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How Do You Rehabilitate the Swastika?

Definitely not this way

Nona Willis Aronowitz
June 27, 2012
Sorry, but no.(Twitter)
Sorry, but no.(Twitter)

We mentioned Monday that this weekend, a banner was spotted representing World Swastika Rehabilitation Day. It donned a swastika intertwined with a Star of David, the symbol of the Raelian movement. The event (obviously) provoked complaints from locals in New York, Long Island, and New Jersey; multipled witnesses tweeted “WTF” and we did the same on the Scroll. After an eye-roll, though, I put aside the Raelian movement’s, um, questionable beliefs and reconsidered the question: Can the swastika possibly be rehabilitated? Especially if there are still anti-Semites actively wielding it as a form of rhetorical violence? Intellectually I knew that the swastika pre-dates the Nazis, and that it symbolizes peace and good luck in many Eastern religions.

Aaand today I remembered why it can’t. I read that a swastika had been painted on a car outside of the offices of Hamodia, a Hebrew newspaper in New York’s Jewish Orthodox neighborhood Boro Park, less than two weeks after a cluster of swastikas were found a few blocks away.

This symbol isn’t just a mid-century relic; the same narrative gets refreshed again and again. These are the moments when annual days of action and accompanying yearly airborne banners ring hollow; to redeem a loaded insignia would require a structural overhaul and hundreds of years of education—not another younger, weaker campaign directed toward one of the largest Jewish populations anywhere. For us, for now, context is everything.

Another Day, Another Swastika Found in Boro Park [Village Voice]

Nona Willis Aronowitz is a writer, editor, and author of Girldrive: Criss-crossing America, Redefining Feminism. Her Twitter feed is @Nona.