so I know that the swastika is an old symbol. To find it on jewelry and textiles made before the 1940s is common; I even found a small square on a quilt I bought that had that symbol repeated on it. I didn’t rip out that square, but it gave me the creeps nevertheless, and I do think it’s bad karma to use the quilt. But to rehab the swastika? It’s a symbol that isn’t ready to be rehabbed. Those with memories of the Holocaust are still alive today, and their suffering should be respected. I am not the Internet Police, but sometimes I feel as though many Americans have a collective amnesia, or just don’t give a damn about what others have gone through. They have their own point of view and they are such Special Snowflakes that everyone else needs to respect their point of view, or that symbol they want to rehab, even if it is recognized worldwide as a symbol of genocide. I would love to see some sensitivity from these supposedly sensitive artists.

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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.