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Our Friend, the Swastika

The word swastika comes from the Sanskrit svastika: su meaning good, asti meaning to be, and ka a suffix.

While it is natural to think the Swastika originates from deep within some Nazi advertising agency, concocted to strike fear and terror throughout the world, it is in fact thousands of years old, previously a talisman of power, good luck, and strength. Life provides many great ironies; this is one of the bigger ones. Imagine if the most popular guns and weapons had Hello Kitty etched on them; Hello Kitty would become the complete antithesis of what it was originally meant to represent (buying lots of meaningless Japanese crap).

Because the Third Reich was so good with public relations (or at least, getting the message out), the Swastika is basically an emotionally-charged symbol now, representing oppression, violence, Anti-Semitism, and mass murder. It's kind of unlikely to ever revert to its previous positive meaning any decade soon. This doesn't mean that people aren't trying, mind you; every once in a while someone comes along and gets a swastika tattooed on himself to show the world that it's a meaningful symbol with a glorious past. But, as you might expect, they are branded as a Nazi as quickly as they were branded with its symbol.

Biker gangs are portrayed as wearing swastikas (and World War One-era pike helmets, too), but how much of that is actual Nazi fascination and how much of it is "man, those guys were badass" is left up as an exercise to the reader. Certainly it achieves what it's meant to do, which is freak people the fuck out.

One side-effect of the Swastika's recent use is that there are coins, poetry and other ancient/old artifacts that have swastikas all OVER them, and chronologically-challenged folks have assumed that those people were Nazis too. This has no doubt caused some pretty caustic Letters to the Editor, that were hopefully tossed in the trash.

The Raelians's original logo was a swastika combined with the Star of David. Charles Manson has a swastika carved on his forehead. The Isle of Man near Britain uses a swastika variant known as a triskelion.

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