Swastika? Hmm …

Swastika gift wrap. Look closely. They’re in there. (Hint: They’re blue.)

I don’t have to worry about offending and losing a bunch of paying customers (aka $$$), so I’m going to put in my two cents’ worth on this story.

Saturday a woman named Cheryl Shapiro was shopping in a Northridge, Calif., Walgreen’s and spied some holiday gift wrap bearing swastikas. Horrors! And in a Hanukkah display to boot.

Here’s one. 

“I panicked. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I didn’t know what to do. I called my rabbi … ” Shapiro said in an interview with KABC, Los Angeles. She lodged a complaint with the store manager and on Monday Hallmark ordered retailers nationwide to stop selling the paper.

I’m putting this woman in the same category as those who see Jesus on a piece of toast. And I wish Hallmark had too.

This particular design or pattern, called a swastika but also a gammadion cross or cross cramponnée, has been around at least since the Neolithic Era, which began in 10,200 BC. It is absurd to banish it from our art and design just because Nazis used it (70 years ago). I realize some people are particularly sensitive about Nazis and the Holocaust, but this cross pattern is not and should not be going away just because they don’t like it. It’s a simple geometric design that predated the Nazis by thousands of years. It’s also a Chinese character. And in Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism it’s considered auspicious and sacred. I wonder if Hindus, Buddhists, and Jainists are offended by attitudes like Shapiro’s? What if they liked and wanted to buy the paper because it bears their sacred symbol?

In its extensive and generously illustrated article on swastikas, Wikipedia notes: “The word swastika derives from the Sanskrit svastika ‘lucky or auspicious object.’ The older term gammadion cross derives mainly from its appearance, which is identical to four Greek gamma letters affixed to each other.”

If you’ve never looked at the article (and I hadn’t until last night), I encourage you to at least glance at it to more fully appreciate the history and ubiquity of the swastika. And note that its history includes use by Native American tribes.

Shapiro displays the offensive wrapping paper. She must have used a magnifying glass to find those swastikas.

28 thoughts on “Swastika? Hmm …

  1. It’s all in one’s perspective, I suppose. When I see that image, this is what I see (going to try to embed a photo here, we’ll see if it happens….) But even when I focus differently and the swasticas come out in the foreground, I don’t think of Nazis. I think of a pattern that’s been used for many millenia.

    Thanks for posting as I had heard this story on the radio, so obviously didn’t see it. And forgot to look when I got home.

  2. I sometimes wonder what gets into these people, the chances of an ‘Holocaust’ happening again is remote might I say impossible. The ones making the most noise about the ‘Holocaust’ seem to be the ones that are the farthest awayand least effected by it.

    And the way the Israelis (Jews) are behaving towards the Palestinians does not put them in a good light in my opinion.

    I think it’s time they put it to rest and get on with living. Why must they foist their opinions and vet their spleen on the rest of us? I must admit I’m getting fed up with them!

    As for the pattern I don’t particularly like it but I certainly see no harm in it!

    1. Oh, I get it, of course. It all depends on whether you see the blue as foreground or background. But either way, it really a stretch to carry on like there are Nazi swastikas in there.

  3. That was pretty much what I thought when I first saw the story, though I hadn’t seen the picture of her with the paper, so I didn’t know just how small it was. When I first saw a picture of it, it looked a bit like a Greek key.

    Unfortunately, there are too many people who are always ready to take offense at just about anything, much of it unmerited. We should always respect others’ beliefs even when we don’t agree, but there is a balance that must be maintained between what offends and what doesn’t. No one can realistically expect to go through life without offense. A phrase comes to mind: big-girl panties.

    1. Greek key was my first thought too. Same sort of interlocking, repeating geometric pattern. I really do think this woman needs to get a grip. And maybe extend to other cultures and religions the same respect she expects for her own.

  4. I’m all for being sensitive and respecting other cultures and avoiding offence. My first thought, looks like an ancient classical pattern, pretty much what you and others have said. And because it’s a repeat mirror image type pattern, the ‘swastikas’ alternate, eg in the top pic they are bottom right and top left of the horizontal bars. Maybe hallmark should reissue the paper but just blank those out? 🙂

    The vase is very pretty.

    1. Aren’t you the eagle eyed one! I hadn’t noticed the mirror images, and I’ve been looking at this off and on for hours.

      Blanking out part of the design would pretty much destroy it. I can’t imagine Hallmark reissuing the paper now. I’m just sorry they knuckled under so quickly to one obviously disturbed woman. Anyone who panics and calls her rabbi at the sight of wrapping paper in a Walgreen’s has a serious problem.

      1. You’re the second person to tell me that this morning (or your evening and hers) after I read a book for review and pointed out she has nearly a hundred errors in it. And no I didn’t list them for her for free either. Standards these days, I don’t know.

        Blanking out was tongue in cheek. I think the issue is not appreciating an ancient artistic design from a different culture. You’ll notice on your last 1870s picture that if the circle was repeatedly superimposed over the vertical bars that the offending design would be suitably disguised. It would also look far too busy. But it didn’t matter in 1870 did it?

        1. 100 errors in one book? Good grief, doesn’t anyone hire editors anymore? I might have missed a few when I was working, but I wouldn’t have missed that many.

          The circle ruins the design as far as I’m concerned. Too cluttered. But I’m assuming there must have been a reason for superimposing it on the underlying design. It looks sort of like a latch holding two halves together.

          1. They do. She had two content editors and one copy edit. I’ve re-edited a book where the author had used two ‘editors’. That had well over a hundred errors in it too. There are two aspects to it. One, is that some ‘editors’ are too busy telling people how to write and don’t, or more likely can’t, proof-read thinking it beneath them, but the client doesn’t realise this. Two, is that the ‘editing’ industry, thrives on convincing authors they need three different types of edit and then a proof-read.

            Part of this rationale is that the more sets of eyes go over it the better, which sounds ok in principle, but I can imagine one editor suggesting one lot of changes, then another editor suggesting the original ones and then another editor or proofer changing it yet again. Many’s the time I’ve had an intro changed by a news editor only to have a sub/editor wanting me to change it again, usually back to the original. Without re-writing the whole book, I try and combine all the editing functions and proofing. I read some pricing by a British firm and nearly fell off my perch. They were charging more than double my prices and proofing was extra, eg £7 or £8 per thousand words and editing at £10 per thousand. Nice work if you can get it.

            Anyway, yes the circle is odd. The actual design, sans circle, looks like the sort of thing you would see on a classical stucco frieze. I think it’s a nice design. Not remotely Christmassy, but that’s presumably the idea 😀

          2. Sounds like editorial overkill. Too many cooks, etc. But you’re right, fresh eyes are usually helpful. I don’t know how things are done these days, but I never worked with multiple editors on the same material.

  5. Under a magnifying glass many things come to light and I do believe this particular design on this material needed a lot of help to bring this into view. If this had been an obvious and blatant attempt to imitate the Nazi Swastika that was the emblem of the Nazi regime during and after WW II,then a public outcry might be warranted,but as far as this image is concerned,I do believe we have a bigger kettle of fish to fry.

  6. “Jesus on a piece of toast” pretty much sums it up for me PT. We humans have evolved a great knack for pattern recognition, mostly because it helped us to survive. Hopefully it’ll help us here too, because I’m sensing a pattern of lunatic thinking here… 😉

... and that's my two cents