A Swastika is not evil. Swastikas are found in many cultures, dating back thousands of years. They have been symbols of piety and good luck. Ultimately, a swastika is just a geometric object – lines on paper or on stone. It is not inherently evil.
If you wear one, though, you are 100 percent evil.
After 1945, the swastika has become a symbol in the West for Aryan supremacy, genocide, hatred, antisemitism. If you wear one, it means that you subscribe to those ideals. You cannot say “no, it’s an ancient symbol for piety” because that meaning has been erased by history. You can’t wear a swastika ironically. You don’t get to re-define it – because since the Nazis adopted it to stand for their utterly evil belief system, there’s now a shared meaning for that symbol.
Burning crosses are the same.
Two pieces of wood nailed together and set on fire are not evil. But after the U.S. Civil War, a burning cross always stands for anti-black, racist, violent hatred. If you burn a cross, you accept being associated with the KKK.
The Confederate Flag is the same.
It’s a dyed piece of cloth. It’s really no different than the Canadian or British or American flag. But that flag stands for the southern states – the slavery states – and their fight to keep slavery legal in the United States. If you display that flag, it means you’re okay with racism. Full stop.
Symbols have meaning. If you walk around sporting swastika tattoos, you know exactly what you’re saying, and so does everybody else. You can pretend your Confederate Flag trucker hat means something else – that you support “states rights” or “heritage” for example – but the symbol is pre-loaded with meaning that is inescapable. Simply put – if you’re wearing symbols of hate on your head, it’s safe to assume you have hate in your heart.
Which brings us to the MAGA hat.
When Trump campaigned with the slogan “Make America Great Again,” critics took issue with it. The slogan implied that America was no longer “great,” and hearkened back to a time – an undefined time in the 50s, maybe – when things were better. Of course, for many people that wasn’t a “great” time – blacks were segregated and lynched and killed and homosexuality was punishable with beatings and jail time. Trump supporters insisted it meant none of those things, though, and critics were being overly sensitive.
But not the white supremacists.
The same people who sported swastikas liked the hat – which they interpreted to mean “Make America White Again.” And since the election – and as Trump talks about walls to keep out foreigners, calls Mexicans rapists, attacks black athletes for protesting human rights and on and on – it’s clear that he and other Republicans are okay with the MAGA hat meaning exactly what the White Supremacists think it means. Whatever it may have originally meant, the MAGA hat has acquired a new meaning.
At this point in the Trump Presidency, the only reason to wear a MAGA hat is to signal that you support hatred. It no longer matters what you think the hat should mean, that’s what it means.
The kids who protested a few weeks ago at the Washington monument knew this. So did the man who confronted them. So did anyone looking at the photo of the kid, grinning smugly from under the brim of his MAGA hat. There is a rising tide of hatred in the world, and the hat is a symbol of that.
The question for those who choose the cross as our symbol for what we believe is whether we’ll have anything to say about it.
UPDATE: Further footage of events shows that a third group, not the students or the man playing a drum, were responsible for shouting insults and chanting. The teen in question told the Associated Press that he was “not intentionally making faces at the protestor.” The protestor also said in an interview that he was trying to keep the peace.
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