Saturday, March 02, 2013

Falun Dafa Swastika

Saturday morning in Civic Center Plaza, banners with swastikas surrounded by yin-yang symbols were flapping in the breeze.

They lined the edge of the dirt section of the central plaza where Falun Gong participants occasionally gather and perform their slow, Tai Chi like exercises and meditations to what sounds like recorded Chinese New Age music.

Though the swastika symbol is as ancient as humanity, originating in India and spreading through Asia over the centuries, Hitler's rebranding of the reversed icon to symbolize the Third Reich has triumphed in the Western imagination over the last 75 years. It gives most of us the heebie-jeebies just to run across the symbol, and it was strange stumbling across swastikas in front of City Hall.


Matthew Hubbard said...

I drew swastikas obsessively when I was a kid. It bothered my mom so I switched to three triangles that meet at a single corner, kind of like the symbol for radioactivity.

In math, the thing they have in common is called rotational symmetry. It's very natural for humans to find it attractive.

nancy namaste said...

Do you think it's possible that they are unaware of the modern links to Nazism? I tried talking to one Falun Gong follower and it was pretty clear that we were not on the same planet.

Michal said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Michael Strickland said...

Dear Matthew: Love the obsessive swastika drawing story as a child, blaming it on that old seducer, rotational symmetry.

Dear Nancy: Yeah, I think it's just cluelessness on the part of the Falun Gong people, and the original, reversed swastika is a venerable, primal bit of iconography in Hindu and Buddhist cultures. There's another modern religious group who believes we are descendants of aliens called the Raelians, and they use a swastika inside a six-pointed star, which really pushes the envelope. They gave up the swastika for a while in their logo after Jewish organizations protested, but according to Wikipedia, their swastika has recently made a comeback in their official iconography.

AphotoAday said...

Break it up into 17 little square blocks and you can make a simple crossword puzzle.
--By the way, in my early school days we had desks with wooden tops and it wasn't uncommon at all to see swastikas carved here, there, and everywhere.

mw said...

As a Jew, it's always disconcerting to see a swastika displayed, but... You can't fault ancient cultures for continuing to use a symbol that pre-dates the 3rd Reich's misappropriation of it by centuries.

It's not just Chincese & Hindu/Indian culture. You can see swastika's in Hopi iconography, and on our tour of Ethiopia last year, we photographed swastikas carved into 12th century Ethiopian Orthodox Churches.

Michael Petrelis said...

Over my decades of queer activism, I had good and bad thoughts regarding using the Nazi pink triangle for the modern gay movement. OK, I understand the reclaiming of the pink triangle from the dust bin of shame and wearing it with pride. Coming out of ACT UP which really popularized the pink triangle with our iconic "Silence = Death" button, I know how powerful the symbol became to save lives.

At the same time, we never saw the Jews reclaim the yellow star with "Jude" written on it and adopt it as a political and fashion statement. Different needs for different minorities?

Sure, but I think the rainbow flag overcame the pink triangle as THE global symbol for gay lib because it was not literally once forced upon by the Nazis.

That said, as much as I am uncomfortable with the swastika, I don't feel it's my place to say to the Fulan folks that it's wrong for them to reclaim their symbol from Hitler's regime.