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.
“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.